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Thread: Aniakchak River Trip

  1. #1
    New member
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    Feb 2008

    Default Aniakchak River Trip

    A group of 4 of us are planning on flying to Aniakchak Crater and floating the river to the Pacific. We plan on taking our NRS 14 foot inflatable with paddles for the trip, and have lots of experience floating rivers in Alaska. My biggest concern is the first part of the river with possible sharp volcanic rocks. We live in Southeast Alaska so I'm less concerned with rainy and windy conditions- our normal weather!

    Has anyone made the trip and can give me advise on air carriers into the lake and off of the beach? Also, has anyone hiked in from Port Heiden, picked up the raft at the lake and then floated to the Pacific? Looking for ideas and suggestions.


  2. #2
    New member
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    Apr 2006

    Thumbs up From Caldera 2 Sea

    - found your post & knew you would likely get very little feedback -

    Seeing your 'Nakwasina' --- I'm guessing you are around the Sitka area of Southeast. Nice neck of the woods!

    I have run the Aniakchak several times... mostly the month of July over the years (when ya can get in there due to weather!). The aspects of the trip I most like are the inspirations/aspirations of trekking inside the crater to see what's over the next hillside, rim, or cone. On the river - what's around the next drop or turn, crumbling walls of fossils, lava bombs, whitewater stretches, wildlife, pumice layers, fields upon fields of lupine, etc. and yes fishing... sums up this unique Alaska river experience.

    On to Logistics & Equipment:

    Best take 5 or so days for your trip (hike around for 2 float for 3). A buffer on both sides at the hotel in King Salmon is a good idea (Quinault Landing is my choice)

    Fly in with Branch River Air!!! No question - Just make it so. I've been flying with Van Hartley's outfit since I was a kid. Branch River is your ticket to Aniakchak. Also realize you may have to get all the way out there and find yourself turning around.

    Camping in the Crater - You should use only the best equipment. The weather in there can be much more severe than anything 'normal' in Southeast Alaska... Very unpredictable with drastic change. A fine summer day of euphoria can go to gnarly hurricane force & zero viz in minutes. Take this part of your trip seriously.

    Boat choices - First I'd say the 14' NRS is OK... you did not specify the model tho'. I must say however... floating the trip in paddle mode is a mistake for the majority of folks at most water levels. While none of the whitewater is all that demanding or long --- it is technical to a degree & the chances of ripping your NRS in paddle mode is 10-fold over reasonably competent oar rigging even over good paddle teamwork. The problem here (at most water levels) is that you will often foresee taking some gear and "people weight" out to feather-lighten the load and run the gates w/ the precision it takes with one person decision-making.

    I personally and professionally have never had any punctures or tearing of my boats on the Aniakchak by having this flexibility while oar-rigging. Today, I mostly run 18' AIRE Leopard cats, AIRE 156E, Travellers, and Lynx 1 Kayaks. Back in the Day - I ran with Campways Riverrider 15.5 and Metzeller Spezi L. Trick is going light! Yet another good notion is taking a bigger boat than needed and learning to load less & less into it. It'll really save on the wear & tear!!!

    Wind can be a factor floating the Gates and on the final stretches venturing onto the coastline - keep that in mind.

    I would not suggest hiking from Port Heiden to Aniakchak - tho' a good trip is to fly into the crater, run the Aniakchak quite a ways down, then hike overland to run down the Meshik, motoring to Port Heiden. Just be careful motoring out of the Meshik... You must go more than a ways out to sea before turning toward Port Heiden.

    It's one of the Best trips in Alaska bar none.

    Best wishes -

  3. #3
    New member
    Join Date
    Feb 2008

    Default Thanks!

    Thanks for the information about the Aniakchak, Brian. I grew up in Sitka, and my Commercial Gillnetter/Longliner is called the Nakwasina. I live in Craig now.

    I appreciated all of your input and helped answer my questions. I have already contacted Branch Air, and am lining that up now. I may have some more questions later, so I hope you don't mind if I drop you a line later on!

    Thanks Again!


  4. #4
    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Default 1991 trip

    That was the first time down river from the crater, we were in Momentum raft 14 foot with one of those frames made from bent galvanized conduit.
    It was a great trip, but the wind blew two days so hard we were pinned down. was not able to go down river,,, the wind blew us back up and to the banks... we set up the tent and it got tore up, so we took the raft and made a shelter from it and the broken tent, we were wet, but we were smart enough to have good synthetic clothes and sleeping bags..
    No way to build a fire,, so you need to rely on good gear to stay warm if you go in the late summer or fall.. I did the trip in late August, and although the temps never even got below 35 degrees, we were cold at times, and stopped to warm up with hot liquids etc..
    When the weather broke... it was incredible and amazing...
    Little sign of any other people being around this area of Alaska.,,
    The crater is amazing also... This part of Alaska made me feel that I was seeing an almost prehistoric place,. Carpets of green,with poking up Rocks jagged and New. Crazy shaped formations that have not yet been worn by wind, sand and rain...
    I have flown over the area several times in the past years, and each time, I wish I were doing that float anouther time.
    You will love it, but don't go fast, and make sure you leave plenty of time for drop off and pickup, as mentioned before, you may not get in as you plan, and you may not get out as you planned,,,,
    I have never hiked to Port heiden, or over to the Meshik, but It is for sure doable if you have time and desire.
    Just packing a 120 lb raft and all your gear over land may be a problem.
    One time I had to portage my raft and gear 2 miles. I wished I could have filled my raft with helium and just led it with a tether.....
    If only it were
    Anyway.... This is a place and river you will never forget...
    We had no problems with punctures coming thru the gates, our boat was an early PVC model and was light compared to some of the PVC boats today. Your boat will do fine. NRS is neoprene I believe and is very tough.
    Have a great trip, and take the best equipment you can afford. Make sure your tent can handle 100 mph winds.. and horizontal rain. We had so much water come thru our zipper, it was
    No cotton, NO COTTON, NOT COTTON.!!!
    unless you want to die from hyperthermia...
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years.

  5. #5
    Member akrstabout's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    Default my co-worker did it this last summer

    He is on the forums, not sure what his name is though. He had an awesome time. He took lots of pictures. They hiked in from Port Heiden, I think that took 2.5 days. Stayed 2 days in the crater. Then floated out for a couple I think. Stayed a few days in cabin on the beach. Then a bush plane took them back to port heiden.

    What nobady has mentioned was bears. When they got to the mouth 13 brown bears awaited them. They didn't have any protection and next time they will take some. Bears would hang out in groups on the beach. They figured salmon went out with tide and the bears were bored. Not really charges but the bears came running more than once and closed the distance pretty fast. He got some cool pictures of that.

    Fish and Game was in the crater doing water samples or something. They told my coworker the bears move into the crater in Late august as the salmon work their way up river. So watch out for that too.

    They used the Alpaca Series rafts, he calls them butt boats. They each had their own. I thought it was pretty cool they did it all on their own, except for the flight back.

    I will tell him on monday to check this thread out and help inform you.


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