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Matanuska River Glacier Park Rd to Kings River 7/23/19

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  • Matanuska River Glacier Park Rd to Kings River 7/23/19

    This was originally planned as a solo float/camp/float trip. However, after the first hour the weather turned rainy and windy so I continued to the takeout 37 miles downstream. Total float time was 6 hours. Iíve camped enough in the rain during river trips.

    I put-in at MP 102 Glacier Park Drive. This is the road into the Matanuska Glacier and is the normal takeout for the Lionhead whitewater section. See the link below for more info from American Whitewater

    Iíve floated the Lionhead section a few times but never below Hicks Creek. Although the rapids are a bit smaller and less continuous then the Lionhead section, the next 37 miles should not be taken lightly. There are plenty of holes/waves below here that are capable of flipping an unlucky or unaware boater. The Mat is a big, powerful, glacial river. If the features you can see from the road look a little intimidating they will be more so when just off your bow. The gauge was reading about 3.8í for this trip.

    The put-in required a quick cross-river ferry to avoid a sweeper and the mid-river bridge support. From there it is busy dodging rocks/holes for a couple of miles. I was solo so I opted not to play. The best advice I have received for glacial rivers is to look for smooth water beyond the wave ahead. If thereís smooth water beyond itís a rock sticking up. Itís difficult to discern between an above river rock and one low enough to float over on glacial rivers.

    After a couple of miles youíll join the fork from the toe of the Matanuska Glacier (a fun Class II/III float on its own). At river mile 5 youíll pass Hicks Creek and Nova Rafting. There is public access on the downstream side of Hicks Creek that can be used as a put-in/takeout. Once below Hicks Creek you head into the canyon and it feels like you are miles from anywhere. There is some mining activity on both sides but for the most part you will not see much human influence. For much of this float it becomes pick-a-braid and hope itís deep enough. When the river becomes mostly single channel use caution for each of the side-streams. Many of these streams have deposited boulders in the Mat during floods and create sizable waves/holes. The biggest set of these is where the Chikaloon enters from river right and I believe Carbon creek enter just below on the left. There is a 5-6í high diagonal wave at this flow level.

    I had planned to camp halfway but the thought of making camp in the rain was less appealing then floating to the truck. There is no shortage of camping spots along this section.

    Thankfully, I had a willing family member move my truck to Kings River. The downstream side of the river provided ample eddy service for an easy takeout after a long day on the sticks. The float was fun....the continuous rain not so much.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Great report! I have though about dong that section a number of times. You did that in 6 hours? That is a fast moving section of water!! What sized round boat do you think is the most ideal?

    Gulkana Rafting


    • #3
      Nice write up! That float has been my go-to get away float and camp trip for years. I usually put in at Hicks though. Agree with your assessment of the water conditions, most hazards are avoidable if you're paying attention, but definitely some dangerous spots if you look away too long. That diagonal by carbon is wild at high water. Lots of good camping along the "remote" section between Hicks and Chickaloon. Have always had a blast running it in my 14' NRS E-series SB.



      • #4
        Any size craft will work Walt. Bring a big boat and the kitchen sink or go packraft light.


        • #5
          Ran the Mat yesterday (5/29/20) from Hicks to Kings in 14' SB with wife and fur face. Weather was great, sunny until mid-afternoon and then we only caught a couple sprinkles. The water was good, just pretty much stuck to the largest braid or straightest line and while we drug bottom a couple times, we never got hung up. The convergence of the Chickaloon beefed up the action a little, but everything was read and run. We could have ran right through all of the action, but keeping the boss' butt dry was a priority. On a sad note, we encountered a stranded baby moose calf on a mid-channel gravel bank about two miles upstream of the Chickaloon. No mom in sight, it looked like it wanted help but there wasn't anything we could do. 12:50 put in, 17:50 take-out with a lunch break and some forward rowing on the back half. All in all a great day. Looking forward to a Taz or Nenana trip, as well as the obligatory Gulky float this summer.


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