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Thread: Floaing the Gulkana

  1. #1

    Default Floaing the Gulkana

    We're trying to plan a trip to float the Gulkana from the 3rd to the 6th. We heard to float from Paxson Lake to the take out (sourdough?) is about 50 miles but about a ten day trip if you're looking to camp, fish and not paddle the entire day. Is this the case? Otherwise, the next option is from sourdough to the bridge at the Richardson, which I hear can be done in a day.

    Is any of this info correct? Ideally, we're looking for a 3-4 day float where we have time to fish and camp and don't have to rush. Also, I heard the best fishing is at the confluence of the Tangle Lake and Paxson Lake outflows so the where we want to put in.

    Any ideas or recommendations?

  2. #2
    Member chano's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006


    Floated the Gulkana for the first time june 14,15,16 and 17. Left Boat launch at Paxson Lake at 10:45 am the 14th took two hours to get across the lake (light north wind made it easy). Floated 8.5 miles total the first day in 4 hours of moving time on the river/lake. Day 2 left camp at 10:45 floated 13.6 miles to canyon in 4.3 hours moving time, no wind rowed alot. Portaged heavy gear at canyon floated through with lightly loaded Levitator easily. Day 3 left camp at 1:30 pm floated 22.3 miles in 5 hours light rain. Day 4 left camp at 10:00 am floated 7.5 miles in 2 hours no wind light rowing. I tracked all my float mileage and time with my Garmin all times don't include stops along the way just moving time. Hope this helps 4 Days easy with little wind.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006

    Default Me Too

    I floated it years ago and have been always wanting to go back, just not enough time. You can drag it out to 4-6 days depending on how long you hang at your camps; I did it in 4 days as well. You are in for a beautiful trip. Tons of grayling and a few good 'bows. When you get to the portage site, you can either go around and portage or shoot the very brief falls (only about 6' if I remember correctly). We didn't feel like packing so we shot the falls and it was pretty anti-climatic. I braced and gritted my teeth and before I knew it we did a little drop and the water was way calm... I'd recommend pulling over and doing the little hike to see the falls and assess your comfort level to make a decision.

    Good luck,

    Bring LOTS of flies/spinners (little ones). We lost a quite a few number "0" and "1" vibraxes; we ended up clipping two of the hooks off the treble and pinching the barb because it was just too easy to catch them.
    "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit is better than he who takes a city." ~ Proverbs 16:32

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    North Pole, Alaska, United States


    I've done this float about 20 times or so....10 days is nuts. It is EASY 4 days, 3 nights. Really, you could do it in 3 days, 2 nights by floating all the way out from the canyon....makes for about a 10 hour day to get to Sourdough. I've done it that way for about the last 10 trips.

    The confluence of Paxson and Tangle??? You must mean Paxson outlet which is the Gulkana.

    Good advise above to scout canyon before going through, but it's not as bad as it looks.

  5. #5


    Thanks for the info everyone. Luckily, I'm not the guide.

    Yep, we'll make sure to scout the canyon and portage the falls if necessary. We have two rafts and then me in my pontoon. Should be interesting. This will be my first time running a river in a pontoon. I've been told I shouldn't have too much of a problem handling it. Guess I'll find out soon enough. Hopefully a good report will follow next week!

  6. #6


    Like mentioned above, 10 days is a long time on the upper Gulkana from Paxson to Sourdough. I've spent a week down there and we literally stopped at every hole to fish. We camped at some of the lower king holes for multiple days too. That being said, I've done probably 40-50 upper floats in the 4 day 3 night range. That's a decent time and gives you time to float/fish and stop during the day to fish good holes. If you are a late sleeper, I'd recommend getting up early to get on the water earlier. I floated from Paxson to Sourdough in 1 day though two years ago when everything in that area flooded out. Personally, my favorite is 5 days 4 nights. I spend more time in the upper section chasing Rainbows and Grayling fishing. I will never do the 4th of July weekend float again on that river, way too many people. Once you start floating talk to groups to see where they are going to camp so you can plan how long to float during a day. There were over 40 rafts last time I did it over the 4th weekend and I told myself that I'd never do it over that timef-rame again.

  7. #7


    WOW. That a lot of traffic! Maybe I'll travel at night

    So I'm going with 3 families and after they read online that there is a 4.5 mile paddle from some camping spot to the outlet, they're thinking about putting in at Sourdough and out at the Richardson instead. Is there another place on the Lake that you can put in to shorten this slog to the outlet? From my experiences, upper stretches are usually better and thats what I'd like to do. Any advice on talking these lazy chumps into toughing it out?

    How is the sourdough to richardson bridge float compared from Paxson Lake to sourdough float? Sounds like the upper stretches have better grayling and 'bow fishing. Is it a more aesthetically pleasing float (b etter scenery)? Less people?

  8. #8
    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Rifle River MI

    Default One half Dz or the other

    Bad news / Good news

    The 4th has traditionally been the busy part of the season on the entire watershed. What you have to be aware of is the following user groups not that they are a problem it is just they tend to travel in packs Nothing wrong with groups however numbers has high as 25- 30 people in one group make for limited camping spots and increased watercraft traffic. Over the past several years there has been IMO a decrease in the overall traffic on the upper river for large user groups however I have seen an increase from Sourdough down to the Bridge.

    Anyway you slice it it is going to busy on the River if the weather is nice during the 4th. If you were to stay high on the river an extra day and do not start your trip till the 4th of July and finish up on Monday the 7th Late you should fine on the Upper.

    There is trail access with wheelers to the Middle Fork if you wish to skip the Lake and can actually start from the confluence of the East and Middle Fork of the upper river but to be honest your better off taking off from Paxson.

    Just food for thought! If your looking for remote not the best weekend to accomplish the trip. On a side note I will be in the water in the same location becuase of timing however I will be starting late and spending 5-6 days verses the standard.

    Best Wishes and Tight Lines

    Blue Moose


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