Chulitna - East Fork to Talkeetna


Chulitna, Alaska, US

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East Fork to Talkeetna

Usual Difficulty II (for normal flows)
Length 77 Miles
Avg. Gradient 18 fpm
Max Gradient 36 fpm

East Fork of the Chulitna


East Fork of the Chulitna
Photo of Lauren Cameron by Todd Kelsey



River Description

Flows

The Chulitna River has an inactive gauge only. However, it usually has fairly predictable flows from late May to early September. The East and Middle Forks are dependant upon snow melt and rainfall, while the West Fork is mostly glacial. Therefore, if it's been raining, the first day will have high water. If it's been sunny, the second and third days will have high water.

Put-In and Take-Out

There are several access options, depending on your time frame.

  • 1. Access at the Middle Fork Chulitna Bridge at milepost 194.5 on the George Parks Highway. The Middle Fork is a little more shallow and narrow then the standard put-in on the East Fork, but adds about 7 miles to the trip.
  • 2. Access at the East Fork Chulitna Bridge at milepost 185.1 on the George Parks Highway. This is the standard put-in for most trips.
  • 3. Access at the Chulitna River Bridge at milepost 132.8 on the George Parks Highway. To get to the river, drive down the private driveway just upstream of the bridge. It's a good idea to clear this with the land owner first, who is usually hovering around. Don't leave your car here. Instead, there is parking up near the bridge on the downstream side, up toward the Denali Princess Lodge. Don't blame me if your car gets thrashed.
  • 4. Access at the Talkeetna boat ramp. Just head into town, and ask a local where to find the boat ramp. Note that the braids don't always take you close to Talkeetna, so be prepared to continue down to the Susitna River Bridge at milepost 104.2 on the George Parks Highway, adding another 11 river miles.

Description

The Chulitna River offers a scenic three day or quick two day river trip within a Friday night's drive of both Anchorage and Fairbanks. Therfore, it tends to see a fair amount of traffic from rafters and canoers. It also has some excellent fishing in the upper sections, and some excellent moose hunting on the wilderness side. Expect to see some jet boat traffic as you get closer to Talkeetna. All of this being said, the Chulitna still offers an easy, cheap way to get out on the water, with plenty of solitude, and great beaches for camping.

The standard put-in is on the East Fork Chulitna (river mile 0), a small, swift, creek with a healthy grayling and dolly varden population. Kayakers will enjoy several good play spots, and rafts will be busy navigating the narrow channels and avoiding the rounded boulders. Trees often fall across the entire river channel in this section. The Middle Fork Chulitna is reached at river mile 4, which nearly doubles the volume. Fun splashy class II rapids continue until Honolulu Creek at river mile 8.5. During salmon season, expect to see some traffic in this area. The West Fork of the Chulitna confluence is reached at river mile 9, and the glacially fed waters double the volume again, and change the color to gray. Hurricane Gulch is reached at river mile 13. Downstream, the river sweeps around turns with large waves and holes along the outside bend. Everything is easily missed, but canoers at high water will have their hands full. A braided section begins at river mile 19, and lasts for 7 miles, where another canyon section is reached. This short, 4 mile long canyon has some beautiful rock formations, and some good camps toward the end, just before the braided section. The Fountain River confluence is reached at river mile 37.5, and the Tokositna River at 49.5. In clear weather, incredible views of the Moose's Tooth and the other granite walls of the Alaska Range can be seen from the river. Troublesome Creek flows in from the left side at river mile 53, and lets you know that you're almost done with the braids, which end at river mile 56. The Chulitna River Bridge is reached at river mile 57.5. Below the bridge, the river remains in a single channel for 10 miles. Talkeetna is reached at river mile 77. Talkeetna means "Three Rivers", and is the point of confluence for the Talkeetna, Susitna, and Chulitna River.


StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2005-05-26 16:51:13

Editors


Rapid Descriptions

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