Twentymile River Safety Meeting
I'm not sure how many of you here are members of the Knik Canoers and Kayakers or not, and therefor may have already been aware of this, but Jim King posted an announcement about this river safety meeting on the Powerboating section which he had gotten through their Knik Canoers and Kaykers emailing list so I thought I'd let you all know of my take on the meeting, and especially of our invitation for any pac-rafters considering this float to stage their vehicles at our launch facility rather than in the traffic jam at the public boat launch. This is a copy of what I posted in the powerboat section and mailed the KCK folks:
I sent this out to the Knik Canoers and Kayakers mailing list to sort of clarify for them what I saw and heard from the powerboat community at the meeting this past week, and to clarify my own position as well.
All in all it wasn't a bad meeting, though there still seems to be concern from some of those I spoke with as to why the FS has cameras mounted on the banks and is so intent on studying capacity on the river in the first place.
Hello Everyone! We met with a few folks last night at the Glacier Ranger Districts offices to visit about river saftety on the Twentymile and I thought I'd make mention of a couple items that sort of stand out in my mind from the meeting. It seemed the most talked about hazard was a long standing log jam on the Glacier River side of the drainage where several boats have been swamped over the years including at least 2 powerboats last summer. There is a sort of "false channel" on the rivers right when boating downriver that is often completely obstructed which is where these two powerboaters got in trouble last season. After the second boat sunk and swept under the jam, we cut it out before the peak summer use began due to the safety concerns, it drifted back closed later in the fall and is presently still closed. The good news is the location of this jam is well above the Twentymile and Glacier River conflulence where most of the rafting traffic from the Winner Creek trail hits the river. When using pac-rafts from the Winner Creektrail it is not a factor, only on floats from Carmen Lake or Glacier Lake could someone make the mistake of choosing this false channel. If you were to access the headwaters via jetboat for you float it would be readily observable on your way up. If you fly in it may require a bit more vigilance on your part. Also discussed was the hairpin or dogleg turn on the lowest stretch of theCarmen River just before it's confluence with the Glacier River, along withthe narrow straightwaway just below it. The practice for us commercial powerboaters has been and remains to hold, look, and listen before entering this ~300 yard stretch from downriver, along with announcing our intentions on VHF Channel 11. Obviously we wouldn't hear a rafter or kayaker coming downriver, and the visibility is restricted, but if looking carefully and vigilantly, one can see up and through the turn, and there are readily available options for either boat should there be an encounter. Either boat, whomever is first into the corner can hold in the big eddy on the backside of the turn, or the downriver boat can take the northeast channel if an upriver boat holds in the narrow channel long enough for them to clear. This northeast channel (rivers right when boating downriver) is passable on all but the lowest of flow conditions for most powerboats,though it is shallower and requires a bit more maneuvering than the narrow and straight slot on the most frequently used southwest channel (rivers left when bound downstream) Some powerboaters may get stuck if they are forced to go this direction due to unfamiliarity with the twists and turns, our Glacier Jet drivers have practiced running it and can be counted on to either go there or hold in the eddy should they be faced with anypossibility of overtaking a raft or kayak in the narrow slot There was some talk of asking all river users to stay to the "rivers right"when feasible, and to "give way" to the rivers right when possible ifmeeting other traffic, with the overall understanding that riverconditions, flow channels and seams may require one to be positioned elsewhere in order to safely navigate the challenges, twist and turns.There seemed to be no differentiation made between powerboat users and rafters, kayakers present who all indicated they normally would want to berunning in the "good water" regardless of which side of the river it happened to be flowing (except for the airboaters who said they'd takewhatever was left over!) Everybody seemed to be coming from a place of mutual respect and concern for safety in an obvious commmonly held agreement that (at least among those attending) we would all try give way to the right when meeting. There was some talk of the advantage of making oneself as highly visible as possible, our Glacier Jet boats are painted bright orange or "Aire Yellow" to help you more readily spot us! There was also talk of the 2 pac-raft misshaps and rescues occuring last summer, which kind of tied in with the current and continued recommendation that all river users in this cooridor wear PFD at all times when on the water. Even though the river isn't really challenging technically, there are some unforgiving hazards on it and we all need to be prepared for the worst case scenario. It was commented on by many in attendance that this focus on river safety and user cooperation is a well worthwhile undertaking, that none of the safety incidents discussed were related to overcrowding or overuse, and that all attending seemed well inclined and mutually respectfull towards one another. The only place indicating overcrowding related to safety was the public launch and parking area on the Seward Highway. In order to help mitigate the crowding and inherent visibility restrictions for users re-entering the highway traffic we at Glacier Jet would like to publicly notify as many of the rafting kayaking and canoe communities as possible of our personal invitation to stage your vehicles at our launch location on the upstream side of the highway should you be contemplating floating the river. We have less silt and mud on our location for when you are rigging your boats down, its safer access off and onto the highway, and it will save some of the parking at the boat launch for those requiring trailers to launch and retrieve their vessels. Please be aware that we cannot assume responsibility for your vehicles or any items left in them should you choose to park at our location, and we normally chain and lock the entrance to our facility so it'd be a good idea to phone and let us know if you want to drop off your vehicle later than 8pm or if you may not be off the water before 8pm so we can make arrangements to leave the gate open for you. My phone number is: 250-1235 and our office number is 868-7669 Thank you for letting me post this here, we wish you many happy days on the water this year!
I've got to say following the meeting I walked away proud to call myself a rafter and a powerboater. There are truly some great Alaskans on the water no matter which way they happen to be floating on it!