So got out for our first real packrafting trip this summer over Memorial Day Weekend cause the little su float doesn’t really count.
Anyways, I spend a good deal of time looking around on google earth for my next place to explore and figured I’d look into this float trip. The trip basically goes like this. Park on the pullout on the parks highway at mile 127, hike roughly 5-6 miles into the north side of Swan Lake where the outlet to the Tokositna is, air up the rafts, paddle our way down the Swan Lake outlet to the Tokositna. Camp once we reached the Tokositna, float the next day roughly 8 miles and camp again just prior to the Chulitna confluence and get up the next day and float to where the Parks Highway crosses the Chulitna river.
This is where I stashed a bike and biked the 6 miles back to the truck. However it can be done to only have a 1/2 mile bushwhack if you take out about 5 miles downstream of the bridge and hike to your truck. Given that its usually easier to bike 6 miles along a highway rather than bushwack with packs/paddles/packrafts I opted for the biking.
I did a lot of searching on here and other places, but info was very limited, but everything I could find said the Tokositna was relatively tame and it was with really only a couple sections that could be class II at higher water levels towards the mouth of the river. The Chulitna is a big river for our little boats but they did just fine. This trip can be done easily in an overnight trip as we started the hike to the outlet of swan lake from the highway at 1:30 pm and once you reach the Tokositna its only 6 hrs of floating to the Parks Highway bridge.
It was a squishy soggy hike and we knew it was going to be so we just wore our water shoes and planned on getting our feet wet. However the only time we even got close to knee deep water was crossing Trapper Creek. Also no real bushwhacking to speak off between the highway and Swan Lake outlet except for about 1/4 mile right near the lake. We were also testing out our new backpacks and trying to get in shape for the upcoming fall backpacking hunts we have planned so we loaded heavy to put these packs to the test 65 lbs for me and 50 lbs for my wife and the packs handled it like a champ, hands down WAY better than our Arcteryx Boras which we thought were pretty comfortable to begin with.
Anyways once at the lake we aired up the rafts loaded the packs and began to float down the lake outlet which would better be described as a long skinny extension of the lake rather than a creek or stream as the current was far less than 1 mph, but plenty deep (3-4 feet most of the way). It is about 3 miles to from the lake to the Tokositna I believe and it took nearly two hours of paddleing to get there. We setup camp had dinner made a fire and watched the sunset. The next morning we woke up late got floating again by 11 am and floated about 8 miles and decided that since the weather was still so nice we’d stay an extra day as we brought extra food and really enjoy the afternoon evening on a large sandy beach about 3/4 mile above the mouth of the Tokositna. The next morning it was less than a 2 hour float to go the remaining 10 miles or so to the Parks Highway bridge on the Chulitna as the current is much faster.
Anyways a long write up on a fun little trip I figured I’d share for those that might be interested in doing this trip possibly. Especially nice since its rare you can got on a 30 mile trip and end up back at the vehicle you left from.
Here are some pics:
Mrs. Alaska_Lanche hiking in
Packs loaded and ready to go on Swan Lake
Paddling down Swan Lake Creek
Sunset the first night over the Tokositna
Floating down the Tokositna the next day
Views of the Mountain from the Tokositna
A little splashy fun, can’t really tell in this pic as the bigger waves are ahead and had to put the camera away for it so I could paddle but the rock gardens closer to the mouth are splashy enough to confirm the fact that I need a spray skirt for my raft like my wife has
Our camp the 2nd night on the white sandy beach
Floating down the Chulitna the last day