Blue River Lava Fields

Ingrid Corson and I recently did a trip in Southeast Alaska that could only be done in packrafts. Not that I would recommend it to anybody, though.

We flew into Blue Lake by air taxi out of Ketchikan. Blue Lake sits close to the Canada border and is the source of the Blue River. The plan was to float the Blue River into the Unuk River and take the Unuk River to Boroughs Bay and then paddle to some hotsprings at Bailey Bay.
The Blue River starts out nicely enough, winding gradually through gigantic Douglas fir trees. Soon, though, the river starts doing weird things as it begins to flow into the Blue River Lava Field. The river pools behind dams of lava and then flows off in ten different directions into thickets of alder. Or it disappears entirely into underground lava tubes. Or it pours spectacularly off 15’ drops onto sharp lava. To make headway requires a combination of techniques, including portaging through the alders, staggering through the razor-sharp lava fields, and running some hair-raising drops.
We managed to get through the lava swamp, covering the 5-mile distance from Blue Lake to the Unuk River in two days, only to find that we could not get into the Unuk because it runs through a canyon where it converges with the Blue River, and getting into the Unuk requires a 20’ vertical drop that we were not psyched for. Once that problem was solved we had several days of dodging sweepers on the Unuk to get to Boroughs Bay.
We paddled for a day down Boroughs Bay, but decided that trying to make headway in the ocean was about as easy as running the Blue River. We never did make it to the hot springs.