Put-In and Take-Out
One nice thing about this stretch of river is the several different access points and trip options.
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.
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.
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.
Views from the Mat
Mat River Geology
The Upper Mat
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