Early May Chulitna Float



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  • Early May Chulitna Float

    Hello All -

    I'm planning a spring bear excursion and looking at the Chulitna for an early May hunt. The tentatively plan is to float from the the East Fork put in to Talkeetna but I am open to comments. Has anyone been down the river that early in the year? My boat is a 16 ft NRS Cataraft, will there be enough water in the East fork in early May to avoid lots of dragging? Should I bring a chain saw for possible log jams?

    How about float duration from other posts under normal flows the East fork to Talkeetna could be done in about 2-4 days. Would the timing be significantly different in early May?

    Any and all information would be appreciated.

  • #2
    Do you mean Ice skating

    Depending on the Year and this being an extremely heavy snow pack year with cooler temps you might find your-self snow boarding or ice skating down that portion of the system in early may. You also would more than likely have to deal with Ice conditions to inlcude shelf ice not a fun thing and if it is blocking any part of the system i.e. East Fork well that's just not a good thing.

    Do your home work and maybe a road trip or two in the area prior to making any final plans for early May.

    Sorry to sound like Dirk the Doom guy but that part of the country some times just not lean towards opening up in early May i.e. the first week or two for a decent and safe rafting trip.

    Best Wishes

    Blue Moose


    • #3
      i could help

      I've done that float lots of times and seen quite a few bears but the earliest i've done it is early june. I will be driving over the east fork quite a few times starting in late april and could post some updates if you'd like.


      • #4
        Armo ak

        Keep me posted on the middle fork, if you have time.
        Thanks MO


        • #5
          Keep me posted

          Thanks all for your help I think you have validated my concerns.

          Armo AK - I would appreciate any future information on flows on the East fork, but Ill plan to push the trip back or do significant scouting prior to committing to an early May. Float.


          • #6
            Shelf Ice. Yes, this.

            If early May is warm the river should be open by the 15th or so.

            Good choice for a bear float though.
            If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today


            • #7
              early may will be too early. you will drag the entire east fork and may encounter ice dams at any point on the chulitna. the middle fork is even less of an option. i would fly it before i ever ran it before june. btw, ive floated your trip plan 6 times in a 14' nrs cat at dif. times during the summer. the first half day will include dragging almost any time during the summer, especially directly above honolulu cr. take care, abel6wt


              • #8
                Watch the River forcast center peak flow

                We just got back from displaying our boats at the Fairbanks outdoor show. Driving the Parks Highway we crossed the Chulitna several times. The Chulitna is still pretty frozen with about 2-3 feet of snow pack through that part of the drive and even more snow pack in the higher areas. The Chulitna drains a huge area and is prone to early season flooding during the first hot days of May. I'd suggest keeping an eye on the River Forecast Center before you go so you can time your trip just after the Peak flow of spring. During the peak flow spring run off, The Chulitna can rage into a class IV white knuckled torrent.
                The River forcast center website is.

                Your best float will be to time your trip right after the peak flow of the spring run off when the water level is dropping.

                Good boating

                Jim King


                • #9
                  Update on Conditions

                  SUNDAY APRIL 26

                  MIDDLE FORK: Small opening with low clear water flowing. Probably 2-3 feet wide and flowing but with 2 foot ice/snow banks on either side.

                  EAST FORK: About the same opening as the middle but with more snow and ice. Of the whole channel I would say there is about 5% open, and shallow.

                  MAIN STEM: At mile 130, hardly any flowing water. Still pretty well iced over with some blue spots shining through.

                  Overall it looks like it will be a while, I went fishing to one of my spots this weekend and couldn't even hike in the snow was so wet and deep. I walked in the creek instead to the confluence and there was nothing to be had. The susitna is still mostly ice and running gin clear.


                  • #10
                    Thanks Armo

                    Thanks for the update Armo_AK.

                    We have postponed our trip until early June so any continued information you could provide would be appreciated.

                    Is it reasonable to float from the east fork to the Susitna bridge in three days?


                    • #11
                      you would have to be paddling hard the whole 3 days. it is in the neighborhood of 90+ river miles from the E. Fork put in to the Su bridge, maybe closer to 100. i usually take 5 days to do this trip and we are hustling the whole trip. the braids of the chulitna are the time killers - lots of zigzagging to find a good channel. hope this helps. abel6wt


                      • #12
                        a possible shorter trip?


                        We do the chulitna either to the parks highway bridge or to talkeetna which is a shorter trip and doesn't take much away from the overall float. We have done this trip comfortably in 3 days with between 13-15 hours of oar time depending on water level. After the parks bridge you are not missing much as the bulk of the cooler spots are from the east fork down to that bridge. I'm not saying its not worth doing but after three days we are ready to pull out there.


                        • #13
                          armo ak,
                          are you saying that you paddle the E. Fork Chulitna bridge to Talkeetna in 3 days with 15 hours of paddling? just checking if that is what i'm hearing. take care, abel6wt


                          • #14
                            about 15

                            I want to say it is about 15. But that is paddling near the whole time, not just drifting and "steering" if you will. A much more common trip for us, (we have done this 5-6 times) is to just float to the bridge over the chulitna which is more in the ball park of 13-15 without much forward paddling and just letting the current carry us.


                            • #15
                              I've done the Chulitna, East Fork to Susitna Parks highway bridge, 2 different times over a long Memorial day weekend. Both times were just after peak flow. I flew the river before floating both times to be sure it was open. The upper portion to Honolulu Creek still had a couple feet of snow on the banks and gravel bars then the snow cover tapered off from there. There were no log jams or shelf ice but a couple of the corners are tight and fast on the upper river right after you put in. The logs tend to pile up on the outside corners of the banks on the upper part of the river and can constrict you movement as you go around/through them. Jim King was right and just after peak flow is the best time to go. I was in a 18' Aire so a 14' raft would handle better through there. As far as float time it takes me 21-24 river hours to get to the Susitna River parks highway bridge. So basically you can count on 3 days with 8 hours on the river each day. It is 15-16 hours to the Parks highway bridge that crosses the Chulitna at the Princess Hotel and then another 8 hours to the Susitna River parks highway bridge from there. I would recommend taking out at the Susitna bridge because it is such an easy place to get in and out of. If your planning on hunting take your time if you can and do it in 5 days. When you come out of the canyons and the river widens and braids up headwinds become a major factor and can slow you down considerably. The braids also test your river reading skills so it is important to pay attention downstream through this portion so you don't get hung up. If you do have to get out of you raft and push be careful as the fast current can move the gravel right from under your feet and before you know it you can be up to your armpits where it was once only knee deep. The weather this time of year can still turn wintery with in your face blizzards at the drop of a hat and then hot and sunny the next day. There are always bears and plenty of places to camp with lots of driftwood for fires. Note that a portion of the river runs through park land and if you want to take a grizzly it would be wise to get a tag at fish and game just in case you see one where a tag is required. It is important to watch the Susitna River flows as well as I have run into Ice flows on occasion coming down the Susitna in late May at the Chulitna confluence. I really like the Chulitna and have done it throughout the rafting season. Memorial Day weekend would be the earliest I would attempt to run it.

                              Have fun!


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