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The Gulkana Report June 12, 2020

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  • The Gulkana Report June 12, 2020

    Quick report guys:

    The river is starting to calm down after the Sunday and Monday down pour. The river we at 3000 cfs 2 days ago and normal levels should be under 2000 cfs. The river has dropped about a foot in the last 24 hours and the clarity is improving but still a few days from perfect. Lots of hook-ups but few fish being landed due to the fast water...

    Walt
    Gulkana Raft Rentals
    907-259-4290

  • #2
    Please keep us posted, thank you.

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    • #3
      Yesterday was a slow fishing day. Lots of guys working the river but the high water conditions are making it hard to land fish!! I will let you know mid week as the water level drops

      Walt
      907-259-4290

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      • #4
        Any updates? I was thinking about floating/fishing overnight early this coming week or an outside chance delaying until the following week instead. Would you recommend floating from sailors pit to the bridge or poplar grove to sailors pit given the current water level, clarity, and fishing outlook? Any info would be appreciated!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by neyoung View Post
          Any updates? I was thinking about floating/fishing overnight early this coming week or an outside chance delaying until the following week instead. Would you recommend floating from sailors pit to the bridge or poplar grove to sailors pit given the current water level, clarity, and fishing outlook? Any info would be appreciated!
          I floated from sailors to the bridge Saturday and didn't have any luck. the water was high and brown and there were numerous other parties floating. I know people have been catching, but it hasn't been bangers. ADFG did also Issue an EO restricting the bag limit on sport caught kings on the gulkana.

          Its been raining pretty regular, so its hard to say when the river will clear up, or if you'll do better floating from poplar grove.

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          • #6
            Thanks for the info. I put the trip off until next week. Hopefully with better weather in the forecast between then and now the river will drop a bit and clear up

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            • #7
              I am planning for my first trip on the Gulkana (Paxson to Sourdough) starting July 5. I have a 15 ft raft. My son has been on the river several times. I read all sorts of comments about the canyon being class III-IV. We are floating with just the one raft. I have good experience with whitewater, but when I read the BLM brochure I wonder. I know they like to overstate so they are covered. However, I have stayed alive by being paranoid, I am watching the flow. We can always portage the canyon. It would just be a hassle with the frame and gear. Any advice?

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              • #8
                Give me a call at 907-259-4290

                Walt

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by grider View Post
                  I am planning for my first trip on the Gulkana (Paxson to Sourdough) starting July 5. I have a 15 ft raft. My son has been on the river several times. I read all sorts of comments about the canyon being class III-IV. We are floating with just the one raft. I have good experience with whitewater, but when I read the BLM brochure I wonder. I know they like to overstate so they are covered. However, I have stayed alive by being paranoid, I am watching the flow. We can always portage the canyon. It would just be a hassle with the frame and gear. Any advice?
                  My experience is limited to one trip down the Gulkana with two boats, an 18' cataraft and a 12' round raft. It was September of 2013 when we floated the Gulkana and it being my first time through I was very concerned about the canyon. I was the only experienced rower so I ended up taking both boats through after we portaged most of the gear. I can't recall the flow but it was probably on the low end. Taking both boats through was exciting but uneventful. The most important thing was keeping the oars stowed when threading between big rocks near the bottom. The fact that each of the boats was all but empty of people and gear probably had a lot to do with my ability to place and position each raft as needed.

                  The day prior, while we were in the middle of portaging gear, a group of six guys on two rafts came through. Four of them walked the trail while two guys took one of the boats through. They were both round rafts, probably around 13'. The drop at the end of the canyon nearly capsized the first boat, and when they came ashore the pilot said he wouldn't do that again. They hand-lined the second raft through the rapids.

                  I would at the very least portage essential gear so that your survival is less at risk should things not go well. I think having the boats empty and sitting high in the water helped a lot in my case. I still remember how responsive the cataraft was in getting to the opposite bank. But individuals, boats, and even the day to day river conditions can be so wildly different that all one can really do is do what you can to mitigate risk, then make that hard choice when it comes time.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ChugiakTinkerer View Post

                    My experience is limited to one trip down the Gulkana with two boats, an 18' cataraft and a 12' round raft. It was September of 2013 when we floated the Gulkana and it being my first time through I was very concerned about the canyon. I was the only experienced rower so I ended up taking both boats through after we portaged most of the gear. I can't recall the flow but it was probably on the low end. Taking both boats through was exciting but uneventful. The most important thing was keeping the oars stowed when threading between big rocks near the bottom. The fact that each of the boats was all but empty of people and gear probably had a lot to do with my ability to place and position each raft as needed.

                    The day prior, while we were in the middle of portaging gear, a group of six guys on two rafts came through. Four of them walked the trail while two guys took one of the boats through. They were both round rafts, probably around 13'. The drop at the end of the canyon nearly capsized the first boat, and when they came ashore the pilot said he wouldn't do that again. They hand-lined the second raft through the rapids.

                    I would at the very least portage essential gear so that your survival is less at risk should things not go well. I think having the boats empty and sitting high in the water helped a lot in my case. I still remember how responsive the cataraft was in getting to the opposite bank. But individuals, boats, and even the day to day river conditions can be so wildly different that all one can really do is do what you can to mitigate risk, then make that hard choice when it comes time.
                    Chugiak Tinkerer's response if spot on. I have floated the canyon many, many times over the years and I have seen lots of accidents from other rafters that failed to portage their gear. My experience is that many people get cocky and lazy and they (out of arrogance, laziness or both) mistakenly decide to go through the canyon fully loaded. This is a mistake. Almost every year I have floated this I have seen guys flip their rafts, get their rafts stuck on rocks, bend their oars or lost their oars, or had passengers thrown from their boats. One time a guy was pinned on the big rock in the middle of the picket fence and with his young daughter and he did not have a self-bailing raft (bad, bad idea). Anyhow, to make a long story short I had to throw my rescue rope to him and he tied off his daughter to the rescue rope and I had to drag her to shore safely. Thank the Lord she at least had a life jacket on. One time, ironically there were some instructors from a survival school in Anchorage and they attempted to run the canyon fully loaded. One person in their party (the rower) was thrown from the boat and his wife/partner was left abandoned in the boat by herself to take control of the boat after he was thrown. Another person in their party bent their oars. I would not recommend going to that survival school if you want to stay alive. I could go on and on with stories of idiots but I think you all get the point. Anyhow, the moral of the story is, don't be too lazy and/or to arrogant to portage a little bit of gear to lighten the load. Controlling your oars is a lot more manageable if you take the time to lighten the load and you are less apt to lose your safety gear. There's my 2 cents.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for the advice. How big a deal is lining the raft through the canyon after portaging most of the gear? I have little pride when it comes to running rivers. My crazy days are over. I would be just as happy to have no canyon to run. I am just looking forward a good fishing, drift trip with family.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by grider View Post
                        Thanks for the advice. How big a deal is lining the raft through the canyon after portaging most of the gear? I have little pride when it comes to running rivers. My crazy days are over. I would be just as happy to have no canyon to run. I am just looking forward a good fishing, drift trip with family.
                        Lining is not really an option. The canyon has steep high walls, slippery rocks, thick alders and no beach or walkable surface. I suppose it's possible but it would be very, very difficult to line your raft. You basically have 3 options. Option 1: Run the canyon with all your gear (not recommended because of reasons mentioned earlier). Option 2: Portage all or some of your gear to lighten the load (this is the preferred and recommended option). Option 3: Portage all your gear and your raft. This isn't as hard as it sounds. A lot guys in canoes prefer to go this route. Not many go this route with rafts unless the water is extremely high or extremely low. Either situation is not ideal. Too high and the water is ripping fast and hard to control the boat. Too low and a lot of rocks and obstructions appear in the river making navigation limited and difficult. At normal water levels the canyon is not super difficult to navigate and float, but having a heavy, loaded down raft makes it difficult. I've floated it in low water, high water and every way in between. A couple suggestions before floating. Get out, walk the canyon and scout it first. Pick out the best route and plan which way you will go beforehand. Also come up with a contingency plan if the primary plan goes awry. Most of the time, I prefer to go through both of the two major rapids on the far right side. But there are many times when the first rapids (called the picket fence) is better to go through the middle channel or even the left channel. The second set of rapids is almost always taken on the right side. But once I had to run through a narrow shoot on the far left side because of a steep drop with recirculating hydraulics that would have sucked the stern of the boat down, shooting the bow up straight in the air like a catapult. Often times you can just use your momentum to push through those hydraulics. But at low or high water this second drop can be a little tricky. Good luck and be safe. I'm sure you'll be fine, just be smart and don't be lazy. Sounds like you aren't too arrogant make wise decisions.

                        One other thing I forgot to mention. When going through the first rapids (the picket fence), the reason why I normally go to the far right is because there is a slight eddy that is barely noticeable on that side. But I prefer that side because you can slow down your raft just before going through the rapids if you can hit that eddy just right. But you have to back paddle and ferry your boat to the right side to get there. Once you get there you can either float through the right side with your bow downstream or you can spin backwards and float through it backwards and then straighten out your boat in the pool below the picket fence before attempting to run the second set of rapids. That is how I usually do it, but either way works. But, if you have to go through the middle channel or the far left channel, you will have to ship your oars because they are both very narrow. And you have to hit both of these channels as straight as possible or else you will get sucked up on top of a big rock in the middle of the river or worse yet, you will get flipped over. This is the spot where most guys get pinned on a rock in the middle of the river and if you have a boat full of gear it can be very dangerous. This is also the spot that lots of guys bend, lose and oars because these two channels are very narrow. So my suggestion is the either take the far right channel or ship your oars when you go through.

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                        • #13
                          I talked with Walt from Gulkana Rafting and he said about 25%of the clients line the rafts down. Said to use bow and stern lines about 25 ft long. The only spot is at the bottom when you have to let the raft float around the big rock because the people can't move fast enough. Said just have someone in the pool below to grab the raft. Also said the rafts sometimes turtle so be sure they are empty.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by grider View Post
                            Thanks for the advice. How big a deal is lining the raft through the canyon after portaging most of the gear? I have little pride when it comes to running rivers. My crazy days are over. I would be just as happy to have no canyon to run. I am just looking forward a good fishing, drift trip with family.
                            I've dabbled in white water rafting since I was in college, but I am by no means an experienced river rat. I have gone through the Gulkana River canyon once and the Kenai River canyon once, and in both instances my take-way impression afterwards for each was that it wasn't that big of a deal. As long as one is alert, pays attention, and has taken the appropriate precautions then the rapids will likely be fun but not life-threatening.

                            When we floated the Gulkana, I had planned on portaging all our gear and even portaging or lining the rafts. I always over-pack, so it took us all of an afternoon just to portage the gear to the campsite below the rapids. We made camp there and I ran the rafts through the following morning. When I went to sleep my intention was to line the rafts down, but that posed concerns for me because there were only four of us and one was my father, who was over 75 at the time. Another was my brother, who has the agility of a starfish.

                            The following morning I scouted the river while enjoying a cup of coffee, and it just didn't look as intimidating as the night before. What I think happened was that the river level dropped a bit overnight, and I became more comfortable with the thought of taking the boats through. Weighing the risks of running the river versus the challenge of lining rafts with only two able-bodied individuals, I opted to float the rapids. Portaging my 18' cataraft was never really an option, and it handled the canyon just fine.

                            The thing to keep in mind is Bushwhack Jack's advice:
                            Originally posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
                            A couple suggestions before floating. Get out, walk the canyon and scout it first. Pick out the best route and plan which way you will go beforehand. Also come up with a contingency plan if the primary plan goes awry.
                            There are no guarantees in life, but if you do that then you'll have the full range of options available as to floating, lining, or portaging the raft.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Lots of good advice here and I'll throw mine in. I just floated down four weeks ago. That was my 27th trip from pax to sd. Water was about as high as I had ever done on the upper river. My usual route in the canyon is stay left until you pass what I call seagull rock, about 1/2 way to the rock fence. Then river right thru the rock fence, tuck the oars, a few hard right backstroke, ferry towards center for hydraulic, hit hydraulic dead center and straight then ferry river left. Usually run a 14 foot boat. This last time I was in a 10 foot boat. With the high water we decided to line. Line abreast and line astern. That was a bad idea, doable but more dangerous than running the canyon. After falling off rocks and into the river twice I decided to run far left. This is usually not doable but on high water you can. It was much safer than lining. I really agree with bushwick Jack that lining is not a great option. It is probably safer/more doable on lower water.

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