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Thread: Nelchina River to Tazlina River

  1. #1
    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Default Nelchina River to Tazlina River

    I need some guidance concerning a float that some friends are considering and asked me to go along with them. Not sure if they actually want me to tag along. Some of these guys have suggested floating down the Nelchina River from the Glen Hwy to Tazlina Lake. Then paddling north-east along the shore of Tazlina Lake to the lake outlet. Then floating down the Tazlina River to takeout at either the Richardson Hwy or continuing to the Copper River with the take-out being at Copper Center.

    Like all of us I have driven the Glen Hwy a gaggle of times. The Nelchina River, from the highway appears to be little more than a pain-in-the-posterior creek. To raft or float it looks really labor intensive because it looks so tiny. But following rain that little creek turns mud brown and rises to greater-than-Eagle-River water flowage.
    And at the other end, when viewed from the Richardson Highway, the Tazlina River looks like it can test experienced rafters, if my memory is correct.

    OK, these guys are all rough, tough semi experienced kick-ass rafters, not quite prestigious river-rats, just slightly past their physical prime. Actually, each is a better rafter, more experienced than they would ever admit. They have high quality 2nd-hand rafts, and are generally heavily loaded. I mean their rafts start every trip heavily loaded with all the usual stuff and large quantities of assorted beverages. Following each evening, their rafts become significantly lighter. Each has done the Gulkana River a dozen times, Eagle River dozens of times, Lake Creek several times, and assorted trips on the Matanuska (including Lionshead), Copper, and Nebasna Rivers. They do not hunt. They do not fish. They do not raft intoxicated. Not much anyhoooo.

    So, who among us has done this float? Can anybody give me some “on-the-oars-highlights” about rafting the tiny Nelchina River (a creek) at the start of the trip and the Tazlina River at the end of the trip. How many days does this float trip take?
    Should I take one of my own boat, insuring I get all the oar time on that boat? Or should I suggest that they take only their boats, insuring I will not lose much of my own personal gear?

    This same thread-question has been posted once in the recent past, with a grand total of one (1) response from Jim S. Anybody new care to add new, addditional information?
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with me.

    AlaskaTrueAdventure/Dennis

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    I did the trip on July 4th a few years ago. The Little Nelchina can definitely be tight in areas but it was not that bad. Just make sure you are good and fast at shipping the oars. I took an 18' self bailer down it and did not have any problems. You just have to be on your toes. Its only about 5 miles I believe until it dumps into the "big" Nelchina and then it is smooth sailing from there.

    I would strongly suggest bringing some sort of tarp to sail across Tazlina lake. The wind is usually blowing in the right direction (however not always). It would be a long way to row across flat water (7 miles). We used a power kite that was pulling us at about 5mph. Once we got tired we switched to a tarp sail and took a nap while we cruised at about 3 mph.

    The Nelchina and Tazlina have a few things to watch out for but everything is easy to see as long as your paying attention. Base on the experience of your crew, you shouldn't have any problem. We did it in 3 easy days. You could do it in two if you are in a hurry and the wind is in your favor on the lake.

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    Here's a little write up by Jim Strutz.

    http://paddling.jimstrutz.com/page41.html
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Thanks you for the rapid responses!
    Any more?
    Anybody?

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    From my atv experience the put in at mile 135 is rocky til you hit the main channel.

    Definitely keep tabs on water levels. June timeframe or late rainy season will yield better cfm.
    We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed

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    I bet a kiteboarding kite with a quick release to the frame would move you right across. I doubt anybody has tried it. I see them for sale often on Craigslist.

  7. #7

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    We will be doing this float this July and looking forward to the new water. If any of you are on this stretch in early July look for us in a AVON with a kicker. Report will follow. We are thinking about expanding our rental Business to include this stretch and that will depend upon what we find!

    Let ya know!

    Walt
    www.gulkanaraftrental.com

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    Me and 2 other buddies did this float this past September for a float hunt. Absolutely loved this trip. There was my buddy and I in my 16' cataraft and then another buddy by himself in his 14' NRS Otter. We planned for 7-8 days never having done this trip before, and also a few days of hunting time. We finished in 4-days easy. The Tazlina was a super fun river and I wished we werent carrying "water-sensitive cargo", or I would have punched every wave train we came to (instead of avoiding them). None of us could believe how fast the Tazlina was flowing considering it was mid September. I'd love to do this float again without having all the weight of hunting gear. We also had a 6hp Tohatsu mounted on my cataraft so we could push us across Tazlina Lake. We didnt win any speed records, but we got across in pretty good time considering we were towing my buddy in his round raft.
    Honestly, the Little Nelchina was the most technical part of the whole trip in my mind. Techincal in that it's a pretty skinny river for my 16' cataraft and 10' oars. We had to drag a few times, but nothing as bad as we anticipated for September. You do have to be mindful of every bend in the river though, there is definitely the potential for sweepers. I distinctly remember one spot where I wasnt paying as much of attention as I should have and I stuck us pretty good in a log jam.
    I remember the big Nelchina being a very easy float. The only part that could be considered sketchy, is which braid to follow once the river opened up right before Tazlina Lake, but we never had any problems. Pick the widest deepest channel and hope for the best
    Another thing to mention about this trip...It was windy the WHOLE dang time!
    I have a couple videos I've been meaning to post on youtube. Nothing spectacular, just some scenery and clips of the rivers. I'll update this post with the links when I upload them.

    Jim Strutz's write-up helped us alot. Good information.

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    Member chano's Avatar
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    My Favorite picture of the Tazlina.

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    We did this trip a few years ago in July, 4 easy days. Shuttled our vehicle through Gakona lodge. Some highlights:
    The Big Nelchina is one of the coldest rivers I've floated I got a lap full of water in my shorts
    Cool rocks, lots of predator sign
    The wind was blowing hard on Tazlina Lake it looked like the ocean on river right.
    Took all the braids to stay as far river left as we could to stay out of it.
    Amazing views and a fun mix of rivers.
    Jim strutz information on house rock was right on.
    Will do this again when my son is ready row me across the lake it took between 4-6 hours depending on if you count the time the wind had us pinned on the shore.
    One the coolest parts of any river I've been on is where Tazlina Lake turns into Tazlina River. Two Huge swirling eddies and a tounge of waves down the middle almost like walking on a knife ridge. As we descended a whirlpool opened up on my right. A 3 foot black hole opened up. I couldn't see the bottom. I'm ready to do it again!

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by chano View Post
    We did this trip a few years ago in July, 4 easy days. Shuttled our vehicle through Gakona lodge. Some highlights:
    The Big Nelchina is one of the coldest rivers I've floated I got a lap full of water in my shorts
    Cool rocks, lots of predator sign
    The wind was blowing hard on Tazlina Lake it looked like the ocean on river right.
    Took all the braids to stay as far river left as we could to stay out of it.
    Amazing views and a fun mix of rivers.
    Jim strutz information on house rock was right on.
    Will do this again when my son is ready row me across the lake it took between 4-6 hours depending on if you count the time the wind had us pinned on the shore.
    One the coolest parts of any river I've been on is where Tazlina Lake turns into Tazlina River. Two Huge swirling eddies and a tounge of waves down the middle almost like walking on a knife ridge. As we descended a whirlpool opened up on my right. A 3 foot black hole opened up. I couldn't see the bottom. I'm ready to do it again!
    How much did the lodge charge you for the shuttle?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AK flyster View Post
    How much did the lodge charge you for the shuttle?
    It was around 120$ well worth the time and gas savings.

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    One of my favorite floats, and pretty simple with a little tight quarters for a few miles.

    I understand you can avoid the Little Nelchina, Nelchina River and most of Tazlina Lake by taking the very short airplane hop from the highway to the lower end of the lake. But I like the upper part too.

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    I would like to thank Here's to Life!, TWB, JIM STRUTZ, Birdstrike, Gulkana Rafting, AK-Bandit, Chano, and AK Flyster for their unselfish responses to my question. Thank You for the team effort, for demonstrating the true strength of these forums!

    AlaskaTrue/Dennis

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gulkana Rafting View Post
    But Why?

    Walt
    We're gonna do the fly out this year for a couple reasons. First, we're taking little kids and I want them to get the experience of a float plane ride and this is one of the cheapest I could find. Second, I wanted to shorten up the float trip so they don't get bored. Third, the lake seems a little daunting to cross (with kids).

    I may try and run it a week or two before we take the kids. If that happens I'll probably just run the little nel.
    My only gear sponsor is the salvation army - Dick Griffith

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    When are running? I will be there about July 10th.

    Walt
    Gulkana River Rafting

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    The Lake is Daunting

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    CHANO,

    After being on some rough water in the past, I believe DAUNTING may not be strong enough.
    Regardless of the water, lake or river, let's all be careful out there this spring and summer, every day and all days.
    Personal life preservers, floatation devices, always required.
    Proper use of common sense is not optional.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaTrueAdventure View Post
    CHANO,

    After being on some rough water in the past, I believe DAUNTING may not be strong enough.
    Regardless of the water, lake or river, let's all be careful out there this spring and summer, every day and all days.
    Personal life preservers, floatation devices, always required.
    Proper use of common sense is not optional.
    Nicely put! Take the time to put the PFD on and do not get caught up in the moment.. We need some old folks to teach kids..

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