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Thread: Canoeing Tazlina Lake

  1. #1

    Default Canoeing Tazlina Lake

    I'm interested in trying to do some canoeing on Tazlina Lake this summer. Can anyone tell me the best (i.e. easiest) way to get an open canoe down from the highway to the lake, while also having a pullout or somehwere I could park my truck nearby for a few days?
    I've been looking at the Little Nelchina State Recreation Site as a launching option. I don't know how swift the current is generally in the summer on the Little Nelchina though, or what the current would be like once it tied into the Nelchina River a few miles down.
    According to my map, Mendeltna Creek looks like the other option. Would this be a better choice? Would I be able to float most of the way or would I be better off lining it up and down the river from the bank? Or, would I be better off just to leave the canoe at home and backpack from the highway down one of the streams to Tazlina Lake? Thanks for any help and advice.

  2. #2

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    akh,

    you can go down the little nel into the nelchina—its mostly just a float. the trick, however, is the nelchina, depending on water level, can/does have some pretty good size waves on it and it zips right along. if your not comfortable with class 2/3 whitewater, it could be a very cold day.

    i've never lined a boat up from the lake, but i suspect it would be quite a chore as the nelchina is a RIVER, not a creek.

    i don't know about the mendeltna. i've never heard anyone use it to access the lake. but, suppose someone has—someone has always done everything, once...

    the little nel to the nel to the lake is the standard route.

    the lake itself can be a challenge. the winds that fall down from the glacier are serious and the size of the swells/breaking waves that quickly form on the lake are very very serious, not someplace one wants to be caught out in an open canoe. travel on the lake, like most large lakes, is entirely determined by the wind. you may have to sit for hours and hours and hours and hours waiting for the wind to stop and hours more for the swells to get something less than "holy sh*$!" in size.

    one can easily walk the north/west shore as the waves scour any vegetation that dares to come to close.

    you might think of doing a scouting trip by foot down the little nel to the nel. i'm not sure how easy it would by foot as whenever i travelled the route its been in a canoe and i was watching the water.

    but, its south central vegetation—so, its thick stuff with devils club, etc.

    all, that being said, its a pretty place to visit and i've enjoyed my time there.

    (oh, make sure you bring anti-bear items.)

  3. #3

    Default Mendeltna Creek

    I live in the area and have heard that Mendeltna Creek to Tazlina lake is a definite No No. I think it has to do with substantial amounts of blowdown spanning the entire creek. Just rumors that I have heard. It's kind of a shame because at the highway it looks so perfect.

  4. #4
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    I don't think Mendeltna Creek is a good option either, but the Little Nechina to Nelchina does work. It's more commonly floated in rafts.

    How are you planning on getting the canoe out? The Tazlina River is bigger, faster & rougher than the Nelchina. If your whitewater canoe skills are good, it wouldn't be hard, but if you're mostly used to slow or flat water it will get pretty nervous about half way down.

    Another option is to fly in. It's a short hop from the highway, and there is at least one flight company near. An inflatable or collapsible canoe would make this easier.

  5. #5

    Default Tazlina River

    Lee's Air Taxi can fly an external load on their beaver but that would be expensive. Jim mentioned a portable canoe, that might be the answer. You could try something like a Pro Pioneer and run the whole thing. The drawback of a large raft on the little Nelchina is the skinny water, I have heard horror stories of guys dragging their rafts all the way down to the Nelchina once they leave the campground.(I wouldn't leave a vehicle in the campground) The drawback of a canoe on the Taz is the larger water. Now I want you to listen carefully. The Tazlina and Nelchina glaciers annually develop lakes on their glacial surface. The lakes usually rupture the ice dams that create them in August or September. When this happens a massive amount of water enters the Tazlina River. If you are on the river when this occurs--you will die.

  6. #6

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    It sounds like the canoe option may be more trouble than it's worth. Which is what I thought initially, but thought I'd post the question and make certain. It is too bad the Mendeltna Creek option is such a blowdown mess.
    What do you guys think of the idea of hiking down the Little Nelchina to the Nelchina, and then down it to the lake? Is there any reasonable way to get across the Nelchina so that I could hike along the western shore back torwards the glacier? I agree Shedhunter, I'd rather not leave my vehicle in a parking lot or pullout near the highway either.Thanks for the help and advice.

  7. #7
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    I may be missing something, if it was me I would ask a land owner who lives on the lake 61* 60 / 146* 46 for access to the lake. The lake is only .3 miles from the river.

    If the land owner said no, I would bypass them, it will add only .2 of a miles.

  8. #8
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    I've floated the Little Nelchina in rafts a couple times. If you go before mid July there is usually enough water to make the float without too much trouble. Low water with heavy boats could be frustrating though. And there is often some brush/trees that will get in the way along the first few miles, but you can always get through somehow. We parked cars at the old campground on the upstream side of the highway bridge. It's just a picnic area now, but there is plenty of parking space and a good boat launch. Never had a problem, and we weren't the only ones doing it.

    It's only a few miles, but looking at the terrain, I can't imagine walking to the big Nelchina River. And I wouldn't even think about bushwacking to the lake from the highway. As far as I know there are no trails.

    Something like a Pro Pioneer, or other inflatable canoe with a rowing frame would be fairly easy to get down the Little/Big Nelchina to the lake. It would also travel around the lake easy enough as well. And afterwards you could float the Tazlina to the Richardson Highway. You could also add a little 2hp outboard for traveling the lake.

    As far as that goes, flying in with a Pro Pioner and small outboard would be easy too.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shedhunter View Post
    ......Now I want you to listen carefully. The Tazlina and Nelchina glaciers annually develop lakes on their glacial surface. The lakes usually rupture the ice dams that create them in August or September. When this happens a massive amount of water enters the Tazlina River. If you are on the river when this occurs--you will die.
    Thank you.

  10. #10

    Default

    <<<The Tazlina and Nelchina glaciers annually develop lakes on their glacial surface. The lakes usually rupture the ice dams that create them in August or September.>>>>

    sh,

    do you have a url ref that shows this?

    thanks.

  11. #11

    Default Url ref

    Sorry I don't have a Url ref. I live in Tazlina and the river usually does this every summer. When it does it's pretty spectacular. A couple of years ago the ice dams held into winter and a small earthquake triggered a simultaneous failure. I heard the resulting flood lifted and broke 57 square miles of ice on the lake. I'd like to have seen the lake after this occurred. At Tazlina the ice was beyond bank to beyond bank on the river. There was so much ice moving downstream that it almost took out the bridge on the Richardson hwy. It was a strange thing to witness ice go out in the midddle of winter!

    I think Alyeska keeps a close watch on the glacial lakes due to their river crossing, other than that I don't have any ideas. They may have a site you can access.

  12. #12
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    There's an annual summer flood like this on the Kennicot/Nizina/Chitina Rivers from an ice dam on the Kennicot Glacier, I think. I hadn't heard about floods on Tazlina & Nelchina, but just floating the Nelchina you can see the water is sometimes way higher than what we were floating in. It would be interesting from a safety standpoint to find out about what time of the year these are most likely to pop. Might influence when not to float some rivers.

  13. #13

    Default Kennicott

    You are exactly right concerning the Kennicott. Because these brief floods are annual events they really don't make any news. I'm not sure if any government agency monitors them or not. The Park Service might be able to tell you if the Kennicott has went out.

    As a general rule I would say that any glacial fed river in the Copper Basin can be unpredictabile. The only "normal river" I've been on around here is the Gulkana. It isn't Glacial fed.

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    Default

    checkout google earth

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    Default Canoeing on Tazlina Lake

    I homesteaded on Tazlina Lake in the late 1960's, my cabin is still there in the little cove at the south end of the lake.I have been down both Mendeltna Creek and Nelchina, depending on the year you will need a chain saw to clear your way especially in Mendeltna Creek. Tazlina Lake is famous for high winds and is very cold. I had a 14' aluminum boat on the lake with 15hp outboard, even so I had some hairy trips home.I moved the boat to the lake in the winter across the snow. There are no fish in the lake, at least I have not caught any. The small tributarys have Grayling and sometimes Salmon.It's a beautiful area I spent many years hunting and trapping the lake. If you hike down from the road you will still have to wade the Nelchina in order to head south depending on the time of year that could be a very cold and even dangerous exprience.My advice would be to have someone fly you in on floats down to where my old cabin is hike to the Glacier and enjoy the area, then have them pick you up when you are ready to come out, in any event enjoy.

  16. #16

    Default Mendeltna

    So Cranefly how was the gradient on the Mendeltna when you went downstream to the lake? Was there any portageing? Do you think if you cut your way through you could return back upstream with a square stern and a motor? I live in the area and have heard its a nightmare and nobody recommends attempting it due to all the blowdown and sweepers.

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    Default Mendeltna creek

    Shedhunter, I would'nt waste my time, what you have heard is good advise.

  18. #18

    Default Cranefly

    Thank you for the reply.

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