The Top Alaskan Wilderness Sights Part 7
Drive to Mile 175 or 179.5 of the Richardson Highway and put in at Paxon Lake. Easy access makes this one of the most popular whitewater trips in Alaska. This is a multiday trip rated Class II (moderate) with one Class III (difficult) canyon. For a one-day family trip, put in at the Sourdough campground and gently float the 13 miles to Poplar Grove. Flowing from headwaters at the foot of the Alaska Range, this national wild and scenic river offers several levels of difficulty. Expect great fishing, especially for king salmon, from mid-June to mid-July. Know how to maneuver a canoe and you'll have a rewarding trip.
Hire a bush pilot in Anchorage or Talkeetna and fly to Chelatna Lake. Arrange for a pickup at the confluence of the Yentna River after two or more days of exciting whitewater. This two-day trip is rated Class II to Class III (moderate to difficult), depending on the section. Two sets of challenging rapids are set about midway through the journey. Lake Creek is a clearwater stream with plenty of good campsites along the way. There are miles of exciting rapids and outstanding views of Mount McKinley and other mountain giants of the Alaska Range. Fishing is excellent from mid-June through early August.
A beautiful glacial stream that flows through boreal forest in the heart of Alaska. There are several options for put-ins from Parks Highway just outside of Denali National Park. Go easy or make it tough, depending on which stretch you choose. There are three, each 8 to 10 miles long, that are ranked Class II to IV (moderate to very difficult). Expect big, powerful water, exploding waves, and giant holes... some friendly, some not-so-friendly. Take time on the mellow sections to admire some of Alaska's most spectacular scenery. Novices should hire a guide or go with a rafting-trip operator.
Experienced paddlers will find some of the state's best whitewater on this Alaska Peninsula powerhouse. Catch a commercial flight to the village of Iliamna, then an air taxi to the put-in at Upper Landing. This run is a good day trip but not for beginners, as it includes Class IV (very difficult) rapids with a Class V (experts) drop. You can portage around the drop on a mile-long trail. The Newhalen is a huge, muscular river with big rapids. The water is warm, clear as a gem, and filled with salmon. This is the best big-water surfing in Alaska.
This is whitewater at its finest through the starkly beautiful Brooks Range north of the Arctic Circle. Arrange a flight from Fairbanks and a pickup on the coast. Much of the river is Class III (difficult), with Class IV (very difficult) sections, depending on rain and snowmelt. The 70-mile float, combined with hiking, is a memorable two-week trip. A raft or inflatable kayak is best for maneuvering through boulder fields. You'll be too busy to admire the spectacular scenery while you're on the river, so leave extra time to absorb the beauty of this treeless landscape.