Packraft: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Molly Harrison


Mancos, Colorado

Cairn Project Ambassador Molly Harrison smiles and looks over her shoulder while paddling a solo inflatable raft

About Molly Harrison

Molly is a conservation advocate working in the outdoor industry with Alpacka Raft, and calls the small town of Mancos, CO home. This year, Molly is teaming up with The Cairn Project to expand outdoor education opportunities to support the next generation of environmental stewards.

120 miles to the ANWR Coastal Plains

In July, Ambassador Molly Harrison is heading to remote northwest Alaska to explore the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on foot and by packraft. Beginning at the headwaters of the Jago River, her adventure will include 120 miles of traversing and paddling the Aichilik, Jago, and Okpilak Rivers, followed by a final paddle to the inlet at Barter Island. Molly’s adventure will end in the 1002 coastal plains, an area currently threatened by oil and gas drilling.

At 19 million acres, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the US’s largest wildlife refuge and largest and wildest piece of publicly-owned land in the country. Home to polar bears, wolves, caribou, eagles, and migratory birds, the Refuge was designated in 1960 by Fred Seaton, Secretary of the Interior under President Eisenhower. The Refuge is also home to Gwich’in indigenous communities, who have lived in the landscape for thousands of years. Despite the cultural and ecological significance of this national treasure, efforts to open more areas for drilling continue under the current administration. Learn more about the landscape and about current efforts to protect it at Patagonia, the Gwich’in Steering Committee, and national environmental organizations including the Sierra ClubDefenders of Wildlife, and Audobon.

Map showing Molly's route through remote northwest Alaska
Molly paddles a packraft on a mountain lake with foggy clouds over the rocky mountains in the background

Why Get Out and Give Back?

“My hands-on work in environmental conservation has been a huge motivator for taking a deeper plunge into enjoying outdoor recreation. This work has made me feel more connected to the landscapes I recreate in and has given me a sense of purpose in being a steward to protect these landscapes. My biggest hope going forward is that young women (and everyone!) who are able to experience the enjoyment of outdoor recreation, will also feel the love and passion for protecting these places where we spend our time.”

See More Ambassadors

Carlie Graham

Pico de Orizaba Infinity Loop

April Martinez

Summiting Mt. Rainier

Sophia Henze

Kayaking the Green River

Melissa Luna

Superior Hiking Trail