Bikerafting Adventure in the Yukon

3-minute read

Aqua Bound Ambassador Jessica Kelley embarks on her 1,400-mile bikerafting adventure in just a couple of weeks through part of Alaska and into Canada’s Yukon Territory.

packraft with Aqua Bound paddle on a mountain lake

While long and remote wilderness trips are nothing new to Jessica, this is one of her biggest trips so far.

We had some questions for her—and she graciously slowed her preparation down for a few minutes to answer them:

AQUA BOUND: Why did you decide on this particular route?

JESSICA: There’s something about the far north that has always appealed to me. It's remote, wild and prone to extremes: mind-boggling scenery, wild temperature swings, voracious bugs, vast wilderness, and abundant wildlife.

It's a place where nothing is guaranteed, and anything can happen—in both the best and worst ways.

I love the idea of accessing places like this under my own power. To train and prepare as best I can, and then test myself to see how I meet and adapt to the challenges thrown my way.

I chose this route specifically because, although I've spent a fair amount of time in Alaska, I've never ventured into the Yukon.

[NOTE: A logistical challenge Jessica wrote about elsewhere was how to ship her supplies ahead to ensure she gets them when needed. She said:

“International travel, even when it's ‘just’ to Canada, definitely adds complications. I live in a small rural town in Washington State, and shipping resupply boxes from my small remote town to another remote area in a different country is not straightforward.

“No one could tell me how long it would take for boxes to make the journey, especially with customs involved. I live close to the US/Canada border and actually ended up driving my resupply boxes across the border and mailing them from Canada so I could guarantee they'd arrive in time!”]

Jessica Kelley paddling her packraft with her  bike strapped on top

AQUA BOUND: Why biking and packrafting?

JESSICA: I love the concept of moving across the land using the best tools for the job. For this route, my bike and packraft are near-perfect solutions.

Biking has always appealed to me because it's an excellent way to cover ground efficiently, yet still slow enough to really see and experience everything around you. It requires a healthy dose of hard work and suffering, but you still get speedy descents to increase the fun-factor.

Packrafting is awesome because it allows you to access places that might otherwise be impossible to reach under your own power. Rivers and lakes that used to be barriers become travel routes. Plus, it's a great way to give your legs a break!

AQUA BOUND: What do you expect to encounter on the paddling portion of your trip?

JESSICA: The Pelly River is an infrequently paddled river where I'm more likely to see bears, moose or caribou than other people. I’m excited for the solitude!

After approximately 40 miles on the Pelly, I'll reach the mighty Yukon River, where both the current and headwinds will probably pick up. From there I'll paddle 160 miles to Dawson City. 

I've paddled the Yukon before, but it's a very long river and I was on a completely different stretch. And I've never been on the Pelly at all.

Jessica Kelley paddles her packraft with her bike strapped on top

So, while I'm feeling generally comfortable with the packrafting portion of this trip, I'm still going to be in a small inflatable boat, alone, in the middle of the wilderness, paddling stretches of river I've never seen before. That's definitely going to keep me on my toes.

AQUA BOUND: What does receiving the Bob Swanson Memorial Grant mean to you?

JESSICA: It sounds cliché, but it really is an honor. From talking with folks at Big Agnes, I can tell Bob Swanson was a beloved guy with a great sense of adventure.

My hope is that this trip will honor his spirit by combining an innovative, creative route with the opportunity to engage with local communities along the way.

Aqua Bound Ambassador Jessica Kelley

Aqua Bound Ambassador Jessica Kelley

We wish Jessica all the best on her summer 2024 excursion! We’ll be sure to catch up with her for a post-trip recap. Follow her on Instagram to learn more.

All photos courtesy of Jessica Kelley.

What paddling questions can our friendly Customer Service team help you with? Contact us here: 715-755-3405 or [email protected]

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