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  • Delta River Float

    I am making a list of rivers I would like to run this summer and the Upper Delta has made it on to it. How long does the float take from the Tangle Lakes to the Richardson Hwy? I know there is a falls to portage the raft around, anything else to be aware of with my Aire 14.5 round? I will be bringing the Alpackas along too .. to play around with if I find some nice rapids.
    -JR

  • #2
    Originally posted by Gilliland440 View Post
    I am making a list of rivers I would like to run this summer and the Upper Delta has made it on to it. How long does the float take from the Tangle Lakes to the Richardson Hwy? I know there is a falls to portage the raft around, anything else to be aware of with my Aire 14.5 round? I will be bringing the Alpackas along too .. to play around with if I find some nice rapids.
    -JR
    Hello JR,

    With a put in on Denali Highway Tangle Lakes... the upper section to approximately mile 212ish is 2 1/2 dayer. Make 'er a 3-dayer all the way through Black Rapids Glacial section to mile 229ish.

    Two miles into the stream - the Portage section is actually a 400+yard trip around falls that are formed from the 'Delta Fault-line'. After this you'll want to hop in the raft and ferry to river left if running rapids, or line quite a ways river right.

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    • #3
      Any way to line the raft over the falls... my raft is like 138 lbs + frame + oars + gear. Thats a lot of work!
      -JR

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      • #4
        Delta Falls

        Most people portage the entire "gorge" with those falls. But if they want to try something different, it is certainly possible to portage just the falls themselves and run the rest of it.

        There are two drops in the gorge that people generally portage. They are separated by maybe 50 yards. They have been run in kayaks and I've seen a picture of some BLM guys in an empty R-2 (looks like a 13) running the one of the falls (I think the second) in low water. But neither falls are a good idea in a loaded boat -- I've never thought very hard about trying either.

        I do like to run the little gorge after the two falls, so I just portage the falls themselves -- but it's usually a pain in the backside even at lower water levels when a lot of the channel bedrock is dry (assuming it's not raining). It would be treacherous at higher water.

        Below the two main falls, the river runs straight for a hundred yards or so, then makes a couple of sharp turns, and spits out at the beach at the end of the portage trail. The whole thing can't be more than a quarter mile or so. But while the straight shot part of the gorge below the second falls looks to be just busy Class III, there is one more semi-substantial drop right after the first right hand turn (and hidden from easy view). I'd call this a Class IV pour over, but you have to do a little set-up in the eddy above, and at higher water you might be a little discombobulated from the rapids above. I've seen a raft flip in the Class III stuff above the pour over (although they weren't very solid boaters, and were in a little boat -- an Avon Redshank, if you know what those are), and I've also seen a very skilled boater flip in an inflatable kayak in the Class IV drop around the corner (and I had a hell of a time corralling the boat before it floated by the portage eddy -- the paddler self-rescued with ease). So even if you get around the two big Falls, you have some work to do in the rest of the gorge. You also don't want to miss the beach eddy, especially if that's where you've left some gear.

        You can scout the entire gorge from informal trails that spider web off of the portage trails and kind of follow the river. But that is somewhat arduous too -- that whole gorge is a fault and the terrain is up and down. But if you are going to run it, you should probably scout it. Note also that you are scouting from a hundred or more feet above the river -- stuff is a little bigger than it looks.

        I've taken my 18 foot cat the last couple of trips -- unfortunately, its the lighter of my two boats here in AK. Since I tend to float the Delta with folks in open canoes, there are always people doing the portage even as I'm setting up my adventure through the gorge. I usually haul a bag or two up to the beaver pond, let them ferry it across the pond, and then pick it up from the other end after I have done my run. But I use my cooler as a seat, so it stays with the boat. Nonetheless, between portaging my gear and lining my boat, I'm probably doing as much lifting and shoving and hauling as I would if I dismantled the whole boat and portaged it over (and I usually recruit help, which I'm sure they love -- work for no payoff, as I run the gorge alone). But its a nice little place in there, and it seems worth the trouble to me.

        A final note. I'd say 98% of the trips on the Delta portage up to the beaver pond, cross the pond (actually an old river channel), then portage down to the eddy beach. This is the trail the BLM maintains and where the signs direct you to go. But back in the day (pre 1990), we used to take-out a little further downstream (maybe 50 yards, but getting close to the first falls in the gorge), and then just go over the top of the hill and connect into the middle of the trail from the beaver pond down to the beach. This saves you from stopping at the beaver pond, throwing all your sh*t into the boats to cross that, and then hauling it down to the beach. The over-the- hill-route, on the other hand, is steeper, has worse footing, and may be be overgrown these days. I haven't checked it out in a while.

        No matter what you do, the portage or gorge adventure kills a few hours. When the weather is nice, this is as scenic a place to spend time as anywhere on the trip and I've never minded. I urge everyone to spend even more time there and walk around to some of the gorge viewpoints. If the weather is bad though, the mud at the beaver pond and the steep trail down to the beach can be a chore. The good news is that this keeps the riffraff from taking the trip (too much work), so you usually don't see more than one or two other trips below the first Tangle Lake or upstream of Garrett Creek (maybe an occasional jet boat). Not bad for a National Wild River with road access on both ends, which offers four river environments in 3 days (chain of lakes, whitewater gorge, meandering clearwater stream, and (after Eureka comes in) a big braided glacial stream. I also recommend doing the trip down through Black Rapids -- although I've only done that once, it was sublime with some big waves and holes, plus superb scenery -- and the road is hardly noticeable (although you can't miss the pump station).

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        • #5
          Thank you for the intel. I am looking forward to the float even more now. I feel like I would be cheating myself if I didn't continue on and complete the black rapids after the long drive up there from Anchorage. It also sounds like I can have a blast in the canyon with the alpackas also!
          Thanks Again
          -JR

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          • #6
            Nice write up Doug.

            Totally agree with assessment, and that one of the coolest aspects of the is trip is in fact the people filter factor having some work involved plus the ever-changing character.

            As you said - back in the day, used to take out very close to first falls (pretty much a portage with loaded raft). I never lined anything literally over figuring a waste of time rigging gear with some risk factors to footing and potential equipment damage. Easier to go around and get 'er done. I have always run the sections below this on down through the Black Rapids. I feel this float is best during early spring after ice out in terms of water levels and no people. That said, fishing for Arctic Grayling can be superb come later into June.

            Again, well done and informative write-up Doug.

            Cheers -

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            • #7
              Make sure you have your "a game" on to float the part by Black Rapids. Maybe it was just me but there was some big water there last year when i did it. It was sometime towards the end of June last year. As I recall it was raining the night before and some days before that so it was probably a high water time. I just remember the water was super fast and not a whole lot I could do to avoid the big rapids. I did it in an empty AIRE Outfitter II.

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              • #8
                Lower Delta?

                Has anybody floated the lower section of the river? Say from Black Rapids to the confluence with the Tanana River? I've seen a bunch of write-ups from Tangle Lakes down but not much for the lower part. I was wondering if it was possible to float from the campground at Donnelly Creek down. I'm looking for a different (for me), weekend-long road accessible float. Are there wildlife (bison, etc.) viewing opportunities at the right time of year? Good hikes? I realize you's need a RAP for access to military lands and a good bit of it is permanently closed impact zone. Reasons to do it? Reasons not to? Good times of year? Bad times of year?

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                • #9
                  If the weather is nice the views are decent you will not find a ton of company i.e. maybe one other person two times a year. The main issue with floating the lower portion is Wind Wind Wind and Dust Dust Dust. Always as with any float it is a little something different most people don't commit to it a second time if they get caught out in the open when the wind picks up or storm blows in.

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                  • #10
                    Good thread. Excellent tips.
                    Thanks. Props/rep to you.
                    No habitat, no hunter.

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                    • #11
                      concur with all that has been stated. The gorge rapids are fun, and i run them in my Pro Pioneer with Oar Saddles, plus my old pal, Sambo.

                      enjoy!

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                      • #12
                        Larry:

                        I spent a summer working the Delta and Gulkana for the BLM and I never saw any one have the guts to do that! Impressive!

                        Walt
                        Gulkana River Raft Rentals
                        www.gulkanaraftrental.com

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                        • #13
                          Great thread guys! I was wondering what you guys that have done this before would reccomend to a newb. Done a fair bit of kayaking but it was all on flat or slow water. Was thinking of doing the Tangle Lks to Rich. Should I skip this this year and try and learn more about white water? We were thinking about taking a guided trip early this summer and then getting a 14-16 ft raft and floating the Delta. If you don't advise against it, should we skip Black Rapids? Row frame or no? Thanks for the help!
                          If you live your whole life afraid to die... Then you can never truly live!

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                          • #14
                            The Delta is a great choice! I have floated/paddled it many times and in my opinion it is the best and most under used river in Alaska, on the road system. 3.5 days and I would plan on using a rigid canoe or a SOAR Pro-Pioneer. Rafts make the portage a major pain but a good Old Town is easy.

                            Most of my folks choose the Old Town Canoes because they carry easy with the yoke and the handle the water well. The trip across the Tangles can be a pain if it is windy especially in a high profile raft. Take your fly rod becayse the Grayling fishing is crazy good. If you want to add a day go play around in the upper Tangles. Nice! Good Fishing! Very few people!


                            Have fun and see ya on the water!

                            Walt
                            Gulkana River Raft Rentals
                            http://www.gulkanaraftrental.com

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                            • #15
                              Thanks Gulkana!
                              If you live your whole life afraid to die... Then you can never truly live!

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