There are three options for the put-in.
Take out at the Chickaloon Bridge on the Glenn Highway at mile 77.7 east of Anchorage. Alternately, continue down to several choices of take-outs on the Matanuska River.
The Chickaloon is a superb 2 day trip, with moderate and continuous whitewater and excellent scenery. The hiking in the upper stretches up side canyons is worth taking an extra day at the put-in. At 30-Mile airstrip there is an active hunting camp for spring bear and caribou. From the Airstrip, expect 10 miles of braided river. Note that if flying in the helicopter, you can drop in at the bottom of the braids, and start the whitewater straight off. The action starts with a blind right turn into a rock garden. The rapids are more or less continuous class II-III from here until the take-out. There are several play spots for kayakers due to the rounded granite boulders that make up the river bed. Rafters will be kept very busy. There are three rapids to note. The first is Hotel Rocks, about 2 miles past the beginning of the whitewater, identified by the huge landslide above it on river left. Scout from the right side all the way down - the meat of the drop cannot be seen from the initial stance, and there are several sieves that tend to collect wood. The second notable section is the Narrows, where the river pinches between large walls and two large boulders guard the exit. Note that the slot between the exit boulders collects wood. There is usually a clean exit from the Narrows to the left. The third drop of note is large river wide pourover two miles from the take-out. Scout from the right, or find the tongue on the left.
The Chickaloon River valley is a u-shaped valley carved by the receding Chickaloon Glacier, which is about 12 miles up river from the 30-Mile Airstrip. Towering mountains with blocky cliffs hem the valley in, with waterfalls coursing the walls. Several hunting and trapping cabins are located in the valley, in various states of decay. Bear and moose will be seen throughout the valley. The camping is very good on gravel bars, but be careful of the diurnal tides of glacial rivers - make sure to tie your boat up tight. There is an unused trail on river right to the Glenn Highway, but expect rough traveling.
Chickaloon river review:
4 ¾ stars
The Chickaloon river is a fast pace, 18 mile river that has very few stops or breaks in action. The Chicaloon is perfect for class III-IIII boaters. It is also good for practicing boofs over ledge holes. The only thing that makes the chicaloon and 4 ¾ star river is the fact that it is a helicopter fly in. Other than that the Chickaloon has strong and swift water that do not stop for almost 18 miles straight.
Once your done with the logistical problems of getting the helicopter, landing and getting you’re boats ready to go you will be able to start the fun part. The valley is so pretty and lush, it feels like you are in a jungle with small, creek waterfalls but you can't focus on the beauty to much, you have to get ready to paddle this glacial river. The chickaloon has light gray water and is surrounded by wildlife and lush, green trees. Once getting in the river you will be surrounded by the cold waters and lush forests of the Chickaloon. Following the first 2 miles of hectic water the most dangerous rapid is coming up and it is called hotel rocks. Hotel rocks is class IIII and has multiple rocks the size of hotels that also have undercuts the sizes of hotels. You can portage this rapid by catching an eddy 100 yards upstream of the first rock on the river right. I’d you decide to walk the rapid you can find the trail just above the first large rock. The trail was most likely made by a bear because only about 15 humans come to this area a year and most of the time them can run the rapid because they are normally in rafts which have more control of the river. The portage is tough and can take about 15-20 minutes of hiking, there will also be a part that you have to grapple your boats down a steep with a throw rope or webbing. After the long hike you will come up to a rock beach that is just before the last rock, this rock can be easily avoided. The river will be fast paced and free for the next 5 miles. Once you see a canyon it is best you turn on whitewater mode and run the canyon to the left side. The left side will get you through the canyon safely and easily. The river will give you the next 10 miles of fun and free water. Once the Chickaloon dumps into the Matanuska you will get a mile of Matanuskan big water. After a rapid on the far right the take out will be on the river right behind the large rock.
High Water Run 6/29 to 7/3/2019 Notes: Fly-in to 30 mile strip required solid Class IV+ wilderness boating skills for this high water 3,000 to 6,000 cfs run. Guidebook write-ups & pics are for LOW flow conditions, not high water conditions. Several short high gradient (150 ft/mile +) sections on corners in single channel section (start of which is discernible from the large cliff band visible on the left )after the upper braided section ends are also impacted by debris flows and are blind and pushy-impossible to scout at high flows. Hotel Rocks rapid has dire consequences at high flow with undercuts, sieves, and wood (moving) and the ability to maintain chosen lines is SEVERLY impacted by surging boils created in constricted flowpaths. This creates disproportionate increase in risk relative to the increased difficulty. A full day was needed by 3 people to portage two 14’ oar rigs and a kayak around Hotel Rocks on trail river right. Shorter 8-Mile canyon rapid required time consuming scout to check for wood but required no portage - but would be more difficult to portage if required due to wood. No eddies at this high flow level for most of the run due to high gradient and bank full flow. Be prepared to mentally deal with moving wood and blind corners - expect difficulty in maintaining close contact between multiple water craft. Suggest camping above start of single channel section and using lower morning flows (if summer melt peak) to negotiate described difficulties in a single push with well rigged / outfitted (Dry Suits, zdrag kits) armada. High flow not recommended for Pack Rafts.
The Chickaloon has a brief snowmelt high between breakup and mid-June, followed by a glacial high in late July. Fall rains can also bring the water up. For rafts, 500 cfs at the confluence with the Matanuska River is the minimum. If the Little Su and the Lions Head stretch of the Matanuska River are flowing, the Chickaloon will also be. Chuck Spaulding with Nova River Runners (800-746-5753) is a good source to call for flow information.
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Hotel Rock from the Air
The Chickaloon Narrows
Sam Exits Hotel Rock
Typical Chickaloon River View
Hotel Rock Aerial Image
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