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Thread: Forty Mile Low Water Float From Taylor Hwy mp 112 Bridge to Eagle (pic heavy)

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    Smile Forty Mile Low Water Float From Taylor Hwy mp 112 Bridge to Eagle (pic heavy)

    Forty Mile low water float From Taylor Hwy mp 112 Bridge to Eagle July 30 – Aug 2nd

    Sorry it’s taken so long to post this trip report. Hopefully it’ll make for good winter reading.

    The Forty Mile River to Yukon River to Eagle has been on my list of “must do” floats for some time now. All of the rafters I have talked to who that have done it previously have all said it was one of their favorites. Many thanks to those that have previously posted trip reports on here - especially Jim Strutz. Here’s a link to AmericanWhitewater’s description: http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/18



    I called Canadian Customs in Whitehorse (867)667-3965, provided our trip itinerary, passport details, etc. to pre-clear crossing the border which would happen on day two of the float. US Customs was even simpler. When you reach the boat ramp in Eagle there is a big sign instructing you to go to the general store and use the dedicated phone that connects you directly to the border crossing on the AK Hwy. Just provide your passport info, wait for them to clear you on their computer, and you’re good to go.

    This trip was planned for late July/early August due to other commitments earlier in the summer. I knew we’d probably be facing low water unless there was persistent rain. The Forty Mile is rain fed after the snow melt and it can rise several feet overnight and go from low water to flood stage quickly. I was ready to row in low water. However, I was also a bit worried about Canyon Rapid turning viscous and having to run it between whole trees getting launched vertically from the big lateral wave that can form on river left as some of our friends had. As it turned out I wish we’d had more water. One of the BLM rangers advised that above 75’ is high water, 74'-72' average, 72'-70' low, and below 70’ “you’ll be dragging”. I think we had about 71’.

    As most of these trips go we left Anchorage a little later than planned after finishing last minute stops. I’d hoped to make the entire 11-12 hour drive in one day. We ended up calling it a night at the BLM’s Walker Fork campground (TaylorHwy mp82) about an hour prior to the planned put-in. The BLM instructs not to camp at the MP 112 bridge so this worked well for us. As most BLM facilities, this was a nice clean campground with “the nicest outhouse I’ve ever seen” according to my wife.




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    We woke early the next morning, ate a quick breakfast, broke camp and drove past all of the active mining claims to the Taylor Hwy mp 112 bridge. We made a gear pile, inflated the boat, and then my wife and just licensed son started the 4 hour roundtrip shuttle to Eagle with the two vehicles. My younger son and I rigged the boat and waited for their return. While waiting for the shuttle drivers to return we chatted with the wife of a downriver miner who warned us about a sow grizzly with cubs who’d killed a moose in the area a week earlier, but was now gone. I was feeling a bit naked without my usual sidearm due to Canadian restrictions. All we brought was pepper spray and the dogs.







    We put on in the afternoon without a planned campsite location. Camping along the Forty Mile is just wherever you make it. There are no designated sites like the Gulkana. We pushed off with three of us in the raft and my youngest paddling his pooltoy boat (don’t get all worked up about a kid in a Chinese made death trap. We stayed close and did not expect the boat to last long). He did have fun paddling it through some class II’s which he said looked huge from that low in the water. Lol



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    We made it to the historic Steele Creek Roadhouse a few hours later and explored that area. There was decent, albeit buggy camping available in the trees .


    We elected to push on downriver expecting to find ample gravel/sand bars to camp on. Unlike almost all other rivers I’ve floated, this section is lacking suitable bars or beaches to camp on. The rocks are big and the banks all moderately sloped. Camping at higher water would force you to find spots in the trees. We finally made it to Bonanza Bar which was a big gravel island in the middle of the river. We found a decent spot on the upriver side of the bar, but after setting up camp found what would have been a better spot on a sandy bench on the downriver end. Dinner was grilled burgers and all the fixings. As the sun set, our younger lab stared upriver and began a low growl. Once again I was feeling naked without a pistol, but it was only a solo caribou crossing a few hundred yards upriver. Good dog keeping an eye out for the family.





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    We all slept well, woke the next morning, had a quick breakfast and pushed off. Once again we didn’treally have a plan. We just figured we’d just float until we felt like stopping. We were on “river time” again.






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    In the evening we stopped at Brown’s Creek to make camp. There was a moderate sized sandbar for camping at the mouth of the creek and clean, cold water to filter. Dinner was marinated, grilled chicken.



    We floated the next day with a plan to make it to at least the Forty Mile town site at the confluence of the Forty Mile and the Yukon at river mile 51. There are lots of mining relics along the river to stop and explore.




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    We stopped to scout Canyon Rapid, but at the low water it turned out to be a disappointment

    The last 2 miles of Forty Mile at low water were dead calm. Rowing a heavy raft in slack water against a small upriver wind was making me question why I think rafting is fun..........so I made the kids row. lol




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    We made it to the mouth and found a trail through the brush to the Forty Mile town site. I was surprised when we found that Parks Canada has restored much of the site. They’ve done a great job restoring the area and making it accessible without being overbearing. This is a definite must see on this float! We had not really had any bug issues up until this point. However, once away from the river the mosquitoes attacked. We quickly retreated back to the boat for a layer of bug spray which did the trick. We explored, chatted with a restoration carpenter, and then discussed whether to camp in the nice picnic area there (complete with firewood, thanks to Parks Canada!) or head a bit downriver on the Yukon. We pushed on. Ideally we would have floated this trip at a slower pace, but we wanted to explore Dawson City after the float and had a deadline back in Anchorage limiting the trip length.

    Floating into the Yukon was like pulling into the fast lane of the Autobahn compared to the low, slow water on the Forty Mile. The massive size of the Yukon, the boils, weird currents and small whirlpools were a bit disconcerting to my wife at first. Our gps speed picked up to 8 mph at times without rowing and probably averaged 5-6mph.




    We camped at Shell Creek our third night. It turned out to be our best camp of the trip. Filtering water from the Yukon will require that you let it settle or use a coffee filter prior to your water filter to prevent the fine river silt plugging your element. The sidestreams provide cleaner water and good campsites. We settled in for taco night and river chilled pale ales. The boys started a big bonfire, our first campfire of the trip. My wife read some of Robert Service’s most famous poems to us while the sun set over the river. It is unforgettable moments like this that make all the hard work of a river float worth it. I’ll always remember that magical night as a family.






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    It was hot throughout the day….as in 90F +. We kept ourselves and our poor, black labs wet all day with cold Yukon River water. This is our first AK river trip where we were hot at least part of each day. I'm not complaining...just saying.









    The original plan was for a second night on the Yukon, but with the speed we were making we realized we could make Eagle that evening. We discussed our options and elected to push-on to avoid having to rush the breakdown the next day. This also allowed us more time in Eagle the next day and avoided a hurried drive to the Top Of The World Hwy border crossing before it closed for the night. We kept watching the gps and the shoreline expecting to see some type of border marker.
    Apparently there used to be one, but a flood or breakup ice took it out. There was just a simple Yukon flag. No US flag to welcome us back. Or, maybe our Canadian neighbors had run off with the Stars &Stripes? Lol




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    We finally made it to the muddy boat ramp after 101 river miles in 3 ½ days, brokedown gear, called US Customs to report re-entry into the US, and camped at the BLM’s Eagle campground. The next morning we had ample time to explore Eagle, Ft Egbert, and head up the Top Of The World Hwy to the border crossing and on into Dawson City. If you do this trip plan the extra time for Dawson. It’s worth it. One or two extra days on this trip would be ideal. I would highly reccomend this trip.







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    Great write-up and photos. Thanks for posting. Did you fish at all?
    I am no longer surprised at what I am no longer surprised at ---Bill Whittle

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    We took a fly rod but had been told by someone who had previously floated it that fishing on the lower Forty Mile was terrible. I never saw any fish, evidence of fish, or bugs in/on the water. Maybe all of the mining activity on that river has made it almost sterile? I don't know. We didn't bother fishing in Canada.

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    Nice trip report with great family photos. My wife, two kids, and I were on the river about the same time as you guys. We floated the Mosquito Fork to the Fortymile Bridge. Super mellow trip (other than a little dragging on the Mosquito Fork). With all the hot weather, my kids ended up swimming every day while we were floating. It felt like a Montana river in mid summer. Bugs were not an issue at all. Fishing was fair for grayling in this section, and we saw a lot of caribou.

    -Josh

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    Nice trip report, indeed. Your dog looks regal sitting up and chillin. I bet it loved the trip as much as your family. Great to see you did it in style. The table cloth was a nice addition. Loved it all.

    thanks for sharing that, Birdstrike.

    larry

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    We did this trip a few years ago and it is one of my favorites. Nice report and great memories for your family. Congratulations.

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    laid back, with your mind on your money and your money on your mind.

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    Awesome. If you don't mind, how old are you boys? What's the youngest you think should go on that trip?

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    Thanks for the write up. Definitely a good winter/at work read.

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    The boys are middle school/high school. I wouldn't set a minimum age for kids floating any river until you get into class IV/V whitewater. And then, as with an easy trip like this, it's all dependent on how comfortable the parents are floating and camping with their kids. If the parents are laid back the kids will have a great time. If the parents freak out every time the kids get near the water, throw rocks, get dirty, etc then the kids won't have a good time. Mine have been camping since they were in playpens. One is now an Eagle Scout and the other is close.

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    Thanks for posting, great write up and pictures.

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    Looks like a great trip. Always nice to see our neighbours enjoying things on this side of the border.
    if you get the hankering to venture a bit further into The Yukon, I'd highly recommend the Wind river in the Peel watershed as a fantastic raft trip.
    Never wrestle with a pig.
    you both get dirty;
    the Pig likes it.

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