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Thread: Forty-Mile River Water Levels?

  1. #1
    Member BluNosDav's Avatar
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    Question Forty-Mile River Water Levels?

    Planning a family float-fishing-camping trip in mid-July. Putting in at the West Fork Bridge, floating down past Chicken, and taking out at the Forty-Mile Bridge at Milepost 112. I've read that sometimes this river gets too low to float. But, how low is too low???

    Current river levels at various gauges around the area are:
    West Fork = 4.99 ft
    South Fork = 81.31 ft
    Mosquito Fork = not reporting
    Walker Fork = 8.54 ft
    Wade Creek = 19.31 ft
    Forty Mile Bridge = 73.13 ft
    O'Brien Creek = 62.25 ft

    Some of these readings are 10X what some of the others are! Is the river really that deep in some places? Or is there a difference in the way the measurements are taken at different spots along the river?

    Thanx, Dave.
    "Luckily, enforcement reads these forums, and likely will peruse this one...Especially after a link of it is forwarded to them....." - AlaskaHippie.

  2. #2

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    I've floated that stretch at low water. Best advice I can give is take a look at the river at the West Fork Bridge. If it's floatable there it will be fine downstream. Check with Fortymile Air (Randy I think his name is - don't have their number) or go to http://www.blm.gov/ak/st/en/prog/nlc...les.print.html The site has contact info for BLM - just ask to speak to the river guy. They'll likely have the most current information. Also, they print a Fortymile brochure that's not bad - the info on West Fork is not good in my opinion. You can back your trailer to the river and it's very floatable for a raft at lower water levels. I'm sure the BLM folks can hook you up with a copy. If it's too low at WF you can move downstream and use another launch point. BTW - yes the reference system often varies from gauge to gauge. Good luck.

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    Member BluNosDav's Avatar
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    Thanx mack,

    I'll try contacting the folks at BLM, and maybe the shuttle driver in Chicken for some local knowledge.

    I'm also hoping there's an AOD member out there, who has floated the Forty-Mile river, and remembers what the gauge was reporting at that time.

    It'd be nice to know that "when the water level is below X-ft at the blank reporting station, you'll be stuck dragging for miles", etc.

    Thanx again, Dave.
    "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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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    I floated the last section from the MP112 bridge to the Yukon last summer at low water. It was work but still worth it IMO. I had called the BLM river guy and he gave me the skinny on gauge reading relative to low or dragging. Contact him! I don't have the info with me right now.

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    A few years ago I ran it to the 40 Mile Bridge while the gauge there was reporting less than zero fps! We knew it was low but less than zero?! Really? I don't remember what that equated to in gauge height.

    I'm not sure that section is ever truly not runable but it gets slow enough you have to add days to your trip and the water is just going down the center of the channel. Also the water gets very warm, inviting you in at every hole. Even at very low flows it was a great trip.

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    Member BluNosDav's Avatar
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    Thanx for the info!
    My daughter drew the DC851 Youth Caribou tag, August 10-21.
    Would floating the 40-mile river be a worthwhile way of getting away from the highway and finding her a 'bou?
    Or should we rent/borrow an ATV and stay up on higher drier terrain?
    Thanx, Dave.
    "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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    While driving out from our float last August we literally followed two nice bulls for close to a mile on the Taylor Hwy. They would not get off the road. I'm not a big fan of road hunting but it sure would simplify things for you. If my kids had drawn this tag (disappointed they did not) I'd just be cruising the road and glassing.

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    Member Heg's Avatar
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    I cannot recall the water level when we put in on the Mosquito Fork on August 2 of 2013, but the water was low and the weather was hot. When we drove over the West Fork, I contemplated putting in, but we were loaded pretty heavy in our 16' raft. The Mosquito Fork was low, too, but at that point I was ok with doing some dragging. The swimming was incredible; next time I'm bringing a snorkel and mask.

    The worse part of the Mosquito Fork at low water



    The best part of the Mosquito Fork at low water


    -Josh

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    The Mosquito fork was bank to bank at the Taylor bridge a couple of days ago, should be good this week after it calms down a bit.

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    Mosquito fork - 6-24-14
    DSCN1359.jpg
    West Fork 6-24-14
    DSCN1360.jpg

  11. #11

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    I've never floated the west fork or the mosquito fork, but I've floated the from Joseph down through the kink and I've floated the south fork and both times I've seen shooter caribou bulls right along the river. The time I floated from Joseph down to the Taylor highway I saw so many nice shooter bull caribou along the river I couldn't count them. Just about every bend of the river had them. Unfortunately an EO closed down the season that year early and my partner and I just had to watch them go by.

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    Member BluNosDav's Avatar
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    Really hoping to float the West Fork, since it's the least crowded, and has very little mining activity. This year the water levels have stayed between 5.5 and 6.5 feet for the last month. The guy at the BLM said that anything above 7.5' is considered "high water", and anything below 6' is considered "low water". Doesn't seem like much of a swing? And even 5.5' seems like enough water to float a raft. I'm thinking that there is "low" (5-6') and then there is "LOW" (0-3'). The West Fork joins the main channel of the Dennison River after only a few miles, so, maybe that will provide enough water for most of the trip? The other river guages further downstream have all been running medium to high water levels, so, that seems possible.
    "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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    "...anything above 7.5' is considered "high water", and anything below 6' is considered "low water". Doesn't seem like much of a swing? And even 5.5' seems like enough water to float a raft."

    River gauges are not based on "0" being a dry riverbed. In this case "no water" might be something like 5' on the gauge. And a swing of 18" on the Fortymile would make a big difference in water flow. In the constricted canyon section below 40 Mile bridge, that might equate to a 4' rise in water level. Also, a reading of 6' on one Fortymile River gauge is not at all the same thing as 6' on another of the Fortymile's gauges. It's a shame these things aren't related, but they're not.

    Another example of this is on the Sixmile Creek gauge, where 11' is high, 9' is low and 8' probably can't even happen.

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    Member BluNosDav's Avatar
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    We had a really nice trip on the Fortymile last week. But, we were unable to float the West Fork due to low water levels. The gauge was reporting about 5.5' on Monday (7/14/2014), and we could tell just by looking at it, that it was too shallow to float our family cataraft. We drove up to the Mosquito Fork Bridge, with similar results. The Mosquito gauge was reading around 12.3', but, the portion visible from the road was very rocky & shallow. So, we continued on to Chicken, where we had arranged for a shuttle driver to take our truck downstream to the Fortymile Bridge for the eventual take-out. Upon the recomendation of some folks in Chicken, we drove down a rough gravel track directly behind town to the river. After looking at the water, we decided to launch from there. This was at the confluence of Chicken Creek and Mosquito Fork. There were still a few shallow areas, where we had to drag the raft a few yards, but, within a mile or so, the Denison Fork joined in from the right, and provided some more water to what was now the South Fork. For the next few days, we had a great float, nice campsites, and pretty decent weather (only a few light rain showers at night). The water levels slowly fell a little bit during the week, but, with more streams joining in, everything worked out. The South Fork gauge read about 82.3' on Tuesday, and the main stem of the Fortymile read 72.3' on Friday when we took out. Neither of these numbers made any sense, since the actual depth under each of these two bridges was maybe 10' at most. Maybe the gauge is measuring how wide the river is at that point? Anyway, we had a great trip, with lots of fun Class 2 rapids and a steady 3 mph current.

    Thanx for everyone's advice, Dave.

    PS - We ran into Josh (Heg) at the gas station in Glennallen on Saturday. His family and their big yellow Sotar had just completed a float on the Tazlina.
    "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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    Thanks for the report. Fortymile country sure is pretty.

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