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Thread: East Fork of Chulitna

  1. #1
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    Default East Fork of Chulitna

    I'm looking to float the East Fork to Sunshine over Memorial Day weekend.

    Does the upper section of the East Fork have any history of log jams or big sweepers/strainers this time of year?

    I want to know for gear (chainsaw) purposes.

    Thanks,

    Illiya

  2. #2
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    I've never heard of any. At least none that laid across the whole stream. There are some sweepers that hang out from the bank, but have always been easy to avoid. Others may have had a different experience though.

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    Thanks Jim.

  4. #4

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    There's always some sweepers, but as Jim said they are usually avoidable. When I floated that stretch of river a few years back on a Memorial weekend, we had a hard time finding a good camping spot for all the snow.

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    Excellent information. I was concerned about the ice and have been looking for break up info, Spring is a little late. I have not run that part of the river this early before. That was the reason I asked the sweeper question because I didn't know if that part of the river gets blown out in the spring. My family and I have run the section from Princess to Sunshine over Memorial Day weekend and have run into blocks of ice flowing on the Susitna. I really appreciate the heads up. I'll keep fishing for information on the break up and postpone the trip if necessary.

  6. #6

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    I'm looking at doing that float the weekend after you. If you wouldn't mind I'd love a trip report about the weather/conditions when you get back.

    Also I'll be driving over the east fork a couple times between now and then and will let you know what it looks like there and near princess.

    Matt

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    Any current reports??

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    Thumbs up East Fork of the Chulitna Fly Over

    I did a fly over of the Chulitna today from Talkeetna to the East Fork Bridge of the Parks Highway. It is open all the way up to the East Fork bridge but there is still snow on all the gravel bars and banks from about the Fountain River confluence to the East Fork Bridge. The water level seemed very low and some of the braided areas look a little shallow along with the the first several miles after the put in. There looked like there was a couple a rock gardens that were pretty exposed as well during the first several miles. There were no log jams or sweepers/ strainers to speak of blocking the main channel on the upper or lower portion of the river. All in all it looks very runnable if you don't mind lining your boat a couple of times and sleeping on snow banks for a couple of days. My family and I are going to go ahead with our plans to float that section this weekend. The water level should come up a bit if this weather keeps up for a couple of days. For as much as I could tell all of the surrounding rivers are open and running with snow on the banks and bars. I saw a couple of tour boats heading up the Talkeetna river as well.

  9. #9
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    Great report,thanks!

  10. #10

    Default Mac

    Labor day last year we cleared two stream wide sweepers on the clear water stretch. In July of last year with good flow in the clear water stretch there were a number of corners with log piles - some pretty narrow passages on the inside. Shallow water behind you made it pretty tight in a 14 foot SB. Great River.

  11. #11

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    Anyone have any current reports? We are doing this float tomorrow and was wondering if anyone had any input. Also anyone ever fished spinks creek on the river? I heard from a guide it was good but I can't remember when or what for so it doesn't do me much good.

    Armo

  12. #12
    Mark
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    Armo, I'm going in two more weeks. When you get back, would you mind giving us a fresh report?

  13. #13
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    Default East Fork Chulitna Update

    Trip report for the Chulitna from East Fork to Talkeetna – Saturday 6/14/08

    I once rafted rivers without much forethought. Then Tricia and I had three kids (note that, three beautiful children–can’t hide my pride) in 4 years. Since, and concurrently, I’ve done a few rivers, and I’ve been on the lookout for family-friendly multi-day rafting trips. The Chulitna was on my to float list. Most accounts I read were of a benign, scenic, family friendly river. Karen Jettmar’s 3rd edition 2008, “The Alaska River Guide,” published an account entitled “To Boat or Not to Boat,” by Brad Snow of the Fairbanks Paddlers, that told of a deathly river fueled by massive runoff of the Alaska Range glaciers. In his account, upon encountering hazardous conditions his party chose to forego the river for bushwacking up to the Parks Highway-a nice option for parties with smaller craft. This story combined with a personal account of a friend that chose to evacuate his family of four from the river via helicopter due to similar hazards were enough to make me wary of taking my family on this river without first scouting it myself.

    I drove from Anchorage to Talkeetna after coaching two soccer games Wednesday night, pulled into town after midnight, and loaded my 18’ cataraft on the top of Jim’s boat of same. We hiked around for awhile to determine the best take out option. The public boat ramp is above the railroad bridge, well upstream of the Chulitna-Susitna/Talkeetna confluence on the Talkeetna River. This takeout is not a friendly option for non-motorized heavy rafts as it involves lining boats up about 1/3 mile of the swift Talkeetna river. After an hour or so of trying to find a good take-out in the middle of the night, Jim and I decided to leave the take-out details for the end of the trip.

    We drove back down the 14-mile Talkeetna spur road and up to the East Fork put-in at mile 185 Parks Highway, arriving at about 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning. The skies were cloudy but lightening and once we had the boats & gear ready we were compelled to move down river thinking it would be more aesthetically pleasing to catch some shuteye somewhere down river rather than to do so at the put-in. We took two boats for the two of us, reasoning that both of us would rather paddle than watch the other do the same alternately. We shoved off at 5:30 a.m. Thursday in what I believe to be slightly lower cfs than average for this time of year. All sweepers and rocks were easily avoided and we experienced no hazards to speak of. At one point I took a small channel to river left, looking for more challenging paddling, and came upon a channel-wide sweeper/strainer that I had to drag my boat over. We passed the entrance of the Middle Fork Chulitna (which looked very skinny – meaning that I would not want to run it in such a large raft at these flows), Honolulu creek, the West Fork Chulitna, and Hurricane gulch, before pulling over at river left at 10:30 a.m. to eat and catch a couple of zzz’s. Some nice hot food, a cigar, and 2 hours of beach sleeping (despite the very large brown bear tracks) later, we set off again at about 2:00 p.m.

    We moved through the first canyon section, wishing for more splashy water than we encountered, and down past the first braided section. We welcomed the next canyon section and took many photos of the high canyon walls, thinking that some good rock climbing could be done here with proper protection and the right support rafting crew.

    We entered the braids with strong upriver winds and progress came to a muscle-assisted crawl. Although downriver progress was extremely slow, we found that washing up on gravel bars was not an issue with decent navigation. The 11 miles or so of this section took the bulk of the day due to the strong upriver winds. Muscles cramping, we held true to our desire to find the entrance of Spink Creek. In our efforts to do so in staying hard river right (not knowing exactly where Spink Creek came in) we ended up in a very small and shallow river channel that was blocked by two channel-wide cottonwoods that we had to drag our boats over. In retrospect we did not have to take this channel as the bulk of the water passes the entrance of Spink Creek. Upon arriving at Spink at about 9:00 p.m., we explored and had a hot meal. Dry flies produced Grayling at ease but the “largest rainbows in Alaska” that I had been told about seemed to be not only unlikely for such a small and slow stream, but also non-existent, at least for us. We pushed back into the current at about 11:00 p.m., with the strong upstream winds largely abated.

    Without the strong upstream winds the braided section below Spink Creek was much more pleasant. The views of the Tokositna and Alaska Ranges were very nice but Denali and her sisters were shrouded in clouds above what I estimate to be about 10,000 feet. As the sun was setting we finished the braided section and entered the more consolidated river above the Parks Highway Bridge around midnight. At this time of year total darkness does not exist and we pushed on (realize that this was foremost a scouting trip to acquire the nature of the river prior to committing my family to it). We past under the Parks Highway Bridge about 12:30 a.m. Friday morning and at this point the river is consolidated, offering few good and easily accessible campsites so we pushed on. An hour or so later, reasoning that it would be better to wait for more daylight to set up a camp, we kept floating. The river at this section was extremely forgiving. At about 3:30 a.m. Friday morning we were about one hour above Talkeetna. At this point, despite the natural high provided by the scenic wilderness setting, we knew that we needed sleep and opted to have it upstream from Talkeetna, reasoning that sleep would be much better away from the tourist activities of Talkeetna. We found a nice gravel bar, had some food, and retired to our tents, for the first time of this trip, at about 5:00 a.m. Friday.

    Floating through the night proved to be quite chilly because worse than the rainfall, the dew-point rose above the air temperature shortly after mid-night, soaking the rafts, our gear, and ourselves. By contrast, at about 9:00 a.m. Friday we were awoken to a veritable sauna in our tents created by the brilliant blue-bird day. After shedding several layers, we were able to catch another hour of sleep before the heat drove us out of our tents at about 10:00 a.m.

    We had not seen any watercraft or aircraft on this trip but the clear weather and close proximity to Talkeetna brought an Air Force of small planes above us on this beautiful morning. We shoved off about 11:00 a.m. and arrived in Talkeetna a little after noon. As much as it is an Alaskan cliché, stay river left after the Eagle’s nest (if you’ve been staying left you’ll see it) to arrive at Talkeetna, lest you miss the take-out and commit to traveling further down the Susitna. Once you’ve done this and arrive at the confluence of the Chulitna-Susitna/Talkeetna, paddle upstream on the Talkeetna at river right in the eddy created by the confluence, then ferry hard downstream left to land on the beach at the end of main drag of Talkeetna. The drive back up to the East Fort to retrieve or vehicle was exciting with Thunderstorms and high winds.

    So this was our scouting experience on the Chulitna from the East Fork put-in to Talkeetna in little over 24 hours (about 19 hours of river time). We went to enjoy and to assess the family-friendliness of this river. Our assessment – at the flows at which we rowed it, this is a completely family-friendly experience. We punched through anything close to a hole that we saw, and explored side channels that required portaging by our own decisions. We can’t imagine it being much more difficult at higher (less than flood stage anyway) flows for experienced river travelers. As far as taking out with heavy rafts at Talkeetna, let’s just say that the powers that be are looking out for the commercial interests at the expense of recreational boaters, and best of luck to you in this regard. One is better off floating the additional 12 miles or so down to the Susitna Bridge and taking out at river right (avoiding the multiple trips up the 14-mile Talkeetna spur road), which is what we will do the next time.

  14. #14
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    Other than your crazy, nonexistent sleep schedule, it sounds like a great trip. Oh, to be young again.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by cjines View Post
    We welcomed the next canyon section and took many photos of the high canyon walls, thinking that some good rock climbing could be done here with proper protection and the right support rafting crew]
    Well lets see them. Great write up BTW.

  16. #16

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    I would love to do that trip. how many days does it take?

  17. #17
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    It's usually done in 3-4 days. But if sleep and food are not issues...

  18. #18
    Mark
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjines View Post
    ....We drove back down the 14-mile Talkeetna spur road and up to the East Fork put-in at mile 185 Parks Highway, arriving at about 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning......
    We were right behind you. We saw your rigs parked there. Sat on your trailer while donning chest waders and wading shoes.

    We left Friday at 11 AM.

    ....Muscles cramping, we held true to our desire to find the entrance of Spink Creek. In our efforts to do so in staying hard river right (not knowing exactly where Spink Creek came in) we ended up in a very small and shallow river channel that was blocked by two channel-wide cottonwoods that we had to drag our boats over. In retrospect we did not have to take this channel as the bulk of the water passes the entrance of Spink Creek. Upon arriving at Spink at about 9:00 p.m., we explored and had a hot meal. Dry flies produced Grayling at ease but the “largest rainbows in Alaska” that I had been told about seemed to be not only unlikely for such a small and slow stream, but also non-existent, at least for us.....
    Here's a photo of the mouth of Spink Creek.

    We used spinners. The rainbows we caught were small, but we could clearly see the big ones down there. We caught 1 grayling.

    Two of the three of us didn't even fish. My rod was buried in gear, and I wasn't much interested unless we were going to cook grayling for dinner, but we decided to camp downstream. We were more interested in killing bears.

    ....As much as it is an Alaskan cliché, stay river left after the Eagle’s nest (if you’ve been staying left you’ll see it) to arrive at Talkeetna, lest you miss the take-out and commit to traveling further down the Susitna. Once you’ve done this and arrive at the confluence of the Chulitna-Susitna/Talkeetna, paddle upstream on the Talkeetna at river right in the eddy created by the confluence, then ferry hard downstream left to land on the beach at the end of main drag of Talkeetna. The drive back up to the East Fort to retrieve or vehicle was exciting with Thunderstorms and high winds....
    From the start we decided to take out at Rabideaux. It was only a couple more hours of floating.

    ....So this was our scouting experience on the Chulitna from the East Fork put-in to Talkeetna in little over 24 hours (about 19 hours of river time). We went to enjoy and to assess the family-friendliness of this river....
    Yup. It was an easy float, but the water conditions last week were ideal. Plenty of water.

    We planned on 5 days, but were done in 4, including the driving.

    We stayed the first night just below Hurricane Creek (the most wildlife; three moose, one bear, and a very busy otter), then the mouth of Fountain River, then the mouth of Troublesome Creek.

    We stopped and walked around the mouths of most of the feeders. There was sign of bears throughout, but we only saw one black bear just below the mouth of Hurricane Creek. Moose sign is sparce below Hurricane, and between Pass Creek and Little Coal Creek there was an 8' grizz that was following a cow and calf all over a few day before our arrival. We first spotted his tracks at the mouth of Pass Creek (at the neat coal deposit), then all along the bars near Little Coal Creek following the cow and baby calf tracks.

    Spink Creek was the best looking fishing opportunity. I'd love to drag a canoe up the creek to the lake.

    The steady breeze kept the bugs down well, and we got just an hour of rain Friday evening. Each morning the water had come up a couple of inches from the night before.
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