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Thread: Canoe cooper river

  1. #1
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    Default Canoe cooper river

    I would like to canoe down the cooper, another post suggested from McArthy. How many days from McArthy to Cordova? Mcarthy to Chitna?
    Anyone know what that part of the river is like?
    Interesting?
    Thanks

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    Member mainer_in_ak's Avatar
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    If you don't already have this book.......
    questions like yours are easily answered

    The Alaska River Guide.

    you can purchase it from our online bookstore:

    https://outdoorsdirectory.com/produc...iver_guide.htm

  3. #3

    Default Not recommended

    The current and the rapids in woods canoe would make it pretty dangerous.
    There can be a decent size whirlpool near Haley's Creek.
    It has been done by old timers but many of them died too.

    Sincerely,
    Thomas

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    1st of all, the copper is a BIG RIVER, like way bigger than the kenai....its also very a long ways to the million dollar bridge, if you can find the right channel, but youll most likely end up in huge maze of sloughs, channels, islands and sandbars and eventually end up in the gulf of alaska (not canoe recommended either), its also extremely rough and fast moving...you also need to look at a map....chitina is about 50-60 miles down the chitina river (also a volatile, fast moving river) from mccarthy then from chitina its about 100 or maybe alittle less river miles down the Copper to the million dollar bridge.... some more dangers are the glaciers, the giant boulders, flash floods, and lack of safe landing spots....maybe someone else can give you more info.



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    personally i think the Yukon from Eagle to Circle Hot springs would be way funner and a bit more realistic. I dont think youd want to risk the Copper in a canoe.



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    Here's my write up on the Chitina & Copper Rivers, from McCarthy to Cordova.
    http://paddling.jimstrutz.com/page48.html
    http://paddling.jimstrutz.com/page11.html

    It's a very interesting trip. I highly recommend it. Figure 3-4 days to Chitina and another 4-5 days to Flag Point (20 river miles past Million Dollar Bridge, and 27 road miles before Cordova). To that add a full day to get there & run the shuttle to Chitna, and another 2 days to get back from Cordova. All this is figuring travel from Anchorage or Fairbanks.

    It is certainly doable in canoes, but I would only try it if I was a very good canoeist, and I'm not. It's far safer in a raft. The problem with a canoe is what happens when you dump it in the middle with a good 1/4 mile of water on both sides of you? It's too far to swim, and even with a drysuit you might succumb to hypothermia before making shore. Kayakers do it without much trouble though, and if you really know what you're doing ...

    From McCarthy you paddle the Kennecott, which is class I-II, but very fast & splashy. Easy in a raft, but would scare me to death in a canoe. After 5-6 miles of that you are in the Nizina that is larger and smoother, but just as fast, with several whirlpools to contend with. After a dozen miles of that you're in the Chitina, which is wider flat water that still moves along at a very quick pace. After 50 miles or so of that you hit the Copper (at Chitina) and find a really huge river that is still flat and fast. The only real whitewater is at Abercrombie, about 8 miles above Million Dollar Bridge. At low water levels there is no rapids at all, but at high water the waves are really, really big in there. I've seen them well over 12'. You can get around them though; you just have to scout first, and sometimes the local bears don't allow that.

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    thank you Jim for the corrections....I didnt even think about the Kennicott and the Nizina...Yes there are alot of brown bears in the Lower Copper, big ones for sure....I can see a kayaker havin an okay time of it, but like you, im not a good canoeist, only thing ive floated on a canoe is campbell creek here in anchorage, the little su from Houston to Burma Landing, and many a lake yea campbell creek is very much fun with a case of beer, a couple buddies with another craft, and a fly rod for trout and silvers on a hot august day. little su was okay but dang the bugs were as miserable as the jet boaters, good fishing though.



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    In July of 2000 we canoed from McCarthy to Chitna. It was a great trip that took us 3 days. The locals thought we were nuts embarking in a tandem canoe. They even tried to convince us to rent a raft instead.
    We were/are very experienced in whitewater. At the time I was a certified ACA whitewater canoeing instructor and comfortable in class IV and sometimes V. Since the Kennecott/Nizina is only classed at a II-III, we felt it was within our skill set. We were prepared with drysuits and floatation for the canoe. I also can roll the canoe back up if we tip over.
    Here are a few memories from out trip:
    We had one close call on the Kennecott when we took a side channel around an island and it shot us out really fast back out into the main current (sideways of course) and we nearly flipped over. Otherwise, the river was really straightforward to run. The rapids were short and the shore/gravel islands were easy to get to if needed to dump out excess water.
    The Nizina is a larger river and the most challenging part is the canyon. The water was moving very fast and lots of fun waves, but there are plenty of large eddies to stop in to rest and dump out water. The eddies are powerful and sometimes it took a couple of tries to get out!
    The Chitna was a straightforward float with lots of gravel islands to camp on.

    We spent about a day and a half exploring McCarthy and the Kennecott glacier and mine and then 3 days on the river.

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    Exclamation Kennecott to Flag-point on Copper

    Yes - cristancanoe much better description...

    I agree - This run from Kennecott River Crossing put in is not class I-II --- it is by all classifications II-III (big difference). Jim let's not sell this one short on river ratings at any given water-levels.

    Lots of different character to Kennecott (cold, swift, opaque, definably splashy bordering irregular and powerful) to Nizina Canyon (high walls with good-sized eddy-lines to stay out of that requires sure Class III precise ferry techniques - powering your way straight down in these turns won't cut it!) to Chitina (swift wider and often windy) to Copper (wider, more volume, more wind, more exposed) to once well down the Copper Abercrombie (Sea-like 'big' class III waves very fast water, often very windy) and passing by Childs (massive active calving glacier ice cutbank).

    The major Copper River drainage rivers can be unpredictable in terms of both cold glacial water volume and active exchange weather zone with lots of wind. This can present issues for all boaters particularly often more-so for those choosing smaller rafts and canoes no matter who is paddling. Open canoes would not be a good fit for most unless good river skills with a level of fitness &concentration... plus boat air-bagged for water displacement, rigidity, and emergency flotation. It's also a pretty extended, much exposed trip all the way to Million Dollar or Flag point. Canoes may make the trip a little less comfortable all things considered.

    Turbulence within varying currents, different river character, volume, swift opaque cold water, waves, some walled in sections, some exceedingly wide stretches, and strong winds with tons of exposure are all of main concern. Silt, mud, ice, and flood should also be given respect.

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    Well, I was hoping to hear something more possitive.

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    Member fshgde's Avatar
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    Default use a raft

    The copper is a wide, cold, swift, river a raft makes this a safer trip. I have seen four foot standing waves where the day before it was a ripple.
    A simple mistake can become life or death. You can't see a inch into the water , so you cant see rocks limbs and other hazzards in the water. Have fun but be safe..

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    You guys would call the Kennecott a class III? Really? I'll go II, maybe II+. But of course, I was sitting in a large & comfy raft, feeling pretty good about things. There are a few medium sized holes in there, but are pretty easy to miss. Mostly it's just splashy & fast. I actually clocked 19 MPH in one spot on the Kennecott on my GPS.

    I could see the Nizina giving canoers a harder time of it though. That thing has some pretty steep eddy fences and nasty spins in the canyon.

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    The Kennecott is actually pretty volatile in terms of time of day... drastic temp swings overnight cool-offs to a hot interior mid-afternoon. Rain means cool temps up this high - so not much effect... lower down tho' that story is very different as tribs pour in.

    Close to snout of active glacier creates unpredictable fluctuations... glacier moulin, ice dams, in some years a serious surge from both features generate hidden flash floods. These are triggered by increasing water volume on or inside the glacier. Ice-dams collapse and trapped waters can even float these apart over warmer trends. trapped water letting loose is a dramatic and nearly unbelievable icy flood torrent that will make the Kennicott grade a class IV in minutes. Wild stuff and to see the old hand-trams (one under water the other less that 6' from river 'top-water @ mid channels' is a sight to see and respect.

    Back in the day, I was fortunate to take part and lead role in unattended boat and vehicle salvaging rescue by air, overland, and on river. Good experience for a kid outta high-school in the great summer flood of '87 when I ran the only daily raft service on the river for then Saint Elias Alpine Guides led by the great, well-versed mountaineer Bob Jacobs (instrumental person in what helped create a National Park out of a forgotten ghost town).

    Trip down memory lane - Back then... Barney Griffeth and Andy Embick where Alaska's daring Kayak adventurers. Talented Mike Buck was cutting his teeth on stuff never rafted. Sep Webber (who I also apprenticed with back then) was on his way to deep wilderness places seldom if ever trekked or paddled. Wow! What a time and means to know Alaska's rivers. NOVA with Chuck and Jay (now of Chugach Outdoor Center) had me as a teen in raingear and rubber boots on the Matanuska. Denali raft said here's your raft, wooden tired old oars, and a pickle bucket for the Nenana. Good days man!

    Back to Kennecott, Nizina, Chitina, Copper... By all references and guys like me that have worked it routinely - the trip does involve precise boat handling, has irregular waves, walled in stretches, eddy-lines of reasonable trappings (read as defined and relatively powerful) then very large standing rollers in a certain stretch en route. This gives it the class III rating.

    The water character, wild weather, and scale of surroundings are really separate aspects to the voyage in terms of river classification - yet in reality - need to be given a greater sense of outdoor respect/attention than what class the river is rated. This is the foremost reason why a raft for many will be a much better set-up for floating the entire length of this trip.

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    I dont like taking a boat with a big motor on the copper let a lone a canoe.

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