Season: May to September. Expect peak flows in late June with a second peak in mid September.
With easy access off the George Park Highway (Hwy. 3) along the eastern boundary of Denali National Park, and located on the main highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks, the Nenana River is perhaps Alaska's most popular whitewater trip. The headwaters orginate from the Nenana and Yanert glaciers to the east, and then the river turns north where it joins the Tanana which is a major tributary of the Yukon. Several outfitters offer commercial trips on this stretch which is the most convenient river trip for visitors to the Park; they offer options from a couple hours to a couple days .
The character of this river is bigwater with numerous playboating opportunities. The river has also been the site of an annual gathering of Alaska paddlers in July that includes wildwater and slalom races
Trips on the Nenana can be extended by starting your run further upstream.
Multi-day float trips beginning further upstream or continuing on downstream are possible, but the sections above include the majority of the best whitewater.
From Anchorage, drive approximately 250 miles north on the George Park Highway (Hwy. 3) towards the entrance of Denali National Park. If you're coming from Fairbanks it's just over 100 miles to the southwest. Access is available at Twin Rocks along a pull-out just before the river plunges into the canyon section. This pullout is along the George Park Highway and located north (downstream) of the entrance road to Denali National Park. The take-out is off the highway down a short road to the east which meets the river downstream of the point where it emerges from the canyon.
The Nenana is an unusual river, in that it bisects a huge mountain range, the Alaska Range. Typically, streams flow out from such a range in one direction or another; they don't flow across such a range. The explanation for this behavior of the Nenana (and the Delta, to the East--both of these flow North to a confluence with the Tanana) may be that huge glacier flow and recession cut a valley into the range. See this article in Far North Science.com.
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.
The river can be run higher or lower but this is the normal range. Expect class-IV at flows above 10,000 cfs and class III+ at the lower limit of flows.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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