West Fork Gulkana
My post here today is proof that there is no such thing as a free lunch. My dad called the other day and said "Hey, I'll be downtown to take care of some paperwork, can I buy you lunch?"
Turns out he had an agenda, and that's to have a proper hunting trip this year, as it's been too long since we've been out on a successful hunt. I've been mulling over the idea of a float hunt, even bought Larry Bartlett's book a few years ago. But time and the demands of modern life have prevented me from following up on it.
So I'm thinking something like the West Fork would meet my needs. Those are:
- Not too expensive. I have hopes of getting two kids through college so I'm willing to compromise on productivity and solitude.
- Not too technical. At least it looks that way to me. I'm thinking of a drop-off on Crosswind Lake and paddling down through Fish Lake to the West Fork. From what limited info I can find there would be no portage involved.
- Moosey looking country.
- Not too crowded. OK, this may just be wishful thinking, but it surely can't be as heavily trafficked as the main stem.
- Not too long. BLM suggests this is a three day float. I'd plan on maybe 7 days to make sure that we spend some time hunting. If we fill our tag early we can book out and drive home ahead of schedule.
I'd appreciate any thoughts, advice, catcalls, etc. that anyone may have on the idea of hunting this stretch of the Gulkana. Some questions that come to mind for me are:
- Is this float doable with a single craft capable of hauling two large men, gear, and a monstrous ungulate?
- Which raft would be best suited for this river?
- Is it too late to be able to book a float plane for drop-off on Crosswind Lake this fall?
- Am I crazy?
Bottom line is I'd like an awesome float experience that provided some opportunity for bagging a nice bull, but the overall adventure is probably a higher priority than filling the freezer. Am I on the right track?
By the way, lunch was at the Spenard Roadhouse and I had the Cubano.
I think you have a VERY good plan. Disregard what is advised on this forum........and go for it. You can hike into crosswinds from tolsona trail-side. You really don't need to pay for bush flights. ATV drop-off is also possible. skinny water.....so two inflatable canoes would be my prefenece.
My future home is near crosswinds, so give me a shout if you should need advice:
Michael, thanks for the reply. I didn't realize there is a trail from Tolsona Lake. It looks like a pretty long haul though. If it were me and my kids I'd hike in but that's more than I want to put my dad up to. But now I know I can ATV in and scout it out with an inflatable canoe in the summer.
Originally Posted by mainer_in_ak
chugiaktinkerer, if you should need some help getting a load in there......I need the excercise. stash it in the woods for your moose hunt. I'll show yah the area if you feel up to the task.
here's what you should do: buy two aire travelers NOW. snowmachine them down the trail NOW. store them in the woods. also snowmahcine in the other crap you'd need. do so....before the snow melts.
Thanks so much for your input and offer. I don't know if I'm that ready to commit.
From what you know of the Crosswind to Gulkana float, do you reckon a SOAR Pioneer Pro can manage okay? I'm looking to be the oarsman and let my dad enjoy the ride, so a single canoe with a big payload is more up my alley.
Here is the best bet for flying in to crosswind.
A beaver load should get you by.
Thanks Talcub. My dad already talked with Jerry (I think) at Lee's. Between Jerry and further looking at Google maps I'm convinced that I don't want to do that much portaging and dragging, particularly if I want to take a bigger boat, such as a 15' self-bailer or a cataraft. Fish Lake, northeast of Crosswind, drains directly into the West Fork and looks to be easily navigated with a wider raft. Jerry mentioned that there are a couple cabins on Fish Lake and the guys run their boats up the West Fork every year. I'm still looking at the West Fork, but also casting my net further afield. I hope to hear back from Lee's this afternoon, as Jerry had suggested another option. The price he quoted my dad for Fish Lake using the Beaver was very reasonable, so we're thinking maybe something a little further off the road.
I'm also realizing that when it comes to rafting or fishing, folks will share pretty readily what their favorite rivers are. When it comes to hunting it's a lot harder to pry out good info!
Funny you should mention this Chugiak, I have been thinking about this float for about a year now. Try calling Larry Bartlett. I know he tried to float it and had some difficulty. If he had difficulty, I would imagine it is a challenge. But, I agree it sounds like a good float. If you have some time on your hands and a chainsaw, I'm sure you can clear a path. I would be curious to hear how it goes for you. Please keep us posted. My guess is that a pro pioneer or the new pioneer x-stream that Bartlett makes would be a good boat for this float. Where did you find information on this float from the BLM? I have been unable to find any public information about floating down from X-Wind. Good luck to you.
Originally Posted by ChugiakTinkerer
Originally Posted by mainer_in_ak
Not to rain on the Hike in on the Tolsona Lake trail head but that is a long boggy mess even on a wheeler! To hike it would suck beyond explanation! Go for the airplane drop. Good float trip.
Walt Gulkana River Raft Rentals
no worries walt,
It can be miserable hiking across that country side. My last heavy load was a 95 lb pack of supplies/tools/chainsawgas to stake my land northwest of crosswind. Just about keeled over a few times from exhaustion. It can be miserable in hip boots, and we won't talk about the bugs.
Thanks for the input guys. I'm dialing back my expectations a bit, as I don't have the budget for a proper wilderness float like the Kotz area offers. I'm thinking that the West Fork may still be a really nice hunt even if a few jet/air boats buzz by. Then again, I'm eying the Fortymile River as well. I'm starting to get analysis paralysis, so many rivers to consider even with my limited funds.
I bought a second-hand Aire Cougar this weekend, so I've limited my options quite a bit. So Crosswind is off the table for me, at least with this boat. Anyways this year I'm looking more to be the hunting guide and all my dad has to do is sit in the bow and keep an eye out for moose and caribou.
[Edit to add] I think the BLM reference was to the float from Fish Lake. I can't recall where I saw the reference though. Will see what google-surfing yields...
I've always been interested in this area. I think I found the information that you were looking for. This ADFG site shows the float distances between lakes and the total distance of the float from x-winds lake all the way to the Sourdough campground. You'll find it on page 9.
Indeed, that's probably the source of my "3 days" and I mis-attributed it to BLM. I recall looking at that pamphlet, but when I rechecked it tonight I only looked at the part on page 2. Thanks 907pride!
This looks like a great canoe hunt. And fish!
Wow! Thanks for the link 907pride. Although I think there are some major errors on the mileage table in that publication. I noticed that is gives a distance of 17 miles from the West Fork and Mainstem confluence down to Sourdough. I have done this float several times and I know for a fact that it is less than ten miles. The real distance is probably more like 7 miles.
Originally Posted by 907pride
Good estimate Bushwack. I just measured by tracing the route with the Googleearth measurement tool and I came up with exactly 9.3 miles. Heres a screenshot of the trace.
Originally Posted by Bushwhack Jack
West Fork confluence to Sourdough.jpg
Okay, so I just looked at their mileage table again and they may not have been so wrong. On page 8 they show West Fork to Sourdough campground at 8 miles. On page 9 they show Mouth of West Fork to Sourdough at 17 miles. So by this they mean the headwaters of the entire West fork which isn't too far off from what it actually is I guess.
Actually the way it reads is as follows...
Originally Posted by 907pride
Fish Lake to West Fork........2 miles
mouth of creek to the mainstem Gulkana.......30 miles (my assumption is this is where the West Fork starts)
mouth of West Fork to Sourdough campground........17 miles
Not a big deal. But it does make me wonder if the person who wrote down this mileage table really floated it himself or just made up the numbers. I would definitely like to find out. Regardless of the mileage, I bet it would be a fantastic float.
I was looking into the north side from your float from dickey to the main fork, just FYI the fly in has been quoted to me as $750/load(ish) from a few of the glennallen area air taxis. In an otter with 1200lbs(ish) capacity, plenty for two guys and a raft. At that price the fly in is well worth it, especially since you can park at sourdough and only need to one trip in and have your truck at the take out.
Those numbers sound about right as far as river miles. I've never floated the west fork, but hear it is pretty slow, so your seven days would be easy, especially finding time to fish and glass. I mean... glass and fish of course.
I just got off the phone with Jerry Lee of Lee's Air Taxi. He said max of 1250 lbs. I'm gonna have to start burning some calories!
I'm well convinced that Fish Lake is not a good choice, likely too much boat traffic in that lower portion of the West Fork. Gonna look at lakes at the upper end of the West Fork and plan on a longer float. It will suck to have spend all that time hunting and fishing.
Thanks for all the input guys.
Keep in mind that the upper end of the west fork is very narrow and a 14 foot raft with oars will be very tough, I had a fer groups do that section and the best choice is a Pro-Pioneer with paddles. It is also a very good idea to pack a small chain saw because sweepers laying across 100% of that narrow upper section is common! I have a group 2 years ago what went in with a small bow saw and spent the better part of 2 days cutting trees out of the river.
Think your way through this one first!
Gulkana River Raft Rentals