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Thread: ARR Whistle Stop Service For Rafting

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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    Default ARR Whistle Stop Service For Rafting

    Has anybody ever used the Alaska Railroad whistle stop service for a private boater raft trip? A Talkeetna outfitter offers a trip that originates with a train drop off at the mouth of Gold Creek on the Big Su with a 2 day float back to town. Might be a fun option for a short trip with kids. Looks like passenger fare is $27 from Talkeetna but I'm not sure what the gear charge (if any) would be? I suppose a drop at Spencer glacier with a float out on the Placer would also work. Any other whistle stop options?

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    Member RC23's Avatar
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    Hey Birdstrike,
    I was going to look into that since I knew they used to take a whiste stop north, but I looked on the ARR web site and the only one I could find was Spencer. Where did you get the info on the Big Su drop?

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    The north end service leaves Talkeetna Thursday thru Sunday about noon ,goes from Talkeetna to Hurricane and back.27 sounds about right for fare, as long as you don't get to crazy the freight (raft and gear) is included in that price.Alex

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    Default Whistle-stop vs. Flag-stop

    The two train routes you are talking about operate a little differently.

    The Hurricane Turn (Talkeetna) train is a flag-stop train. This means you can flag it down at any point to get on or off. The Spencer Train is a whistle-stop which means that you can only get off at designated points, currently only at Spencer Glacier.

    I know people have used each of these trains for river trips, though I am not sure about the types of boats used. The details and luggage restrictions on both can be found on the Alaska Railroad website. I've seen them there before, but don't have time to track down the link right now. A full-size raft would incur additional charges, but I think you could take it (check baggage size limits first though).

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    Member AK Troutbum's Avatar
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    A buddy and me took the flag stop trip up from Talkeetna about 12 years ago. Back then it was $16.00/pp each way and we took a 13' cataraft and all our gear for a 5 day float. It worked out great. I think the only thing that has changed is the price, but still very reasonable I'm sure.

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    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replys guys. I've been out of town and haven't had much time to do any further research. Once I have a day off in Anchorage I'll probably just drive down to the depot and ask a few questions regarding rates and getting the gear onboard. I'll post the results once I get them.

    RC23: I got the Gold Creek/Susitna flagstop idea from a Talkeetna outfitter that offers this trip. Here's a link to the ARR Hurricane Turn Train regarding rates (look near the bottom of the page)
    http://www.akrr.com/arrc18.html

    I'm not familiar with this part of the Su and not sure if it would be worth the effort over other trips that are available in the area.

    The Spencer trip loks like it would be a fun day trip especially with out-of-town guests. A fun train ride from Portage and a gentle float back to the Seward Hwy. A Girdwood outfitter has offered this trip exclusively in conjunction with the ARR in the past. However, with the new public whistlestop service available to the Spencer Glacier I don't see any restrictions for private boaters.

    Here's a link showing the whistlestop area. At the bottom is the ARR's policy regarding inflatables. http://www.akrr.com/arrc34.html#10

    From the whitlestop map it looks like a bit of a hike to get the gear from the train to the lake. But loading the gear on a folding kayak cart might not be too bad. Has anybody been on this trail? Just wondering if it's realtively level and smooth enough for wheels or if I'd just have to rig a few shoulder straps to lug the raft to the lake? The broken down frame, oars, and other gear would be easy enough to carry. Floating around the lake with icebergs for a bit might make all the effort worth it.

    I got a brief glimpse of the Placer from the air the other day. From what I saw, it looks fairly braided and river left looks like the the best route back to the highway? Any suggestions? I haven't gotten a good look at a map yet.

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    Member AKMarmot's Avatar
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    Default spencer glacier

    I have wanted to do that trip since for 2 summers know. I think you are correct in the hardest part will be the hike from the rest stop to the river, carrying the raft & gear.
    Otherwise it should be a simple float out, you could always follow one of the comm rafts if inclined, or just ask them if there are any braids to avoid.

    Please let us know what you find out .

  8. #8

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    I looked into this trip this summer. The commercial float is a joke. They drive the tourists up to the lake and then float around the lake and back down to the bridge over the river. This is about a 3/4 mile float. From the RR bridge to the highway is about 8 miles on the river. The comercial guys don't do that part of the float.

    It would be really easy to put in at the RR bridge if you got dropped off there. Going up to the lake with a raft is another thing. I called the commercial outfiter and they gave us a definite NO on giving us a ride in their bus up to the lake.

    Another thing to realize is the train will not get you up to the river till about 1 pm, which would make for a really late night floating back to the highway.

    Still think it would be a fun trip. When I do it I am going to make it a two day trip and hike up to the glacier with out the raft. Then I will float down from the RR bridge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AK flyster View Post
    I looked into this trip this summer. The commercial float is a joke. They drive the tourists up to the lake and then float around the lake and back down to the bridge over the river. This is about a 3/4 mile float. From the RR bridge to the highway is about 8 miles on the river. The comercial guys don't do that part of the float.
    I am pretty sure that the commercial floats go further than that. They go about halfway down the river and take out near Luebner Lake. I floated from Spencer Lake to the highway last weekend, and saw the commercial rafts doing the first half of the river. I did not see any place for the rafts to take out at the bridge crossing.

    Anyway, the float is fun and relaxing. A few waves and obstacles here and there, but mostly easy. The river feels slow because it is so flat, but our speed was about 5 mph the whole way. I don't have any additional information on the train, because we didn't use it.

    Here's some photos from our trip:
    http://www.endurefun.com/2008/08/01/center-2-spencer/

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    Member Sheepshooter's Avatar
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    how did you get there if you didn't use the train?

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    We hiked (we had packrafts). Check the link in my last post for details.

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    I checked with the ARR depot in Anchorage about rates. I was hoping for a one way fare from Portage to the whistlestop, but only a roundtrip is available ($59 adults, $30 child). Packing a full size raft and gear doesn't sound like it would be a problem as long as everything were broken down just as you would for air travel. I'm still trying to decide if the $168 train ride for a family of 4 would be worth it.

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