Chulitna River sweepers - fall 2016
Folks on the Eddylist have posted about recent cottonwoods obstructing channels in the Chulitna. Just thought I would repost here. This is recent as the leaves on the trees are green and of course could have been swept downstream by now. However, given the scale and nature of the river, it would pay to be cautious.
The brief trip warnings follow:
"We also had a bad surprise with a huge log jam, roughly midway between Byers Lake and the Mile 133 Parks Highway bridge. That was a five hour journey between those two points. We encountered this about halfway through the third day after launching from the mile 185 putin. Fortunately no one got hurt. The jam was not high (like the one on eagle river) but involved dozens if not hundreds of trees spread out over a wide area. To make matters worse the main current flow takes you right into the jam, which doesnt look too bad at first but gets progressively more congested the further you float into it. Some channels become completely blocked and a couple of us had to eddy out and portage over several logs to the next channel to get out of it.
If you have any future plans to float the Chulitna you want to absolutely be on the look out for this hazard and avoid it. I think this took all of us by surprise because the river was fairly widely braided at this point. The trees looked like they had recently fallen into the river as they all had green leaves. The river took a left turn just before encountering the sweepers with the right bank being heavily forested.. The best option is to make a hard left onto an unobstructed braid just upstream of the first signs of downed wood (which some of the group did).
Six of us in another party also floated the Chulitna from the lower East Branch (AKRR) to Talkeetna from last Sat AM toSunday PM. It was quite a trip! I found myself leading the group through the cottonwood maze, which another participant characterized as Class III, in the same general area Chris describes. The river right channel was the worst. Failure to make any of the moves in time could easily have been fatal (I was in an IK) and with high water the current was very fast. Not knowing if there actually was a clear way out was pretty scary. I agree, stay in a mid-river braid if at all possible through this entire section.
Glad your group made it out OK -- I believe you had a couple of friends of mine along. With hunting season starting soon those who only boat infrequently would be advised to ensure their equipment and skills are up to the challenge and to consider layovers if it continues to rain 1-2"/day on the south side of the AK Range.
I was on the second trip (2 cats, 1 raft, 1 IK, and one hard shell) and don't
have much to add to the other accounts. The river was easily running 8 or 9
miles per hour with few eddies through the newly eroded sweepers in a couple
of places, and it could definitely turn epic. My 16 year old (and new
rower) was running a small cat and I definitely did not want her in there.
(I didn't want to be in there either).
I think we were ahead of Chris' group by that time in the trip (we saw them
on Fri and Sat, but were in front because we were planning to take out Sun).
It is possible that the wood was still moving and closed up our route by the
time they got there. A few trees were still moving around, and that rain
has brought the river up from 22 k to over 40 k since...
For what it's worth, my memory is that the new trees are visible (because of
their green leaves) as the main channel dives off to the right bank, but the
actual maze is at its worst when the braid cuts back left about 100 yards
off the bank. There were probably shallower mid-channel braids available
well before we got to the green trees if we had been looking for them,
although some of those channels would surely have turned into "drainer"
channels (that get progressively smaller). Still, having to portage over to
deeper "fillers" would definitely beat the unknown routes through those
trees. When in doubt, do your best to stay in the gray older ghost logs
where the river has had time to find channels through...
Thanks for the heads up. Hopefully the high water removes those hazards and doesn't create more.