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Difficulty II+
Length 54 Miles
Flow Range 5.00 - 12.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 28 minutes ago 9.77 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/09/2005 12:30 pm

River Description

Put-In and Take-Out

One nice thing about this stretch of river is the several different access points and trip options.

  • 1. Float Lions Head and continue down from the Glacier Park Bridge (river mile 0, for simplicity).
  • 2. Access at the Glacier Park Bridge (river mile 0). This is found by turning left off the Glenn Highway at milepost 102, and heading down the steep switchback to the river. Park at the dirt lot near the truck-width swath to the river. Relax on the fine furniture left for you as you rig.
  • 3. Access at Hicks Creek (river mile 5). This is found by turning off the Glenn Highway at Milepost 96.6 and following the signs to Nova River Runners. They are really good about you leaving a car on the gravel bar, so stop and say hello, and let them know how long you're going to be out. Note that they can and will close and lock the gate, but if they do, give them a call from the Hicks Creek store, and they'll let you in or out.
  • 4. Access at the confluence of the Chickaloon River(river mile 25). This is done by turning off the highway at the Chickaloon River Bridge (milepost 77.7) and following a steep access to the Chickaloon River, which you then float for 50 yards to the Matanuska.
  • 5. Access at the King Mountain State Recreation Area (river mile 27). Note that the State Park does not allow overnight parking near the beach closest to the river, but if you talk to them, you can usually find a good solution. There is an optional access about .25 miles upstream just downriver from the cable bridge that does allow overnight parking. However, your vehicle is fairly exposed, which in this area can mean something.
  • 6. Access at the King River confluence (river mile 37, milepost 66.6 (rock on)). The access is steep and muddy, and is just upstream from the confluence.
  • 7. Access at the Old Glenn Highway Bridge (river mile 54). This is found by turning off the Glenn Highway in Palmer onto the Old Glenn Highway.
  • 8. Access at the Glenn Highway Bridge (river mile 66, milepost 31.6). Check this one out before you commit to it, construction is changing things.


The Matanuska along with the Kenai River and the Chulitna River offer the Anchorage area rafter the best option for mellow floats with road access within 2 hours. Kayakers will find a bit of play along the stretch. The Mat has several options for trips from 2 hours to 3 days, and never lacks for scenery. The river flows in the divide between the Chugach Mountains to the south and the Talkeetna Mountains to the North, although the valley is very narrow at times, and the division between the two ranges seems more like a trick of the geographer. Good bedrock exposures are seen in the upper sections, and in a few places outcrop in the river bed, leading to mild rapids. The water is swift, gray and cold.

The section between Glacier Park and Hicks Creek is mostly single channel, with some mild class II-II+ rapids. Expect the 5 miles to take about an hour or so. The views of the glacier upstream are spectacular. Kayakers will find some decent play in this area at medium and high flows. There are some good beaches for camping just below the gravel pit on the left, about 10 minutes above Hicks Creek. The entire section is no more than a mile or two from the Glenn Highway, but never feels roadside.

The section between Hicks Creek and Chickaloon starts in a narrow braided section, then soon spreads to fill the shallow valley. The Glenn Highway heads up and away, and with the canyon walls separating you from the road, it isn't hard to feel like you're really in Alaska. Three miles from Hicks Creek, Gravel Creek enters on the left, and offers a fine (and for the Chugach, rare) hiking experience up the river valley on an old mining road. There is a good camp just downstream of the confluence. The braids continue until 2 miles above Chickaloon, offering beach after beach to make camp on. Above Chickaloon, the river again flows into a single channel.

The section from Chickaloon to the Kings River is mostly single channel, and features some good sized waves and holes for play, particularly at milepost 76, where Carbon Creek flows into the Mat from the left. Here, a bedrock shelf at the confluence creates a long, right leaning breaking wave. This can be seen and accessed from the Glenn Highway.

From Kings River to Palmer, the river braids out again, and follows the Glenn Highway closely. Only near Moose Creek does the river finally turn away from the road and head south as it heads toward the confluence with the Knik River and eventually the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet.

Rapid Descriptions


Gage Descriptions

The Matanuska River is gauged at the Glenn Highway Bridge in Palmer. The main channel is usually ice free sometime in mid-May. Normally, it then runs low through about mid-June, and then begins to rise with the warmer weather and longer days. It usually peaks in late-July with glacial flows. It then drops into late-September to mid-October until the ice forms up.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports




Todd Kelsey


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1189828 05/09/05 Todd Kelsey n/a