Chitina Area (Chitina, Copper, etc.)

Going to spend a few days based around Chitina, planning on multi-sport hiking/biking/packrafting, haven’t been around there before, looking for info. Answers to any or all of the following would be appreciated:

-Is there possibility of a long one-day trip done by biking up McCarthy road from Chitina and accessing the Chitina by trail or tributary and floating back, ie I imagine having to be well short of the Nizina or Jake’s bar. Say approximately 8 - 16 hours of float time.

-Same question, Copper river, biking from Chitina back upstream to a point that would give about 8 - 16 hours of float time.

-My map shows trails around the Kotsina, Kuskulana, and Strelna rivers/creeks, among others, in that area. Are any of those good for a mountain bike up / float down? Or even a hike up / raft down?

-Any other ideas? As indicated, I don’t really want to do an epic float so I have time to do other things, but with the long days and having some experience with endurance adventures, something that otherwise would be a two day trip or so that I could cram into 16-24 hours of activity would be fine. Bushwhacking and routefinding not necessary a problem, although that probably means the bike is going to get left behind and require car pick-up later. Rafting level, prefer II with bike on, III ok if there are occasional places to catch up to raft after any incidents since I’ll be solo.

-Any info on other activities ie hiking/biking opportunities also appreciated, with bonus point for avoidance of ATVs and “crowds”. How rough is the road to McCarthy?

Thanks in advance.

Ok, since you all ignored me :smiley: I went out and answered all my questions in a scouting / biking / rafting mission. Here is everything I know / ran / saw / found out about water around Chitina. Strong disclaimer in that my reporting is based on fairly moderate water levels that I observed (Copper at 14ft for comparison):

Kuskulana - Ran from bridge to Chitina (continuing on Chitina). Embick reported as III-, I concur. At moderate water level run, not overly technical but required non-stop attention due to speed, turbulence, eddy lines, and not being able to see rocks / shallow spots ready to throw off your balance. Closer to ‘civilization’ with possible outs I might even call it a II. Would not want to see this at high water with many spots of water trying to push the canyon walls out of the way instead of turning gently. for a short video. Makes an excellent bike / raft trip from Chitina. I left my bike at the bridge for fear of the unknown, but at these levels an attached bike and/or open packraft would be fine as the “playspots” are aviodable. I’ll provide additional info to any one interested as I thought this made for an awesome remote mini-trip.

Kuskulana, upper reaches - Scouted from Nugget trail. Embick reported as V-, I observed IV from first possible put-in. Might make a good run at low-water, probably sans bike. Hazards would be the unknown in the canyon, swift current, and no possible exit until bridge. FYI Nugget trail makes for excellent biking.

Strelna - Too small to run

O’Brien - Observed as unrunnable (well, at least you wouldn’t be doing it more than once)

Kotsina - Embick reported as unrunnable except for a short 12 mile section at the upper reaches before canyon. Access for this would probably be more work than its worth.

Chitina - Ran from Kuskulana to Copper confluence as part of Kuskulana run. Commonly reported as II. At ideal conditions I concur. Hazards include have-to-see-to believe eddy lines, strong current (was doing up to 10mph in a packraft), turbulence, the 2% of the 2-3 foot wave trains that weren’t nice and gentle, and the very real possibility of notoriously (per locals and observed) hideous winds near the Copper confluence. I experienced a short taste of all of the above at once which turned this quickly away from a sit back and relax picture taking time to a few moments of using all my wits and muscles (what there are) to keep the raft upright. I would be especially cognizant of wind conditions on this section, perhaps timing things to hit it early in the day when hopefully the winds haven’t kicked up too bad yet. Fortunately the winds would normally push you towards the road side, not that that bushwhack would be easy but doable in emergency.

Copper from Chitina confluence to Urantina - Observed by biking abandoned railbed alongside. Jettmar reported as II, I concur. Hazards would include probable headwinds, powerboats, and limited egress and stopping points. FYI the railbed makes for excellent biking.

Klutina - Embick reported as III, I concur. Run by commercial trips. This looks like some powerful fun, lighting quick non-stop action, at least on the lower sections observed. Hazards include quick current ie flip out of packraft might not see it again, powerboats, and gauntlet of fishing at bridge. Access might be an issue, native lands (I’m not sure where commercial guides put in and whether they have/need permit). Imagine ok if start at lake. I don’t think I’d personally try with a bike attached.

Tonsina from Richardson to Copper - Embick reported as III+, I observed II at put in and confluence with Copper, I think at moderate water levels this will be my next run when in area. Hazards include quick current and observed sweepers. Looked like would combine wilderness with not an impossible bushwhack out if necessary. I think with the reported and observed sweepers, I would probably leave the bike behind for easy exit and carry.

Copper from Klutina to Chitina - Jettmar reported as II, I concur. Looks like a good float, either with or without including the Klutina or Tonsina. Hazards would include channel picking (not sure if that’s an actual hazard in a 5 lb raft) and gauntlet of salmon wheels, dipnets, and a very large percentage of “sportsmen” who are seemingly unable to move 10 feet without an ATV at the confluence with Chitina.

OK if anybody has anything to add feel free, I’ll edit if I remember anything more. FYI Neal at the Chitina WSE NP ranger station, although not a rafter, has a wealth of knowledge and had a compilation of Embick’s original notes on the area (oh for a handheld copier). I did not get further in to add any thoughts on the popular Kennicott, Nizina, etc. runs.

Wow, what a great looking river to float. Nothing like the rock-gardens I’ve paddled in NZ.

Not many resting areas though.

Liked the video taken from your head - what system do you use to hold the camera there?

Andrew Allan

On that video I’m using a simple GoPro, so far like it other than its easy to hit the wrong button and change the mode on it without knowing, and the lens likes to hold water drops (ie my sixmile footage). Lens is forgiving if one’s camera aim is off. Seems to take good quality footage for the price. Shots from the Chitina taken by holding regular digital camera in my hand until things got too interesting to do that anymore (gopro out of memory by that point due to the wrong button being pressed on the Kuskulana).

We could use a few more drop/pool type of rivers up here with resting areas. Send some up, along with a case of Tui. You can keep the sand fleas.

Trip report for Copper River from Chitina, AK to Cordova AK, July 18-28, 2015

Two of us set out for a 9 day float on the Copper from Chitina to Cordova–we actually took out at Flag Point (aka 27 mile bridge on Alaska highway 10 West from Cordova)

While this would be a very easy trip to do in regular rafts, packrafting enabled us to do the trip via hitch hike, eliminating tricky shuttle complications.

The water level for the Copper was running at approximately 200,000 cfs, so the river was high.

The NPS has a good PDF document which details much of the information you would need for this particular float.

There is a good trip report here as well:

and the most useful one, I can’t find again on the internet.

Our packrafts dealt with the hydraulics just fine.

Taking many days was a nice way to make it very relaxed, we probably floated for a grand total of about 30 hours.

The miles glacier is currently calving big icebergs, it was gorgeous. Highly recommend hiking it.

The class III rating for Abercrombie is pretty accurate, probably, but you can totally skip everything if you float center right and pull right. If you scout it river right, be ware of grizzly bears, it’s chock full of them.

Finding clear water to drink can be a touch difficult

In July, it seems like upriver winds kick up pretty much every afternoon, and Brenner flats and Miles lakes could be obnoxious.

The 37 mile bridge is out on the Cordova road, making access to Million Dollar bridge a very expensive airboat ride. You can’t shuttle to there; the best take out is flag point.

Great packrafting-hitchhiking trip.

Awesome views, big river, calving glacier. Hard to do side hikes as alders choke off nearly every path. It would be possible to float from Chitina to Haley Creek and hike back up the abandoned roadway, but impossible past Haley Creek. Tough to recommend hiking up any other drainages, as the alderschwacking would render everything very difficult until the tundra starts, at about 3000’.

Enjoy one of America’s 20 biggest rivers by debit!