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Thread: Upper Kenai - Packraft float

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    Member jstewAK's Avatar
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    Default Upper Kenai - Packraft float

    I was just wondering if anyone has floated the upper kenai between kenai lake and skilak lake in an Alpacka raft. I am really interested in doing this trip but some advice on floating that section of the river would be very helpful.

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    Never done it in an Alpacka, but I and many others have done it in whitewater inflatable kayaks, which behave in much the same way. The IK's are a little longer and faster, and while stable, are not as stable as the little pack boats. Neither can track straight worth a darn.

    You would likely want to avoid some of the (few & far between) holes and reversals in the upper part of the river (before Jim's Landing), but that is very easy to do. After Jim's the river leaves the highway corridor, enters Kenai Canyon and there are numerous places where the river gets pushy and splashy. (Class II+ in my estimation, but some say Class III.) Holes and waves are a lot easier to find, and a little harder to avoid. Some of the rapids really can't be avoided easily, so plan on getting wet. If you have the latest spray skirt that comes on the 2007 models you'll stay drier than the previous versions. There is nothing in this section that a mostly competent pack-rafter can't get through, but you will want to be picking your course. The problem will be that you are so low in the water it will be difficult to see what's coming up.

    After a couple miles of canyon the river opens up again and calms off before entering the lake. There are three channels that the river splits into, the main one being in the middle. The left and center channels are fairly direct, but the right one is smaller, slower and oddly interesting in my opinion. Fishing can be very good right at the confluence of the river and lake.

    Personally, I would recommend wearing a dry suit since reloading for the cold water is never as easy as it seems. In any case, I would practice deep water re-entry in a lake before going on larger rivers. Things happen to the best of us and you want to know how to self-rescue before it happens in the middle of some nastiness.

    Of course, once you get to Skilak you can hike out with the pack rafts. Although I've never done it, I have heard that it's about a three mile hike up the hill to Skilak Lake Road. Also, most of the Canyon looks like it has a decent trail on river right that leads back to Jim's Landing. I don't know if it goes all the way down to the lake, but if it does it's probably not much longer, and a lot less steep. The other option is to paddle the 8 miles to Upper Skilak Campground. It would be a lot more work, but it is a very nice scenic trip providing the wind doesn't get too strong. The waves on the lake can be large, and if the wind is not in your favor the paddle would be difficult. The shuttle is also easier/shorter if you hike out.

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    Default alpacka in kenai

    I have packrafted it several times, it's a fun little float and fairly easy in a packraft. The hike out to the skilak road is easy once you get to the Hidden Lake creek trail, you can either paddle down the shore of the lake to it, or hike down the beach. In the canyon, probably the most difficult thing are big eddy lines where the river takes a couple of hard turns in the canyon, nothing too difficult. Should be lots of reds in there right now... enjoy

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    Member jstewAK's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice. I did a smaller float, russian to Jims stopping for a lot of fishing on the way. I would like to go from cooper to Skilak at some point but being new to the packraft I want be sure to get some solid experience on the water first and find a partner or 2 to head out with.

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