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Thread: Placer River from Spencer Glacier Whistlestop

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Default Placer River from Spencer Glacier Whistlestop

    My wife and I are thinking through ideas for some rather adventurous relatives that are visiting over the next two weeks, and we were thinking through taking the whistlestop to Spencer Glacier, hiking around a bit, then floating out the Placer back to the highway in packrafts. My perception of the Placer is that it is class I water, but perhaps there is something I'm not aware of? Any feedback would be much appreciated.

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    We did this last year and its a fun little trip. there are a couple 2+ sections in the first mile or so. the other think to keep in mind is the tide. We totally forgot to check and got lucky and did not have to paddle against the tide. The guides pull out about halfway down and get back on the train.

    Steve

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Any idea on the run time to the bridge if we floated all the way out (and weren't fighting the incoming tide)?

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    If you go straight instead of going to the right you could end up going over a 3ft+ waterfall at 60 48 22.83 148 59 43.5 on Google map when you try to cut over.

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    I think it was maybe an hour, hour and half. I will check with the other and see if he remembers.

    Steve

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    My partner said it was 2.5 float. Guess I was having more and not watching the clock

    Steve

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    The only "hazard" I recall is a large piece of rusted metal (likely a fallen rail car) just downstream of the AKRR bridge as you leave the lake and enter the river proper. Two years ago we ran the short chute past this rusty strainer on river right.

    The hike from the whistlestop to the lake is less than a mile on level graveled trails. Be sure to spend time paddling around the icebergs. The float out to the highway only takes a hour or so. We had dense fog for the last mile -- it was a windless, cool day and the humid air condensed over the glacial water. we took out up a steep bank on river left, accessing the parking lot on the eastern/upstream side of the highway (opposite T Arm).

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    Member scott_rn's Avatar
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    Brian,

    If you wanted a little longer trip, the big su via train ride out of talkeetna was a good time last year. You could easily go to indian with packrafts, but we only went to gold creek. It was flowing fast and I think our float time back to talkeetna was only around 12 hours, we turned it into two nights of camping. Nothing technical at all.
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    We are taking a group of boy scouts on this trip this Thursday through Saturday.

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    I floated this 3 years ago (searh AOD for a trip report) so things may have changed due to last fall's floods.

    Take some type of wheeled cart to transport your stuff the 1.25 miles from the whistle stop to the lake. I took a collapsible kayak cart. You can put in earlier along the river but you will miss the fun of floating around with the bergs. There is a clump of RR bridge steel from the old bridge the '64 earthquake knocked down. It is easily avoided river left or right. The top section is a bit braided with willows overhanging some corners.

    There is a fork farther down. The river right channel has the falls (not left as described in a previous post). Here is a Youtube link that shows the minor falls http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8T-EVquwxA. If you take the river right channel you'll need to float over the falls but the takeout is better. The river left fork avoids the falls but the takeout Placer River Overflow parking lot takeout is a bit more challenging due to a steep bank vs boatramp type takeout at the other parking lot..

    Plan 2 1/2 to 3 hours for the float. More if you row towards the glacier face.

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    We just completed this float. The railroad was easy to work with and loaded our rafts without any problems. We had 4 adults, 14 scouts, three full size rafts, one PR-49 pack raft, and one alpacka pack raft. When we were unloading the rafting company saved us a lot of work by loading our rafts into their van and hauling them to the lake. Thank You! Spencer Glacier is beautiful and the weather was sunny most of the time.

    The Placer is running very high and rapids coming out of the lake were fun in the pack rafts. We thought that would be the worst water but their were lots and lots of sweepers and debris in the river. About half way through the float a raft with 4 scouts hit a sweeper and flipped. Four kids in glacial water is never a good thing. My son and I were following in the PR-49 and one of the boys was hanging onto the sweeper for dear life and the water was pouring over his head. As we came up to him I told him he had to let go. Finally as we were about to go by him he let go and grabbed my paddle. We got him over the side and got him calmed down. He sat on top of our packs which made the PR-49 very unstable. We proceeded cautiously until we found the other three boys on a bar. They were shaken up but ok. Some of their gear was gone but we found it later. They weren't anxious to get back on the water but we were the last rafts in our group. We caught up with the other rafts in our group and floated to the Placer Overflow. It turned into more of an adventure than any of anticipated and luckily no one was hurt or worse.

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    Glad everyone was ok. That's awesome the commercial guys hauled your stuff, I've wondered if they would do it for money if I decided to do that trip.

    Were the four scouts in a raft on their own when it flipped?
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    The rafting company would probably haul your raft for free but bring a cart since it is 1.3 miles to the lake.

    Yes they were on their own. The adult that would have been in that raft had to cancel at the last minute. We should have kept this raft floating between the large rafts with adults so rescue would have been easier. I wouldn't do paddle rafting again unless the kids have more experience. Taking oars and frames would be more work but you would have a lot more control. Respect every river no matter what the class rating is.

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