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Thread: What size motor req. for end of Kenai Canyon?

  1. #1

    Default What size motor req. for end of Kenai Canyon?

    What's your opinion regarding the minimum motor required to do the trip across the lake from the mouth of the Kenai canyon to the take out? Does anybody REALLY know someone who's been winded in there for "days" as I keep hearing about -- second or third hand?

  2. #2

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    Overnight but not for days. It has been done with 6hp or 9.9's a bunch. It usually mellows out enough to get across right before dark but you should know where you're going if you're going to try it at last light.

  3. #3
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Skilak Lake

    I've been stuck at the mouth before, but not for days on end. In my experience it is unlikely that you will be held up there for more than a day or so, but there are storms that whip through there and you need to be cautious. It has been my experience that a morning crossing is often a safe bet, before the sun has had a chance to warm the glacier much. As you know, the cold air over the glacier often generates a lot of air movement. As to outboard size, I've done it many times with an 8-horse, and I know others do it with much smaller outboards. I have even rowed it before (it takes a while, lemme tell ya).

    One thing that gets some folks in trouble there is a failure to realize that freshwater lakes generate steeper, sharper waves than you get in saltwater, in similar wind conditions. I've heard that it has something to do with the viscosity of fresh water. Whatever the cause, the distance between waves is often shorter in fresh water, and the waves are sharper. This means that you may take more water over the bow. Of course the danger in a raft is that you can be flipped by high winds.

    A former coworker of mine nearly drowned on Skilak one fall when his Zodiac was overturned in severe headwinds (he was wearing a lifejacket, but quickly became hypothermic). He was plucked out of the lake by some guys in a jet boat; two or three of his rescuers drowned two days later when their jet boat was capsized in rough water in the same area. They were not wearing life jackets.

    Rick Johnson outlines the severity of the problem IN THIS ARTICLE, in which he mentions over 25 fatalities on this lake, all a result of drowning or hypothermia.

    Maybe it's me, but your question suggests that perhaps the danger is little more than urban legend. I assure you that this is not the case. I have not heard of any recent fatalities there, but make no mistake-- Skilak Lake will kill you if you are not prepared, or if you fail to make good decisions.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
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    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
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  4. #4

    Default Outboard size

    Well Michael is right, that lake can be very dangerous but think there maybe more legand that truth at least in the last few years.
    I barrowed a 2 stroke 5hp Johnson last year on my 14 Cataraft with 3 people while pulling Michael's 14' raft loaded with gear. Perfect calm took 1 hour with a little goofing off. I purchased a 5hp Honda with year and plan to do the canyon as soon as I can with just 2 people. Was a blast saw 17 black bears, 2 grizz and 2 moose.
    Last edited by alaskapiranha; 09-23-2009 at 17:09.

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    Default

    My thoughts on the Skilak is to be prepared for wind around or after noon or 1 o'clock pm on any given day. Same with Tustemena.

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    Member bnkwnto's Avatar
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    Default wow

    You guys are scaring me a little bit. I just bought a 3.5 HP 4-stroke motor for my 14 ft round raft mainly so I could fish the canyon and the middle river. I guess I'll just have to try to pick the right days to do it.
    Travis

  7. #7

    Default Thanks for the info

    Thanks for the information, guys. I'll certainly take the crossing seriously, and look for a 9.9 to do it.

  8. #8

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    I assure you it is not legend, you will see eventually. When you get to the mouth and the waves are 8-9' you'll think twice about running that narrow boat across. Of course it can be glassy smooth on any given afternoon as well....but when its ugly it's ugly.

  9. #9
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Yup!

    Quote Originally Posted by whitepalm View Post
    I assure you it is not legend, you will see eventually. When you get to the mouth and the waves are 8-9' you'll think twice about running that narrow boat across. Of course it can be glassy smooth on any given afternoon as well....but when its ugly it's ugly.
    My point exactly. Alaska can be beautiful beyond imagination at times, but there are other times when she'll rip your heart out, pummel to death and leave your body washed up in the surf.

    It's scary when someone with only a few rosy encounters under their belt becomes an overnight expert, dispensing advice that could get someone killed. Nobody like that in this thread, but I've seen it elsewhere. Nowhere is it more true that you hope for the best and plan for the worst- or suffer as a result.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Member Scottsum's Avatar
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    Default Just be prepared

    In my experience with both Skilak and Kenai Lakes (and any outdoor adventure for that matter) you just have to hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. I personally have never been stuck coming out onto Skilak, but I know several people who have. I know of one boater who ended-up hiking-out the hidden creek trail because he didn't have enough provisions to stay a second night. It can get nasty, but just don't push it. You can always make a lean-to shelter out of your raft/ boat, build a fire, and ride it out. Unless it's a big storm, the waves usually die down in both of these lakes by the following morning. People get in trouble when they try to force their schedules on nature. In any relatively remote area (and don't kid yourself, upper Skilak is pretty remote) we should always be prepared to stay the night or have an alternative exit planned.

    Mike is absolutely right about the waves in freshwater lakes as well. I haven't spent much time on them in inflatables, but I have considerable experience with small skiffs with outboards. The waves in these large lakes hit harder and are much less bouyant and predictable than they are in the salt....and they can blow-up from flat calm to down right life-threatening in a matter of minutes.

    Don't get scared, just be prepared. (Wow, that's got a nice ring to it...)

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    I've been stuck at the mouth before, but not for days on end. In my experience it is unlikely that you will be held up there for more than a day or so...... I have even rowed it before (it takes a while, lemme tell ya).
    -Mike
    Is there a tolerable place to camp at the mouth while waiting for good conditions to cross the lake? I'm thinking of rowing it sometime this summer. (Maybe I've got more muscle than brains?) How many hours of rowing? Assuming reasonable conditions, how does it compare with rowing accross Miles Lake from Abercrombie Rapids to Million Dollar Bridge?

    I have a 14 ft Kenai Drifter, but it might be tough to rig a motor on my small rowing frame. Also, I've heard there are now restrictions on what kind of motor on Skilak Lake (only 4 cycle)?

    Thanks in advance for any info and reallity check.

  12. #12
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Camping at the mouth

    Quote Originally Posted by overthehill View Post
    Is there a tolerable place to camp at the mouth while waiting for good conditions to cross the lake? I'm thinking of rowing it sometime this summer. (Maybe I've got more muscle than brains?) How many hours of rowing? Assuming reasonable conditions, how does it compare with rowing accross Miles Lake from Abercrombie Rapids to Million Dollar Bridge?

    I have a 14 ft Kenai Drifter, but it might be tough to rig a motor on my small rowing frame. Also, I've heard there are now restrictions on what kind of motor on Skilak Lake (only 4 cycle)?

    Thanks in advance for any info and reallity check.
    Hill,

    You can camp along the beach to the right as you float into Skilak Lake. It's not only tolerable, it's actually quite nice there. There is a grassy sand berm along the lakeshore, and some good places to camp behind that if you need shelter from the wind. Be sure to run your bowline up the beach and tie off to something stout, in case the waves push your boat away. We've camped there many times and it's great.

    If there is no wind, it's really buggy though, so bring a headnet and bug dope.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Member Trouthead's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    Hill,

    You can camp along the beach to the right as you float into Skilak Lake. It's not only tolerable, it's actually quite nice there. There is a grassy sand berm along the lakeshore, and some good places to camp behind that if you need shelter from the wind. Be sure to run your bowline up the beach and tie off to something stout, in case the waves push your boat away. We've camped there many times and it's great.

    If there is no wind, it's really buggy though, so bring a headnet and bug dope.

    -Mike

    That is a good spot, just keep in mind it is bear country. I've never not seen a bear at the mouth and on two different trips last year in the vicinity of Hidden creek a little guy with a collar came into my camp. Some people swear by guns, but I put my faith in the dog and keeping a clean camp, sort of like an ounce of prevention rather than a pound of cure.

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    ditto on that last post. I've often seen multiple brownies cavorting on the creek just a few hundred yards up from the lake.

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    Default

    I'd much rather row across Miles than Skilak lake. Miles is about 5-6 miles, and as long as you stick close to the right or left side you have current most of the way. Skilak lake has no current and is about 8 miles to the first take out (Upper Skilak Lake Campground).

    I did row some of Skilak once when my motor died shortly after leaving the mouth of the river. 4-5' seas, with the wind howling to the west. I really only rowed a mile or so. Just enough to get around the point. In fact most of my effort was keeping the boat off the cliffs near the point. After that I lashed an oar in the air, strapped on a tarp, and sailed home, using another oar to steer. If only you could count on the wind being with you. Most of the time it's in your face when crossing the lake.

  16. #16

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    I did it with a 3.5 horse moter with a 16 foot kataraft last weekend and it took about 1 hour to get to the upper skilak campground... Smooth waters.. Sugest a bigger engine , at least a 10 to 15 horse. Just incase!
    Roger that!!!

  17. #17
    Member BrowningLeverAction's Avatar
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    I've also done it in a 14' round boat with a 3 hp motor (too small IMO)towing a 10' with gear, but it was flat calm and beautiful that day. Took about 1.5 hours to the boat ramp. I've also put in at the upper campground in a 20' skiff and taken back out as fast as we could, with 5' waves breaking over the stern. That chop can be serious stuff.

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    I've done it with a electric trolling motor on a 10 foot raft. My battery died short of the takeout but the rowing was not a problem. Would not have been an option in rough water. Put like others said, be ready to wait it out.

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    As I do not live in Alaska (unfortunately! although I do greatly miss the place already and would love to move; anyone need a senior IT engineer? ) I vacation there when I can. I just returned (yesterday) from 8-days in Girdwood/Whittier/Kenai, etc. and did as much as I could while I was there.

    I did a Kenai river tour last Wednesday (with http://www.alaskarivertrips.com/ ) and we finished up going across Skilak Lake and to the take out. The guide, Rocky, was fantastic, extremely competent and just a great guy all around.

    Including the guide there were 4 of us in a custom made Maravia cataraft with a 20hp Honda outboard. Skilak was reasonably active with some good 3-4' rollers, but no real waves breaking on us or anything, just some small chop and light wind. The 20hp Honda got us to the take out in, probably less than an hour (I was not checking my watch to be honest, but it seemed about that).

    Slightly off-topic, but the custom frames (and tubes I am guessing) they had made for them are extremely sweet. I fell in love with that cataraft. I would love to get one but I am not sure how usable it would be where I live.

    This is also my first post, so hello all. FTR, I found the site doing a Google search for cataraft information.

  20. #20
    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffrey View Post
    As I do not live in Alaska (unfortunately! although I do greatly miss the place already and would love to move; anyone need a senior IT engineer? ) I vacation there when I can. I just returned (yesterday) from 8-days in Girdwood/Whittier/Kenai, etc. and did as much as I could while I was there.

    I did a Kenai river tour last Wednesday (with http://www.alaskarivertrips.com/ ) and we finished up going across Skilak Lake and to the take out. The guide, Rocky, was fantastic, extremely competent and just a great guy all around.

    Including the guide there were 4 of us in a custom made Maravia cataraft with a 20hp Honda outboard. Skilak was reasonably active with some good 3-4' rollers, but no real waves breaking on us or anything, just some small chop and light wind. The 20hp Honda got us to the take out in, probably less than an hour (I was not checking my watch to be honest, but it seemed about that).

    Slightly off-topic, but the custom frames (and tubes I am guessing) they had made for them are extremely sweet. I fell in love with that cataraft. I would love to get one but I am not sure how usable it would be where I live.

    This is also my first post, so hello all. FTR, I found the site doing a Google search for cataraft information.

    Jeffrey,

    Welcome to our site! Careful or we might make you a member of our little cult here...

    Seriously, you have stumbled onto a gold mine here. Lots of great folks to meet, and talk about all things related to the Alaska outdoors.

    Welcome!

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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