Alaska Rivers: Colville River

Alaska Marine Highway

Alaska's State Flower is the "Forget-Me-Not. Forget me not flowers are very fragrant in the evening and night time, though there is little or no scent in the daytime. They can be annual or perennial plants. Their seeds are found in small, tulip shaped pods along the stem to the flower.

Named after Edward Colville Griffith who surveyed the region prior to the U.S. purchase, the Colville River is a major river of the Arctic Ocean coast of Alaska. The river is approximately 350 mi (560 km) long. One of the northernmost major rivers in the North America, the Colville River drains a remote area of tundra on the north side of the Brooks Range entirely above the Arctic Circle.

The river is frozen for more than half the year and floods each spring. Colville River rises in an isolated area of the De Long Mountains, at the western end of the Brooks Range, north of the continental divide in the southwestern corner of the National Petroleum Reserve. It flows initially north, then generally east through the foothills on the north side of the range, broadening as it receives the inflow of many tributaries that descend from the middle Brooks Range. Along its middle course it forms the southeastern border of the National Petroleum Reserve.

At the Inupiat Eskimo village of Umiat it turns north to flow across the Arctic plain, entering the western Beaufort Sea in a broad delta near Nuiqsut, approximately 120 mi (190 km) west of Prudhoe Bay. The river, frozen for most of the year, floods each spring as ice on its upper course melts. Umiat is the chief village along its banks. Coal, oil, and natural gas are found in the valley.

When the Colville River freezes to a suitable thickness during winter, it can be used as an ice road to bring in supplies, as seen during the fourth season of the History Channel series Ice Road Truckers. The river valley contains unexploited petroleum and natural gas deposits. A current proposal by the State of Alaska to bridge the river near Nuiqsut would be the first major river crossing north of the Arctic Circle in North America.

The Colville River Special Area (CRSA) was designated in 1977 to protect nesting and foraging habitat of the then endangered arctic peregrine falcon. The CRSA is entirely within the bounds of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. In 1999, the Kikiakrorak and Kogosukruk Rivers, which are tributaries to the Colville River, and lands two miles either side of each river were added to the CRSA because these areas appeared to be particularly important for peregrine falcon nesting.

Arctic peregrine falcons are highly migratory and winter from the southern United States south to Argentina. The CRSA provides the North Slope’s single most important peregrine falcon nesting habitat area, with a high proportion of the region’s population of arctic peregrine falcon occupying bluffs and cliffs within its boundaries. The arctic peregrine falcon population in the Colville River drainage has been monitored since the early 1950s and the initial surveys documented the widespread distribution and abundance of these birds within CRSA.

King Salmon, Coho Salmon, Silver Salmon, Red Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Northern Pike, Grayling, Dolly Varden, Arctic Char, Humpy Salmon, are all native fish found found in the Colville River. The Colville has long had a reputation for producing some hefty brown trout, and they're still here, though catching them isn't always easy. The trout seem to be getting wiser all the time, and to complicate matters a little more, much of this river runs through private property, limiting angler access. But if you're willing to work at your fishing and to cultivate cordial relations with a few property owners, you might be rewarded with a trout of five pounds or more.

Among the river's many species of game fish, walleyes are gaining popularity, and the river also has some special walleye regulations that anglers should understand before fishing the Colville. Most of the usual walleye fishing methods will work here, but a slot limit allows only fish under 16 inches and over 20 inches to be kept. The lower reaches of the Colville are also home to a sturgeon population, or, at least, they were historically. These days, though, sturgeon fishing is closed, and there's a good likelihood it will stay that way in the foreseeable future.


In winter the Colville River is used as a road

Alaskas Colville River is frozen much of the year

Alaska Rivers:

Alaska has more than 12,000 rivers including the nine major rivers listed below:

Learn more about Alaskan rivers

Colville River Copper River Gulkana River
Kuskokwim River Noatak River Porcupine River
Susitna River Tanana River Yukon River.