Season: May to September. Expect peak flows in late June with a second peak in mid September.
Compared to sections downstream, this section is relatively mild but still contains some decent whitewater and great scenery. The one significant rapid to be aware of in this stretch is Panorama Rapid (class III). Those looking to plan a multiday trip with the relatively easy logistics that this river provides can start their run several miles upstream of the section described here.
Runs that begin on this section can also be continued on downstream with the whitewater building in intensity to a climax at Nenana Canyon.
From Anchorage drive approximately 210 miles north on the George Park Highway (Hwy. 3) to Cantwell, a town located 30 miles south of the entrance to Denali National Park (it's 150 miles southwest of Fairbanks). From here you have a couple choices. If you want to do the long trip, turn east on Denali Highway (Hwy. 8) and find an access convenient to the road (one near Wells Creek is an option) to start your trip. If you're looking for more adventure, you could continue even further upstream; Embick reports in his book that Roman Dial, Hank Timm, and Dave Manzer hiked to a put-in 4 miles below the base of the Nenana glacier so it's been done. For the day trip, continue north on George Park Highway bypassing the turn-off for Denali Highway. Common access points are available at Slime Creek (for a 12 mile trip) and Carlo Creek (for an 8 mile trip).
The USGS is apparently no longer maintaining the Nenana at Healy gage. This gage can now be accessed at the NOAA website. A reasonable range for this reach is 3000-15,000 cfs.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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