Getting started: Rafting for families
What tips or experiences would you share with folks such as our hundreds (?) of military and other job-related familes every year, who might be interested in getting out to see more of Alaska by floating rivers? I live in the Anchorage area, so will give examples here, but plenty of new residents arrive every year at Fort Wainwright, Eielson AFB and other locations too. Groups (defined by outfitter or guide service) also sometimes get discounted rates.
Phase 1. Weekend day trips: Fishing and no camping. A weekend outing along the road system is an easy place for a family to start. For example floating the Kenai River. Drive to the Sterling/Cooper Landing (or nearby) area for a guided day float. All you need are licenses, warm clothing and maybe bag lunches. With some guide services, all gear is provided (including raingear which along with warm clothing is essential): flyfishing instruction and equipment too. A guided day trip on the Kenai (or other river in your area) can be a fine, safe way to get your family out to see Alaskan scenery, wildlife and fish.
Phase 2. Multiday trips w/camping: Consider the Gulkana River. The Lower Gulkana is an easy overnight trip to give you and your family a taste of camping while sightseeing. Fishing can be good, but might not be the highlight of your trip. When you're ready for a 5-6 day trip, the Upper Gulkana offers more interesting scenery, camping, rafting and probably fishing situations.
Phase 3. Easy flyout trip. If you reach this level, you will have learned key lessons and be ready for more adventure. You will have learned:
1. Keeping your family safe, dry and warm made future trips possible.
2. Rafting rivers takes some work. It helps if everyone pitches in.
3. Planning is everything. Even on day trips if you forget your camera or sunglasses or medicine, too bad.
4. Getting out is not free. It can cost more and it can cost less, but as AkTroutbum said in another thread, "you gotta pay to play" somehow.
5. Dreaming and planning trips is a terrific winter project.
Learning how to do this will be interesting though and offer you and your family experiences in Alaska you'll never forget. If you like camping and camp cooking, you've already got a good foundation. On rivers, cooking is a key part of morale. Many people who don't float cite concern over bears, which I wouldn't underplay, but consider that many many people who educate themselves about this (and other) aspect enjoy special rewards in the outdoors here without incident. There is much you can learn to do on your own - using rental gear. Also, a few services like Blue Moose Rafting/ Richard Mousseau are willing to negotiate the rates for families interested in doing some of the work. If you can't afford any trips alone, see if your work/unit can put together a group outing to help. But consider rafting Alaska's rivers as a way to enjoy being here.
Good Post 6XL and thanks for the plug not required but always appreciated.
Beginning family floats - Fairbanks
Recent issue of a popular running magazine featured an article to help beginners overcome early hurdles. Along the same lines, maybe we could offer some tips starting with a river recommendation, or a guide service, and other tips that families could consider; starting with a day trip, then work their way into some camping, etc.
The Chena River might be a good choice for both day trips and maybe an overnighter in the Fairbanks area.
Six Mile Creek- south of Anchorage is a great example of a stream no beginners and especially families should attempt.
Here's my favorite family rafting pic from last summer.
Very Interesting Idea
The Chena is a nice Class I float for the most part with an occaisional Hazard i.e. Sweepers / Strainers but that is limited to the upper chena above 44 mile for the most part.
Great Camping with lots of gravel bars and high ground, excellent grayling fishing with Moose and Beaver the entire way. Fall i.e. after the Kings and Chum runs Mid July through Late August bears work the banks hard towards night.
Bridge 3 North Fork down to Bridge 1 Main Chena is an excellent float for a day trip 4-8 hours depending on what you wish to accomplish.
Bridge 3 down to Rose Hip Take out is an excellent over-nite float for all.
After Rose Hip the river slows and rafting takes time 2-3 days to the flood control project in North Pole.
think there might be others?
Of course, there are plenty of reasons rafting for families new to Alaska is tough. It can be dangerous. Rivers vary markedly in their accessibility or hazards. But if they knew of sensible "beginner" rivers, what other obstacles would families face?
Maybe the cost (more than finding the right river) keeps them from rafting more than they do. Military families for instance. On one hand, they have an ideal opportunity to see some of this great state because they're here for longer than a week or two. On the other hand, these trips cost money. No doubt some families could not afford even a half-day rafting experience, but some could and would if they understood how. For various reasons, the knowledge/experience for a DIY family float-esp multiday experiences isn't easy.
If they like day trips, then how do they transition to multiday trips? Are there many outfitters who will let families participate in the work - sort of learning by doing until they feel confident enough to try trips on their own? Rafting is a perfect mode of access for unique wildlife experiences in Alaska, sometimes even without expensive air charters, but often isn't an easy thing for families who are only here for 3 years or so to get involved.
Bump to top - Winter planning for Spring/Summer Family Floats
Typing "family float trips alaska" into the web search engine, results included these:
1. "The Upper Kenai Scenic Float, 3 hours - $49/person . Departs daily - 9 AM, 2 PM and 6 PM
2). 2 Day Matanuska River...$349 per person, $299 child 5 - 11
Affordable trip combines Lion Head whitewater or Matanuska Glacier float with scenic lower segment to Chickaloon.
3). Here's a website with several types of trips by several different rafting services: http://alaska.org/rafting/.
There are a lot of things for new folks to consider doing when warmer weather rolls around.