Tsaina River Lodge area off the Richardson highway, 34.5 miles north of Valdez. There are numerous pull-offs abound.
Alyeska Pipeline access bridge 5.9 miles north of the Tsaina River lodge. A small gravel road leads from the Richardson to the bridge.
The Upper Canyon section of the Tsaina is the go-to class V run for Valdez area whitewater. Fed by the Worthington and Tsaina glaciers in the mountains above, there exist primarily four major pool-drop style rapids set in a beautiful yet isloated canyon with relatively easy access to the put-in and take-out. The run is stunning and flows north, cutting a deep gorge sometimes in upwards of 200 vertical feet through sharp graywacke. A special place reserved for those with the skill to experience it.
Putting in near the plush Tsaina lodge off the Ricardson highway, the run starts off with a bang entering the first of numerous walled-in canyons with a set of class III-IV ledge drops where the river makes an abrupt right turn. Scouting is possible from the put-in by hiking down from the road on river right.
Boogey water is abudant as the river winds it's way through low canyon walls and wooded gravel banks with waterfalls cascading in from either side. An old bridge foundation marks the best possible take-out on river right before entering the next sequence of difficult rapids and steeper canyon walls. The gravel road that leads up from the river is 1.7 miles North from the Tsaina river lodge.
"Slot" and "Devil's Elbow" lay next where the river passes through a constricton through the steep gorge and can be scouted high above from the the Richardson Highway bridge. Note the riverside wall on river left amongst these rapids is undercut.
Downstream is "Jacob's Ladder," the highlight and hardest rapid of the run. Jakes can be scouted and/or portaged with some creativity on river right. It can also be scouted from above the canyon walls on river left by accessing a viewpoint via a climber's trail off the Richardson highway .3 miles below the bridge.
Below Jakes exists a plethora of fun straight forward drops before coming to the last major rapid, "Double Clutch," marked by a large boulder in the center of the river.
Take-out on river left on th Alyeska Pipeline access bridge.
Further information can be found in Andrew Embick's excellent yet difficult to find guidebook, "Fast & Cold: A Guide to Alaska Whitewater."
Classic Footage of the run:
Oregonkayaking.net trip report from mid-summer high water event can be found at the link below:
Breakup is mid-May and freeze-up usually occurs in October.
Flows are usually lower for a month in the shoulder season where the river runs clear,(May-June and September-October) ranging from 500-1500 cfs.
Summer flows range from 2000 - 6000 cfs where the river is filled with grey glacial silt and are dicated primarily from the Tsaina and Worthington glaciers that feed the run.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Upper Tsaina Canyon
Fall on the Tsaina
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