Chena-to-Circle Hot Springs (Birch Creek)

This post is a bit last minute, but I’m set to do the Hot Springs 100 at a rather leisurely pace starting tomorrow (was going to start today, but I figured the rain would boost the water for Birch a bit, given the May-long dry spell). My truck will be left at Circle HS and my “logistics liaison” will drive me to the start in Chena.

The route: 20 miles over the domes to Birch, put-in just below Crooked Ck, float to & take-out at Harrison Ck (50 river miles?), then 15 miles up Harrison/Bottom Dollar & mining trails to Circle HS.

I’m scheduling 3 days, but I this could easily be done in two…and it’s possible in under 24 hours.

If any wilderness-savvy packrafters in the Fairbanks area have time to join in on this stellar trip (right now it’s just me and the Four-Pawed Bandolero) feel free to send me a text indicating such. My schedule is very flexible, so if someone could start Friday but not tomorrow, I am willing to consider it.

Keep on having fun…


As expected, Birch Creek has very low water right now, but is suitable for packrafts. Canoeists or larger craft trying for a more traditional trip might find themselves lining in several places.

The only rapids to consider on Birch are situated in a section from just above Clums Fork to Wolf Creek. All of them are isolated rapids with very low consequence if you somehow manage to swim. The final rapid is the biggest: solid class III that is incredibly easy to anticipate, scout, and portage if need be. If I were to go back, I would go with canoes, camp at this rapid, and do laps in a packraft. This section of the creek is the most interesting due to the exposed slate, and breaks up the monotony of an otherwise typical Interior waterway.

Despite the low water, I was able to put in on Crooked Creek, a few miles above the North Fork of Birch, after a 23-mile approach from Chena Hot Springs along those fantastic ridges. The dog and I paddled 52 miles in 16 hours, which allowed us to complete the “Hot Springs 100” at a non-race pace in just under 58 hours, taking out at Harrison Creek, 'shwacking a few miles up to Bottom Dollar Creek, then following the mining road out to Circle Hot Springs. Too bad that place is closed down, as it would’ve been nice to soak at both the front and back end of this trip.