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Thread: Gulkana River float

  1. #1
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    Question Gulkana River float

    I just moved back to this beautiful state a year ago after being gone 22 years. I am in the process of planning a float trip on the Gulkana with a couple of my Ak high school friends. We are all 40 now and not in the best of shape - too many beers, bratworst and cable. Any concern on this river besides the class III at canyon? I read they can portage around it.

    Since they are not experienced, I recommended them to buy inflatable kayaks, either the Advanced Elements or the Sterns Yukatat. Any opinions on these? I read on reveiw where the owner complained that the Sterns started to track badly after acouple of outings.

    Has any one ventured over to Canyon Lake? Is there a good trail and fishing over there?

    I am married with two talented and troubling teenagers. We live in the Mat Su valley. I run a small remodeling contracting business. I love to fish and explore from a kayak. Family is into it as well. Haven't met anyone in the Valley yet with similar interests...

  2. #2
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    Default Gulkana

    Your on to something good. The upper Gulkana is a great float.
    You can put in at Paxson lake or if you have ATV the middle fork trail skips the paddle down the lake. Wouldn't recommend the Haggard creek trail unless you like winching as much as driving. The canyon can be tricky but is floatable if you are river wise. Lots of rocks and small drops. Stop and walk the canyon trail to scout that section. Its also a good place to fish. Spend some time their, I watched a rainbow snatch a mouse that had fallen in the river right in that spot. I have never personally been to Canyon Lake but have heard the fishing is worth the trip. The rest of the river is fairly placid. Rock gardens and sweepers are the major obstacles. Please keep your guard up. There for a few years it was killing someone about every year. Always wear your pfd and dont forget your in the middle of no where. A minor accident can get dangerous in a hurry.

  3. #3
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    Thumbs up Gulkana

    This will be a great trip and I am sure that you will enjoy it. I have done this trip about 6 times both in rafts and canoes. The canoe trip is way better and can be done in 3-5 days from Paxon Lake. The section just down from the lake is quick class 2 water and the trip down to the falls/canyon is about 1-1/2 days depending on your pace. The water level is a real factor on the Gulkans as it drops a bunch in July and Aug. It is much better to run it early in the summer rather than late as the water level drops so much that it is a drag!

    The canyon is a fun class 3 run if you have the experience with the picket fence being the trickiest part, go river right for your best line on the falls. The catch hole at the base of the falls is very forgiving so if you mess up you will be fine! The next 3 miles below the falls is all class2-3 depending on water levels and lots of fun. If you choose to portage or line your craft it is also easy with a good trail on river left.

    When you get finished with the Gulkanna come on up to NW Alaska and try one of our many wild rivers. We have some country that will leave your tongue hanging out and the Char fishing is untouchable. Check out my web site at www.northwestalaska.com to see some great photos of some of my clientís trips. We are in the process of updating my site and it is under construction but still worth the visit. If youíre interested in trips into the Brooks Range we are your best stop!

    Walt
    Northwest Alaska Back Country Rentals
    Kotzebue Alaska

  4. #4
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    Thumbs up Gulkana

    This will be a great trip and I am sure that you will enjoy it. I have done this trip about 6 times both in rafts and canoes. The canoe trip is way better and can be done in 3-5 days from Paxon Lake. The section just down from the lake is quick class 2 water and the trip down to the falls/canyon is about 1-1/2 days depending on your pace. The water level is a real factor on the Gulkana as it drops a bunch in July and Aug. It is much better to run it early in the summer rather than late as the water level drops so much that it is a drag!

    The canyon is a fun class 3 run if you have the experience with the picket fence being the trickiest part, go river right for your best line on the falls. The catch hole at the base of the falls is very forgiving so if you mess up you will be fine! The next 3 miles below the falls is all class2-3 depending on water levels and lots of fun. If you choose to portage or line your craft it is also easy with a good trail on river left.

    When you get finished with the Gulkanna come on up to NW Alaska and try one of our many wild rivers. We have some country that will leave your tongue hanging out and the Char fishing is untouchable. Check out my web site at www.northwestalaska.com to see some great photos of some of my clientís trips. We are in the process of updating my site and it is under construction but still worth the visit. If youíre interested in trips into the Brooks Range we are your best stop!

    Walt
    Northwest Alaska Back Country Rentals
    Kotzebue Alaska

  5. #5
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    Default

    Thanks for the info fellas. Much appreciated.

    I checked out your site NWAK, looks majestic. I'll see what I can do...

  6. #6
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    Thumbs up Northwest Alaska Back Country Rentals

    I own a cabin on the lower Gulkana near the confluence of the Copper. The Copper River Valley is a wonderful part of Alaska but until you have seen the southern Brooks Range you havenít seen Alaska. Fishing, hunting and floating up here is an act of private solitude. We are off of the beaten path but it is worth the effort if you looking that trip of a life time and great fishing we have it for sure!

    Walt
    Northwest alaska Back Country Rentals
    www.northwestalaska.com
    Your best choice in Camp and Iflatable rentals

  7. #7
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    Default

    I would not recommend either the Advanced Elements or Sterns boats. You woud be way farther ahead of the game with something like a Aire Tomcat. Far more durable, with better maneuverability; both of which are very desirable for river travel. You don't want to be out in the boonies with a rip too big to fix. If they are too much money, rent from Alaska Raft & Kayak ( http://www.alaskaraftandkayak.com ). You can also buy decent quality craft from Alaska Series Boats ( http://www.alaskaseries.com ) and several others. You want a tough skin, at least a 5" thick floor, and very good self bailing characteristics. -- I have several that I could rent out if you're interested in old boats. Actually, I'd even sell one. It's called a Trillseeker. Great whitewater boat, and may be the only one in Alaska.

    In either case, I would recommend getting two seat inflatable kayaks if you are intending on tripping with them. I've done self supported trips in singles (on the Gulkana once), but you are very cramped with gear loaded. -- All mine are singles, BTW.

    A good inflatable kayak is an amazingly stable boat, and I suspect there may be some of you that will want to run the canyon as your first taste of white water. Go ahead and do it, but make sure you are prepared for it with good PFD's and at least a wet suit. A dry suit would be far better though. And have someone at the bottom with a throw rope. It's a good place to play, and is actually safer than it looks.

    Speaking of, these are all "wet boats." Every little wave will be putting water into your lap, and if you're not in a drysuit you will get cold. A wet suit will get wet right off, and the evaporation will slowly cool you off. They're great for quick immersions, but after a couple of hours you will be hypothermic if the Sun is not shining directly on you, and then you'll wish you'd never come. A wetsuit is a very poor choice of gear for an IK. You are better off in a rain suit with elastic on the ankles and wrists, and no fly in the pants.

    A real good, low cost option is a pair of cheap neoprene chest waders with the feet cut off. This will allow them to drain when you swim & try to climb back in your boat. You can even use the cut off feet as warm "wet socks." Don't leave the feet attached though, they are too tough to swim in when full of water, and someone will surely swim at least once on this trip.

    A June float is usually a good water level, but the mosquitoes are horrid. I prefer to wait for a good rain in August. You have to be flexible with your schedule, but the bugs are gone, and so is the competition for good campsites. BTW, most of the firewood is long gone in the popular camping areas. If you had a raft you could gather it during the day for the evening's camp, but with IK's that's not as feasible, so bring a good stove.

  8. #8
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    Default inflatable kayaks

    Thanks Jim,

    Yeah, I would much rather support an Alaskan business than elsewhere. I checked out the site. Looks real good. Just have to decide on what type of kayak will work best for us.

    This is a great fourm. Thanks.

  9. #9
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    Default West fork headwaters

    I'm looking in to floating this river from the headwaters of the west fork. Does anyone have experience putting in that far out? Ideally we'd put in at monsoon lake and have days and days to float and flyfish. Probably get out at Sourdough. The info so far has been really helpful, thanks!

  10. #10
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    Default Rocks...

    and low water or high water conditions can lead to troubles on the Upper G. Only two trips on the upper river for me, but Jim Strutz has had a little more experience and his advice sounds wise.

    Low water dragging and maneuvering or high water hangups have been challenges on the non-Canyon parts. No doubt many trips encounter no problems. Our group on one trip had 2 rafts hang up on larger rocks; one heavy cataraft and one round raft with tub floor. The high water made for deep surrounding water and complicated raft extrication. The heavy raft took rope. The round raft took...an hour.

    On that trip, a buoyant, maneuverable self-bailer was the great. I bet no one gets off the Upper Gulkana without some rock encounters. Good luck!

  11. #11
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    Default

    Thanks for your input. Is the river packraft-able? I see Jim is suggesting 5" floors and tough boats but might I have better luck in high water than in low water? I'm a novice rafter too, by the way. Just looking to cover alot of distance and put in/out on roads.

  12. #12
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    Default hope you like to row !

    Quote Originally Posted by bigfish6025 View Post
    I'm looking in to floating this river from the headwaters of the west fork. Does anyone have experience putting in that far out? Ideally we'd put in at monsoon lake and have days and days to float and flyfish. Probably get out at Sourdough. The info so far has been really helpful, thanks!
    i did the west fork float ONE TIME in late june 1993 we flew into Keg lake . It was slow moving ,stagnent,really buggy ,and poor fishing. I`ve done the EAST fork about a dozen times since it is much nicer , better scenery,better water, just better all the way around. I personally prefer the left side when going over the falls. good luck.

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