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Thread: Denali Highway to Talkeetna

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    Default Denali Highway to Talkeetna

    Late last summer we flew into Murder Lake and did Prairie Creek to the Talkeena, down the canyon section to the town of Talkeetna. It was an incredible trip. I've heard of folks starting on the Big Sisitna from the Denali Highway then bailing out prior to Devil's Canyon and portaging to Murder Lake, repeating the trip we did last summer. Anyone out there done this trip? I understand there is one class IV section on the Su in or near Watana Canyon. What about the portage? How grueling? Where is the best place to begin the portage? Is it feasible to take a cataraft for this portage or is its nature such that IK's or hard sheel K's are the only way to go? Anyone interested in exploring this opportunity shoot me a note, I'm planning ahead to do this next summer and have not ligned up a crew as of yet.

    Happy Floating and Peace during the holidays.

  2. #2

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    cjines,
    i did the same fly out you did last summer. i did it 7/7 - 7/11. awesome trip. i am very interested in the trip you have laid out in this thread. i just purchased an alpacka pack raft and would love to use it on a trip like this one. i am however a little nervous to run the talk. canyon in anything but my 14' cat, or bigger. are you thinking of running the talk. canyon or portaging it? on our trip last july, we ran into some packrafters that were portaging the major parts of the canyon. looked like a lot of work, but still a fun trip. let me know how the planning/logistics of this trip goes, i may be ready, skill-wise by the time you go. i plan on spending a lot of the early summer on some one and two night packrafting expeditions, practice, practice. thanks, abel6wt

  3. #3
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    Andy Embick talks about doing this in Fast & Cold. As far as I know, he's the only one who had done it until then. Haven't heard of any since either, but that doesn't mean anything. Embick used a hard shell kayak, and had supplies air dropped somewhere along the portage. He was a little on the extreme side though, and not everything he did should be considered smart.

    Seems to me, he describes the portage to Stephan Lake as about 20 miles - all gradually uphill from the looks of a topo map. Once in Stephan Lake you paddle across and down to Murder Lake, and then out Prairie Creek as before. One thing is for certain, you don't want to miss the start of the portage. Devils Canyon would not be fun. I would take at least two GPS units, map, compass, etc. I wonder if Google Maps would show anything more with their satellite images of the area.

    I suspect you could make the portage in just about any inflatable if you were willing to do multiple portages to haul the tubes, frame, oars, food and gear. More than I would want to pack for sure. Another option would be to travel light with IKs, or pack rafts for the upper part, and have a larger raft dropped in to Murder Lake for the float out.

    I did a self contained IK trip through Talkeetna Canyon, and it isn't really difficult if the water isn't high. Generally the really big holes tend to be in the middle of the river, and you can select the chicken route along either side. There are a couple places where this can cause you grief, but you should be able to see far enough ahead to steer clear of the big holes as long as the water isn't high. Just be sure you can do a quick remount for when the boat rolls. I rolled twice, but I was deliberately playing in things way over my head.

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    Thanks for the posts Jim and abel6wt. I know of one other party that did this trip besides Andy Embick and they also used hard shells. They described the portage as one trip of about 3 hours with hard shells and gear so I wasn't thinking about it being 20 miles. Time to get out my topo software & take a hard look. Missing the takeout on the Su is not an option and would have to be well researched and navigated. I don't think I'm ready to try the Talkeetna in either an I.K. or a pack raft just yet and portaging the canyon seems like such a waste of water, so I like the idea of flying in a raft to ride out in style and comfort. This might also work well to meet up with folks at Murder Lake that don't want to do the entire trip. We had some pretty good fishing at the outlet of that Lake so spending a day or two there awaiting the other party could be quite pleasant. I'll keep thinking about/researching this and post again later on.

  5. #5

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    cjines,
    i like where you're going with this. i'm doing the talachulitna in early july but would be able to poss. make this run in late aug/early sept. the water may be a little low then, but who knows...? depending on how serious this gets, i may be able to flip-flop the two trips. when were you thinking of pulling this off? pm me if you feel like it. take care all, abel6wt

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    One of my buddies, Paul, did the trip this summer in a hard shell kayak with a couple other guys. He said the portage was pretty rough, but it sounded like a good time. He is currently in Seattle. When I hear from him, I will try to get some usable info.

  7. #7

    Default if your putting a group together

    If you are looking for people to do the trip with I would be down if i'm in the area. I've worked for Denali Park on the trail crew the last four years and have fished/floated in and around talkeetna a ton. I will hopefully have a 14 foot otter by that time this summer and I would love to do this trip. I also have a suburban for hauling gear and I would be based out of Healy. Let me know.

    Armo

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    Interest in this trip is picking up. Besides those posting here I have 3 other fellows, 2 of which own 18' cats. We are evolving to a light weight small craft trip from Denali Highway to meeting the big boats, real food, etc, extra folks, at Murder Lake via a drop off (Thanks for pointing out that idea Jim Strutz) Starting to sound like a great time. More to come later.

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