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Thread: Where to get some more white water experience?

  1. #1
    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    Default Where to get some more white water experience?

    Looking to gain some more white water experience with our 14' self bailer round boat (Alaskan Outfitter brand) usually set up for rowing.

    We have done the upper Gulkana several times including the canyon and have spent a decent amount of time rowing on the upper Chena (can require some quick maneuvering).


    What other road to road areas should be on our list for the summer that have some increasingly splashy fun?

    We're in Fairbanks, so the interior is preferred, although we have friends with a cabin up the glen which makes the Matanuska appealing. Wondering if Lions Head is within our capabilities and our raft's? Sounds like a great time! I've searched the forum quite a bit, but would love some more information like do you wear drysuits? and would welcome PM's from people that run it and might be willing to offer more advice or work up a group trip, etc. I know NOVA is there and perhaps we could ride with them once or follow them, but I haven't looked into their rates and don't know anybody there to talk about options.

    Overnights and fishing rivers are great too, but I don't know where to go to get some more whitewater experience. Nenana?

    Thanks for the advice.

  2. #2

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    Six-Mile Creek........It is just a "Creek" how bad could a "Creek" possibly get..........????

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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    Other than going to guide school with a whitewater operator there are not really any options to gain experience unless you meet the right people. Commercial operators won't let you follow along due to liability reasons. Connect with Knik Canoe Kayakers club http://www.kck.org/. They have an email list eddylist@list.kck.org where you can post those same questions and try to find some more experienced boaters to hook up with. That is what I have done. Hopefully that will lead to better advice than the above post that could get you killed. Somebody recently posted on there looking for boaters to run the Eagle River bridge-to-bridge run (another easier class III). I recently posted and ran with a few other boats on Lionhead that I met through the list server.

    Unfortunately, most of the class III and above runs (like Lionhead) require dry suits/paddle suits due the the extremely cold water and possibly lengthy swims. IMO, not having the appropriate safety gear is irresponsible for yourself, your heirs, and anybody with you. Whitewater can and does kill every year. Treat yourself to a guided run with Nova. They do an excellent job. Their Lionhead trip is an excellent intro for the family. Then book yourself on their class V Six Mile trip to see what bigger rapids look like. You also have several Nenana Cayon operators to choose from. Once you've seen an example of AK whitewater and how those experienced companies run their trips you'll have a better idea of what it will take for you to be the boatman. Once you get a taste you may be hooked or reconsider.

    I didn't make this video. I was just along for the Lionhead section in the red boat. No whitewater action...we were a little busy for pics in the rapids. https://youtu.be/0ukPPUX600c

    Good luck and be safe.

  4. #4
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    You can find videos on YouTube and Vimeo for most AK whitewater runs.

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    The Nenana is not a good river to learn on, it does have some hydraulics that will gobble your boat. Try the Klutina, it is a nice class II-III run that is pretty safe to learn on. You will need to work out a shuttle, but you will get a pretty fun 15 mile run in, some fishing here and there too.

  6. #6
    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    Thanks for the good info. I was thinking that lionshead is such a long run it probably needs a dry suit in case of a swim. That is a limitation for the moment, but one of these years maybe we'll get there. I'll follow up on a few of the other leads and see if anything pans out for this year including Nova. Thanks again!




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  7. #7
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    For any whitewater run you should have a dry suit.

  8. #8

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    Do the Delta River from Tangle lakes down to the Richardson. it's a great 2 -3 day trip. Pretty easy going but enough action to keep you interested. Lots of graying. one MUST DO!!!! portage

  9. #9
    Member ChugiakTinkerer's Avatar
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    If you find yourself on the Kenai River the canyon offers some rougher water than you'll get between Kenai Lake and Jim's Landing. Probably not nearly as exciting as Lion's Head but there's a heck of lot more fishing available

  10. #10
    Member Mkay's Avatar
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    Signed up for a pakraft class a few years ago that advertised as "packrafting for beginners". One day of training and on day 2 we go down Lionshead on the Matanuska. Stared death in the face and thought I would be in the ADN obit column. Dry suits and helmets are required gear.
    My child was inmate of the month at Mat-Su pre-trial Correctional facility.

  11. #11
    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    If you want to play and on the safer side just to practice float the Brushkana Cantwell if you want to see what it is all about just You Tube Pack Rafting Brushkana couple of Videos out there. Go Light i.e. not tons of gear. Brings you out on the Upper Nenana you can float down to the Parks Highway Bridge. Nothing Special just a little Class II run however continuous bouncing with a good current "lots of rocks". Like to call on the Delta River as well and yes lots of You Tube Footage to enjoy. Be warned though you have a Heavy 14ft Boat and I do mean heavy and you will have to haul it a ways if you going through Tangle Lakes through to the Delta "do not attempt to run the Canyons!

  12. #12
    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    Thanks, Moose. I'll look into those. I know it's a heavy raft, but we've had some great trips in it so far and more to come. Might upgrade someday, but for our first real raft it's been tough and reliable. Very happy with it. Lining it is ok, but I definitely don't want to carry it more than 20' or so!

    Wish there was a section or two like the gulkana canyon but longer that could be done once or twice in a day without driving too far. While I'm wishing I guess I should wish for a boat that does Halibut and skinny rivers equally well and is also easy on gas and sleeps six, easy right? :-)




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  13. #13
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    If you get some experience first, you can do Lions Head multiple times in a day (2 if you are slow, 3 if you start early/run later).

    Caribou to Glacier Park Bridge is about a 1.5hr float. Its only a long run if you float all the way out to Hicks.

    At lower water levels its a good run to learn on (preferably with someone that knows the run), but at higher levels the difficultly definitely goes up beyond "beginner whitewater". But even at lower levels, the rapids down Lions Head are not that spaced out, so recovering swimmers or flipped boats requires quick action before you are in the next set of rapids.

    Drysuits are a must for Alaska WW.

  14. #14
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    The Nenana between Grassy Knoll (MM 222.8 Parks Hwy) and McKinley Village is a fun run. Starts slow but good splashy sections below Carlo Creek.

    Once you're comfortable with that stretch, float McKinley Village to Glitter Gulch commercial put-in. This requires hauling boat up from takeout ~150 yards to where you can back a vehicle up to it.

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