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Memorial Day Float Trip

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  • Memorial Day Float Trip

    I'm looking for ideas for a memorial day float Trip. Something that takes 3 1/2 go 4 days. My Group of 10 was hoping for the Upper Gulkana, but I don't think the ice will be gone by then on Paxson lake. We three rafts, plenty of gear and enough whitewater experience for Class III, maybe CL IV-. Any suggestions would be great. Road-road is preferable, but possibly a fly in. Fishing is always a plus for the trip, thinking grayling or trout, but not a necessity. Looking for camping and time with friends for the most part. Thanks in advance.


  • #2
    Over the past week or 2 have had a number of groups of clients who are interested in Rafting the upper Gulkana from Paxon down to Sourdough campground over Memorial Day weekend.

    While this is a great trip and early trip can offer better water and fewer rafters on the river a balance must be struck when looking at the down side.
    * Historically is Paxon Lake and the outlet free of ice? That is a year to year question but my experience tells me not all the time. The lake can be free but the smaller pond/lake that opens into the Gulkana River often times will be clogged with ice many years.
    *High, Cold Water: If the outlet is ice free the water conditions are cold and running high many years. This by itself is no big deal until you get dumped and are forced to swim. We use to don Dry Suits in the Canyon when we ran the river in early June when I worked for the BLM. Did we have to? Most of the time no but the inexperienced paddler with limited white water experience needs to take this into consideration.
    * Sweepers in the river: Early and high water hide the many sweepers in the river. Trees and logs will kill you period! When I have run the river early I am on my toes all of the time because a sweeper at or under the water level. My son got sucked under a sweeper 2 years ago on the lower section and I was out of position to help him ( I was down river) but I was lucky that his PFD did not get snagged as he went under the tree. White Water is fun but Sweepers are dangerous.


    Early trips can be great but please take time to look at the risks involved and find out what the river is doing before you go. Make a solid float plan and have a back up plan in place when things go bad as some times they do! Remember that you are responsible for your own safety when your on the water.

    I am attaching the web address for the Glennallen BLM office and the phone number. Give them a call!
    (907) 822-3217

    If you have any questions drop me a line

    Gulkana River Raft Rentals
    Mile 127.5 of the Richardson
    Rafts, Canoes and Camps


    • #3
      We have floated Birch Creek a few times over Memorial weekend. I actually have a video of one trip on Youtube if you search for Birch Creek Alaska you should be able to find it. Water its high and fast this time of year, but manageable.
      "I'd rather be fishing!"


      • #4
        I talked to one of the BLM personnel at the field office. She said that of the 16 years she lived and worked in Glenallen, she has only seen one year where the ice has gone out before June. Does this sound correct?


        • #5
          Anyone know when the East Fork of the Chulitna is runnable? I suspect the ice will be gone, but will there be enough water?

          If that's not floatable, Chulitna/Susitna from Princess Lodge to Willow Creek is open. Lots of braided river though.

          Matanuska is doable in early to mid May. There will probably be ice on the banks in spots along the upper section, but the water, although low, will be open. It's actually a nice float from Hicks Creek to Palmer.


          • #6
            You can always pray for global warming.


            • #7
              Yes that is my experience. The BLM does fly overs of the river to keep tabs on her and they can keep you abreast of the ice. The earliest I have floated the upper river was June 10th and there was ice on the canyon rim and the outlet had chunks on the bank.

              This can change year to year but I do not put my rafts on the upper section that early.

              Drop pm a PM if you need any other info.

              Gulkana River Raft Rentals
              Mile 127.5 of the Richardson
              Rafts, Canoes and Camps


              • #8
                Yepper! :-)


                • #9
                  We floated the Upper Gulkana a few years back during the first week of June. There was no ice, but there was as Walt stated, wood in the river. Fishing was a little slow, water was at a nice level, and the campsites were clean. We did not see another soul on the river. Fun trip.

                  Last year the Matanuska, over Memorial Day weekend, was flowing strong. We spent the entire weekend up there, and I believe the Saturday before Memorial day was the peak flow for Lion's Head last season. I've only done the top stretch that Jim mentions, so I cannot comment on the lower part.

                  Although neither of these are multiday trips, you could a do a couple trips on the Klultina and Lowe. I took my wife and kids down that way the weekend before Memorial Day last year and both were a little low, but running. I forgot my bike, so we didn't do the Klutina. There was a group from River Wranglers that ran it. We ended up doing a couple trips on the Lowe. Basically it was camping trip on river banks, fishing some of the stocked lakes, and making sure all the gear was dialed in.

                  Remember to be extra vigilant, and keep an eye out for that early season wood, when you are running rivers early season style.

                  I am also interested in the East Fork of the Chulitna if anyone has any beta.



                  • #10
                    Have you thought about the Gulkana from Sourdough to the bridge? 2 days maybe 3 at best but a nice trip!


                    • #11
                      Re: East Fork Chulitna/Chulitna

                      Perfect trip for a long weekend. Put in at MP185 Parks on the East Fork. 14-15 river miles to the confluence with the glacial West Fork. Camp 1 on the point at the confluence or just downstream on the beach river-right. Camp 2 between the braided sections--I like Ohio Creek. Camp 3 (optional) near the mouth of the Tokositna, either in the trees river-right or one of the treed islands mid-river.
                      Not too much whitewater. There's a spashy stretch just below the EF/WF confluence where you can get wet if you want.
                      Dress warm and watch for strong upriver winds in the braids during midday.

                      Finish in Talkeetna. Watch for bears-both kinds and watch for wood in the water, especially as you near Talkeetna. Hold hard left or you miss Talkeetna and take out at the Big Su bridge at MP 105
                      If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today


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