The put-in for the Little Su is across the road from the Motherlode Lodge at the Gold Mint trailhead parking. To reach the trailhead, turn off the Glenn Highway north of Palmer at milepost 49.5 onto the Palmer - Fishhook Road. Follow the Palmer Fishhook Road to Hatcher Pass Road, and head north toward the Pass.
Because most of the run is roadside, take out where you stop feeling comfortable. Most people either take out 6.4 miles downstream of the Motherlode at the Willow-Fishhook Road Bridge, or at a few drops below.
The Little Su is a beauty - at most water levels, azure water and white granite boulders make for a spectacular scene. Add the crags of the Talkeetna Mountains looming above, and you've got a setting to rival any whitewater stream in the world. And the river doesn't disappoint either - a nice class III warmup section leads into progressively harder drops, all of them fun and technical. At low to medium flows, most drops can be easily boat scouted, so eddy hop your way down. High flows are much more continuous, so be ready to run-n-gun. Not a stretch to spend much time upside down in, the Little Su will reward the technical advanced paddler.
From the put-in, there is around 3 miles of class III to IV- boulder gardens and gradient drops, warming you up for what comes below. One anomalous drop in this section occurs 2/3 of the way through at a horizon line / slight constriction between overhanging brush from the sides, and seems to be about 1/2 grade more difficult than the rest of the drops. Line up and run the meat on the left side (the Snake Pit) or grovel down the sneak on the left side (the Worm Pit).
The rapids increase in difficulty, and seem to kick off in force as the river again comes right up against the road. This makes a convenient put-in for anyone short on time who wants to run only the meat, or a take-out for those in over their heads. The gradient increases, and the lines become more and more convoluted. The drops in this section are more-or-less pool drop at low to medium flows, so recovery time is possible. Notable drops include Death Ferry, where an improbable right to left ferry above a gauntlet of guard rocks yields a much cleaner line than it looks like it should, and the Bridge "Falls" right above the Willow-Fishhook Bridge.
If it hasn't become apparent yet, this river varies greatly from low to high flows. Low water means tortuous paths through granite gardens on crystal water, and is suited for the advanced boater with good technical skills and a sincere desire to not be upside down. High water is muddy, pushy and continuous with little chance of rescue. The lines are much more wide-open, but the river velocity increases enough that self-rescue is really your only bet.
So you sure would love to run the Little Su, but you're not sure your ready. What to do? Well, head on over to the next drainage east, Moose Creek and get settled in there. When that gets boring, master the Guardrail stretch of Willow Creek. When that gets comfy, start looking to the Little Su.
So you're bored with the Little Su, are you. Well then, the Talkeetnas have plenty more to offer, check out Archangel Creek, Reeds Creek, Kings River, and the Upper Willow. Like the difficulty of the Little Su, but looking for a little more adventure? Hike into Granite Creek, or head up the Gold Mint trail and run the Upper Little Su. That should keep you busy, and we haven't even touched on the fly-ins.
The management plan provides management intent for six rivers including the Little Susitna River, Deshka River, Talkeetna River, Lake Creek, Talachulitna River, Alexander Creek.
Gauged at the Willow/Fishhook Road Bridge.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Little Su @ 1500cfs
Little Susitna Elevation Profile
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