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Thread: Upper Susitna

  1. #1
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    Default Upper Susitna

    Hi, has anyone here floated the Susitna down from the Denali Hwy bridge in late season/low water?

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    Default late season run

    I never wanted to portage the 11 mile long Devils Canyon or had much interest in dying in it either.

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    Yes, the canyon is no joke, but still curious if anyone has firsthand experience from the bridge down to the canyon.

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    Andy Embick wrote in his river guide book, Fast & Cold, about a float he made from the Denali Hwy to a left side creek above Devils Canyon. From there he drug his kayak up to Stephan Lake and then floated on down through Murder Lake, Prairie Creek and Talkeetna River Canyon. Ended up in Talkeetna a couple days later.

    From what I remember of the story his trip down the Susitna was uneventful with only minor rapids. The Prairie Creek and Talkeetna Canyon sections are more fun. Also the section above Talkeetna Canyon makes for good caribou hunting though. You also might be able to get someone to fish you out of the upper Susitna via a shallow water river boat from the Tyone River.

    There was also a rafting group that did portage the entire Devils Canyon section. As I recall they took most of a month on that trip. More info in Andy's book. More recently there has been a successful raft trip through the canyon... but only one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    Andy Embick wrote in his river guide book, Fast & Cold, about a float he made from the Denali Hwy to a left side creek above Devils Canyon....
    Right you are, Jim. And for those interested in getting a copy of Fast and Cold before they are all gone forever, you can grab a new on on Amazon AT THIS LINK. We were going to carry this title, but I understand that Andy's widow is selling the last remaining copies on Amazon, and has no plans to reprint it. It's a great book and I would recommend it to anyone tangling with whitewater up here.

    As a side note, his writeup on the Susitna includes a black and white photo of Watana Canyon, the proposed location of a hydroelectric dam which has been discussed here on Outdoors Directory.

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    Default Fast&Cold

    First; just because Embick hiked out of the Susitna don't think it's advisable or even a decent commonsense plan for most people. (lol)

    Even if you don't kayak or boat whitewater, this book is amazing to read. Andy Embick 'obviously" was a rare breed, and the stories he wrote about his adventures are proof of that.

    Some of the runs in his book, that he boated in the 80's, still has most boaters today tip- toeing around them, running them at low water, or flat out avoiding them. The guy not only had 31 first descents, but many were multi day events of just hucking gear; him along with his buddies, mainly Chris Roach, were the ironmen of kayaking.

    The book is very well written and I have read many stories several times, and I still think it's the most complete book available on Alaska whitewater, totally should be re-printed. Last year I bought an additional copy for my son to use someday, and other Alaskans should also grab these books up, they are priceless to those of us who explore Alaska's whitewater streams. When I floated the Happy, 15 years after Andy, and looked up and saw the Cliff that is pictued in his book, it was kinda inspiring, moving, hard to put words too.

    Anyway, love him or hate him, Embick brought Alaska whitewater kayaking into everyone's living room.

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    Hi, this post seemed to have fizzled out with no real answer. Still hoping someone who has been down the Susitna whether by jetboat or raft from the Denali Hwy south to some point above Devil's Canyon could give me a description of conditions, i.e. presence of rapids, speed of current, etc. Anybody? Thanks.

  8. #8

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    I agree- great book- have read her cover to cover. Better get a copy while you can!!
    Another great boating book, not sure if it is still in print, is "RIVER GODS" by Richard Bangs, of "SOBEK" and Christian Kallen, put out by SIERRA CLUB BOOKS.
    Inspired me to run the Franklin in Tasmania and the Coruh in northern Turkey. Two of my favorite rivers in the world. Even has a bit on my old friend Walt Blackadar's first decent on Devils Canyon. Really well written about world wide rivers.
    Enjoy, Goo

  9. #9

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    Hey sorry to have gotten off subject. Just got me thinking off course with the original forum post. Long winter!!
    Goo

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    Very interesting stuff about early AK whitewater explorers! I might even order the book? But first, could someone please answer the OP's question about floating the upper part of the Susitna ABOVE Devil's Canyon? He's a New Member on AOD, and has been waiting over 9 months for some relatively current information.
    "Luckily, enforcement reads these forums, and likely will peruse this one...Especially after a link of it is forwarded to them....." - AlaskaHippie.

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    Default Great Info, Need More

    Chris Dunn's article was very well done and informative, loved the pictures. Well done Chris, your article and documentation of your trip and the history of the Susitna River and implications of future development deserves a Pullitzer Prize, in my mind.
    Regardless of one's stance on the Upper Susistna Dam prospect Chris did a great job of documenting his journey.

    Although not nearly as intense or harrowing as Chris' adventure, I have also floated from the headwaters to the ocean, twice. Once from McCarthy to Cordova and once in the Cook Inlet drainage (Chelatna Lake) into Anchorage via the upper Cook Inlet and therefore Knik Arm. I found the Cook Inlet portion to be not as nasty as folks seem to make it out to be. The real issue there is the mud, not the seas. I have a view of the upper Cook Inlet from my office and I look out and see flat water most of the time. The key is timing of the tides.

    Now, for my question and the real reason for this post
    . I would like to tap into the collective knowledge of this group to advise me as to exactly where I need to pull out (GPS Coordinates would be great) in pack rafts floating down from the Denali Highway on the Upper Susitna to begin the overland trek to Murder Lake. The plan is to go down from Murder Lake through Prairie Creek and then on through the Talkeetna River, the on to the Big Su, then on through the Upper Cook Inlet to Anchorage. I have been from Murder Lake to Anchorage on this trip but need advice on the route from the Big Su to to Murder Lake. No Interest in even seeing Devil's Canyon whatsoever, so can't miss the takeout. Any help would be much appreciated.

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    Just managed to snag a copy of fast and cold off amazon for about $50 delivered and looks like there's at least one more near that price.

    I echo the posters above in regards to embick's stories being testimony to an extraordinary individual and quintessential Alaskana lit among the likes of muir.

    The short stories contained in these write ups are riveting.

    Recommend any alaska floater without a copy to snatch one up from Mike's amazon link above.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by hammaneater View Post
    Hi, this post seemed to have fizzled out with no real answer. Still hoping someone who has been down the Susitna whether by jetboat or raft from the Denali Hwy south to some point above Devil's Canyon could give me a description of conditions, i.e. presence of rapids, speed of current, etc. Anybody? Thanks.
    Steve Mahay in Talkeetna took his jet boat upriver through Devil's Canyon, but did not bring it back down. Somewhere there is video of that epic adventure. I have a lot of whitewater experience, and I would not consider boating the canyon

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    Just got my copy in the mail near new condition. Great buy for less than $50 IMO. still a few available on amazon via the link above. It's a great book.


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    I have read this whole post and followed the link to read and looked at the pictures of the guy that floated the whole river. Looking at the pictures he had may not have been a true representation of the rapids in Devils canyon but it did not look that bad to me it looked like a lot of water, but it looked like you could go down it OK if you were in a expedition type raft like you would use in the Grand Canyon or the salmon river in Idaho. am I wrong in assuming this. just what are these rapids classed as more then class 5?

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    Maybe if you have mad skills and luck on your side. I think the biggest issue, unlike the ditch, would be having recovery water in the event of a flip? The number of elite kayakers killed I think has discouraged most from contemplating it. A Creature Craft would maybe stand a chance of a successful, mostly upright run?



    http://youtu.be/1fWx9iP7ZJU

    it has been run in a small cat by Mark Cramer.

    http://youtu.be/_wqqNL96YDA

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    Ya your movie is a better representation of what I have heard. too bad it is so rough, it sure would be a great trip to be able to easily float through to the Parks Hwy. I guess if it was easy everyone would do it

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