Paddling Salmon Fork is a committing endeavor with several hazardous or funky sections on a few of the portages that will encourage your creativity. This trip had been done by a few parties before us, none with stellar reports. We hit it at what seemed like average mid-water level.
Our group of 3 hiked into the Salmon fork via Granite basin and Olds. We encountered 6 significant portages after blowing up the boats about a mile down the valley floor. Never had more than a mile of water before the next carry. Classic full value SE bushwhacking but with boats. The thick thorny carries trashed 1 drysuit and put pinholes in 2 of our boats. In order- the first four portages were pretty unrunnable looking waterfalls, one section of maybe class IV but we were too far behind schedule to scout/paddle, lastly a maybe class V falls at the head of the bottom section. All of these are easy to pick out if you have access to high resolution satellite imagery.
The flight with Ward air was very reasonable, ~$350 for a 206 plus a healthy tip- do not expect them to wait around for you but we lucked out despite being late to the pickup.
Really enjoyed the rock garden/ledgy-ness, a very different feel than the bulk of Juneau waters and very fun where it went. There's a good taste of that fun stuff in the bottom section; hiking into the base of the lowest falls from the salt to put in is a great class II-III run.
This trip took 15hrs of continuous moving. The only prolonged break we took was to blow up the boats. I would not consider this with any kind of high water as some of the horizon lines come up fast. I would not do this paddle without a dialed crew with practiced rescue skills. I would also recommend removing any time pressure if possible. There are enough difficult or hazardous sections that being able to take your time through them will greatly increase safety and "fun". Overall there is some great paddling and amazing views but the bushwhacks are legit and the consensus is that it doesn't quite weigh out.
South and east of Cordova, including Yakutat, Glacier Bay, Juneau and on down the Panhandle
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