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Thread: Denali Highway Windy Creek by Susitna River

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    Default Denali Highway Windy Creek by Susitna River

    The adventure to Windy Creek began last week on an outing with my family. We headed to the Denali Highway for some boating and fishing on the Brushkana, but arrived to late in the evening to boat down to a camping spot. I had read that Windy Creek had some nice pools with great fishing, so we headed up the road, towards the Susitna,to Valdez Creek Mine Rd where Windy Creek crosses it. After crossing the Susitna Bridge coming from Cantwell, we missed the road because of mining equipment which was blocking the road, so it did not seem like it had public access. It also did not help when six or seven long haired Viking looking guys were glaring at us in our camper.

    About a half mile on up the road was another road, kind of, but it was good enough to drive a vehicle down, so I thought, “this must be the access road I was looking for.” It took about an hour to figure out that we had made a mistake and was looking down at Windy Creek; above a canyon, hmmm… and of course I had to take a peek. Not having any information about the creek, I scouted the canyon entrance and the canyon itself in three places, and it appeared to be fantastic, mostly continuous, class II-III from the canyon rim. Leary of going by myself, I knew I had to twist John’s arm and convince him it would be worth the trip, and that was about as hard as tying a shoe. After staying the night in Windy Creek Valley I wanted to check out our original destination, and I knew the other road was the road we were originally looking for.


    The next morning my wife asked me what our plan was, and I said “I’m going to talk to the scary guys so we can find the fishing,” and I thought, “who looked like miners that kill people for walking across their claims.” However, as usual,most Alaskans are decent people and the scary guys were actually more than happy to share fishing information, as well as logistics, and also had their fair share of warnings about Valdez Creek when I mentioned the word kayak. We found decent fishing at Windy, where it crossed the road, and also at Valdez Creek where it crossed road, which also had a sweet class III+ IV- drop that was drawing me to investigate further upstream.


    I knew this creek has been boated before, and it was supposed to be class IV according to Paul Schauer one of Alaska’s best exploratory kayakers. With this in mind, I got a good look at the creek above the canyon as well as one spot in the canyon, and it did indeed look like a steep,fun, technical run. The creek also looked to be very continuous whitewater above the canyon, and by the sound of the water in the canyon, it was harder yet. A couple of days later John and I loaded his VW bus with bikes for shuttles, and boating & camping gear, and we were on our way, to boat not only Valdez Creek, but also Windy right next door.


    We could find no information on this Windy Creek, there are several, which added an interesting twist to the trip, so we were eager to check it out. We put on the Creek at 3136 ft after hiking from the road about a half a mile to a spot above the whitewater. The creek dropped about 600ft in 4-5 miles,with the bulk of the steep section beginning about half a mile after the put-in, and ending after the second short canyon-ish section, which then left about a half a mile of ripples to the road. The creek could have had a bit more water,to pad it out a bit, but that will also increase the intensity as the water speed gets even faster, and the bumps turn into waves and holes. As it stands; the creek was mostly class III at a flow of about 350cfs, probably had two sections of class III+, and some class II.


    The entire creek is littered with steep boulder garden drops, with narrow lines, that require decent reflexes, and good ability to run technical water on the fly.Also, as it always seems to go, the bulk of the steep rapids, sadly, are on those blind corners which we all hate. The lines do improve after about first mile, or so, and numerous really good sections of foaming white, continuous class III rapids are encountered. There is one small ledge drop with a decent pocket that you don’t want to ease into, just run it left for an easy line, if you choose, or hit it left of center with some speed. I believe it was towards the end of the first canyon section, and other than that it is all boulders and gradient creating the fun.


    The run is suitable for packrafts, kayaks, or IK’s. I would say a class III boater may be fairly gripped because of the continuous nature of the creek; it really comes at you fast, and it is fairly steep, probably well over 200fpm in the steep section. Put in at the mouth of the first valley across the creek, as you drive up the road which is the second road, on the left, after the Susitna bridge coming from Cantwell on the Denali Highway. I would really like to try it again with 50-100 more cfs, and I’m certain it will be a spankin run.


    I’ll try and get some clips posted next week, as well as some Valdez Creek info and clips. I probably should see what John got on his Go-Pro I could barely film onthe water, but did get a little footage on the water and some from shore.
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    Last edited by mark oathout; 07-29-2012 at 13:01.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mark oathout View Post
    The adventure to Windy Creek began last week on an outing with my family. We headed to the Denali Highway for some boating and fishing on the Brushkana, but arrived to late in the evening to boat down to a camping spot. I had read that Windy Creek had some nice pools with great fishing, so we headed up the road, towards the Susitna,to Valdez Creek Mine Rd where Windy Creek crosses it. After crossing the Susitna Bridge coming from Cantwell, we missed the road because of mining equipment which was blocking the road, so it did not seem like it had public access. It also did not help when six or seven long haired Viking looking guys were glaring at us in our camper.

    About a half mile on up the road was another road, kind of, but it was good enough to drive a vehicle down, so I thought, “this must be the access road I was looking for.” It took about an hour to figure out that we had made a mistake and was looking down at Windy Creek; above a canyon, hmmm… and of course I had to takea peek. Not having any information about the creek, I scouted the canyon entrance and the canyon itself in three places, and it appeared to be fantastic, mostly continuous, class II-III from the canyon rim. Leary of going by myself I knew I had to twist John’s arm and convince him it would be worth the trip, and that was about as hard as tying a shoe. After staying the night in Windy Creek Valley I wanted to check out our original destination, and I knew the other road was the road we were originally looking for.


    The next morning my wife asked me what our plan was, and I said “I’m going to talk to the scary guys so we can find the fishing,” and I thought, “who looked like miners that kill people for walking across their claims.” However, as usual,most Alaskans are decent people and the scary guys were actually more than happy to share fishing information, as well as logistics, and also had their fair share of warnings about Valdez Creek when I mentioned the word kayak. We found decent fishing at Windy, where it crossed the road, and also at Valdez Creek where it crossed road, which also had a sweet class III+ IV- drop that was drawing me to investigate further upstream.


    I knew this creek has been boated before and it was supposed to be class IV; according to Paul Schauer one of Alaska’s best exploratory kayakers. With this in mind, I got a good look at the creek above the canyon as well as one spot in the canyon, and it did indeed look like a steep,fun, technical run. The creek also looked to be very continuous whitewater above the canyon, and by the sound of the water in the canyon, it was harder yet. A couple of days later John and I loaded his VW bus with bikes for shuttles, and boating & camping gear, and we were on our way, to boat not only Valdez Creek, but also Windy right next door.


    We could find no information on this Windy Creek, there are several, which added an interesting twist to the trip, so we were eager to check it out. We put on the Creek at 3136 ft after hiking from the road about a half a mile to a spot above the whitewater. The creek dropped about 600ft in 4-5 miles,with the bulk of the steep section beginning about half a mile after the put-in, and ending after the second short canyon-ish section, which then left about a half a mile of ripples to the road. The creek could have had a bit more water,to pad it out a bit, but that will also increase the intensity as the water speed gets even faster, and the bumps turn into waves and holes. As it stands; the creek was mostly class III at a flow of about 350cfs, probably had two sections of class III+, and some class II.


    The entire creek is littered with steep boulder garden drops, with narrow lines, that require decent reflexes, and good ability to run technical water on the fly.Also, as it always seems to go, the bulk of the steep rapids, sadly, are on those blind corners which we all hate. The lines do improve after about first mile, or so, and numerous really good sections of foaming white, continuous class III rapids are encountered. There is one small ledge drop with a decent pocket that you don’t want to ease into, just run it left for an easy line, if you choose, or hit it left of center with some speed. I believe it was towards the end of the first canyon section, and other than that it is all boulders and gradient creating the fun.


    The run is suitable for packrafts, kayaks, or IK’s. I would say a class III boater may be fairly gripped because of the continuous nature of the creek; it really comes at you fast, and it is fairly steep, probably well over 200fpm in the steep section. Put in at the mouth of the first valley across the creek, as you drive up the road which is the second road, on the left, after the Susitna bridge coming from Cantwell on the Denali Highway. I would really like to try it again with 50-100 more cfs, and I’m certain it will be a spankin run.


    I’ll try and get some clips posted next week, as well as some Valdez Creek info and clips. I probably should see what John got on his Go-Pro I could barely film onthe water, but did get a little footage on the water and some from shore.
    Really good assessment... I may have given it a 1/2 to 1 gradient more difficult. I ran both stretches (pretty certain) you describe in and 11.5' Jack's cat w/ stubby Carlisle oars back in the 90's (if jack only knew? -lol - boat is now called FATPACKCAT and CUTTHROAT). Great runs in terms of continuous as well as access. I's caution pack rafters due to trying to be too gung-ho - if ya catch my drift.

    Don't have pics to add as this was all in the film camera days. I'd like to re-visit these Denali Highway runs and been looking for a few more 'probe' boaters for R2 and Cat test-runs.

    Cheers

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    We spend a bunch of time up their every year. I'm not a kayaker, but it sure looked like the run down Valdez Creek from the lake to the road would be fun. I looked at that part of Windy Creek over the 4th of July and was going to post here if anyone had run it. It also looked fun.
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    What kind of shape was the Windy Creek road in.........????

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    It's in pretty good shape. They rebuilt it last year. Depending on water levels, the last water crossing of Windy Creek could be challenging in a 4x4 pickup.
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    Default R2 runs

    That would be fun in an R2 at high water. Hey... how's the fishing the valley?

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    Default Road shape

    I stopped about 4 miles up the road where you see my wifes big white camper in the pic, it was in great shape. The valley on the far side of the big valley in the pic, is where the whitewater on Windy begins, above this point it seems to be swiftwater with some fish.

    We saw caribou, moose and a bunch of birds too, but for fishing this pales in comparison to Brushkana, where we just returned from.

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    Mark, that sounds like a great trip for sure. I have another packraft run that I'd like to run with someone with a bit more experience. Can't find any info on anyone doing it yet, but the creek volume is similar to that of windy creek, just in a MUCH higher canyon. Windy Creek has always looked like a kick in the pants though!!

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    Default Short Windy Creek Video

    This creek would be alot easier to film with a Go-Pro. The continuous nature of the rapids make using a handheld very difficult, especially when holding onto bushes in micro eddies to film, so getting out to film is the best option.
    I'm sure John will post some Go-Pro stuff when he gets a chance.

    Here's a teaser. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgwIS...hannel&list=UL

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