"Copper and Gold" -- White River to Cordova

Have wanted to combine Chitistone with Kenecott/Nizina/Chitina/Copper for some time now. Just back yesterday.

Surprisingly a very good trip in May, with low water but high winds, still plenty of light and sun to make it enjoyable and snow on the mountains to make it pretty. Also no bugs.

We flew in to Solo Creek on the White River, hiked past the Russle Glacier, walked the frozen lake at Skolai Pass, postholed over Chitistone Pass, scrambled through the Goat Trail, walked to Glacier Creek where we got in our boats, paddled to Nizina Road, walked into McCarthy and played softball with the locals. Neat rules there: swing till you hit!

Low water Kenecott is like PR4 = Class III-, Nizina Canyon at low water is PR3 biggish water but fun and easy and safe. Chitina is beautiful and fast and no problem at May water level, likely one of the best river trips I have done in AK. Getting close to town of Chitina the winds spill upstream from the Copper and it’s an interesting ferry over the Copper in the big winds of afternoon.

We were worried about Wood Canyon, but it was just scenic and narrow with no big water at all. Again this is low water of May at 5 AM when there is no wind. Big water + big wind = uh-oh don’t go. Downstream of Wood Canyon super scenic in early morning light with mountains rising like 5000 feet off the river.

By Teikel River afternoon winds had us camping again and putting in at 11 PM. Paddled past the Tasnuna and Peninsula in full moon midnight. Again this is all super friendly packraft water in May. I did much of this in July in 1995 with mountain bikes on our boats and it was also fine, but May is more fine.

There was lake ice at Miles Lake and we had to do the packraft scooch to get through. Abercrombie Rapids were a disappointment at the low water of May we encountered…but immediately downstream of Childs Glacier were two sets of PR3-4 big waves and a few holes. Followed a wolverine for about 5 minutes in the upper delta. Deep snow along the water’s edge on the delta with green leaved cottonwoods poking above – weird.

Anyway, contrary to what you may have heard the McCarthy to Cordova river run is a definite go in a packraft in May, like a seriously great river trip, one of the best in the state. Higher water would be more exciting, but this is a world class trip and the delights of May sunshine on snowy peaks and glaciers, long days, and no bugs make it something to put on your list for next year.

Video of White River to McCarthy:

The boating part, from McCarthy down. Check out all the snow from the Bremner down to the Flag Point Bridge and the “packraft scooch” on Miles Lake’s late ice.

hey roman and/or other forum heads…just seeing what you think about packrafting from mccarthy to chitina via kennicott, nizina, and chitina rivers in early september, which should pose some lower water. we floated from mccarthy to cordova on an otter in october of 2008 and briefly got caught up on the kennicott on a rock.a few friends will be in the otter again on our trip. any suggestions would be much appreciated. -kyle

Should be good. More water generally in September than October. How long is your Otter? September can also be high if lots of rain. Kennicott is only a few miles long and Nizina is good and deep.

The kennicott is the smallest of those rivers. There is an ATV trail down to the nizina somewhere out there.

Hey Roman (if he’s listening) or anybody…

Kennicott/Nizina/Chitina (takeout at Chitina), particularly the Kennicott/Nizina part. Bike-on-raft friendly or a bit too sporting? Trying to avoid a 1/2 day drive just to retrieve a bike at Mccarthy. I don’t mind swimming (not that I really want my bike to be underwater) but my fear is on the Nizina that an upside down raft with bike attached will provide enough current-grabbing power that if I’m separated from it the PR won’t come to a nice gentle wind-assisted stop at a convenient eddy on its own for me to catch up to.

Related question. Splashiness? Bike on raft is a lot more stable with my undecked jumbo explorer (or whatever it was called 5 years ago) than with decked yak so I can sacrifice getting some water in for the stability but I don’t want to be a submarine either.

2nd related question. Banks of Chitina from Nizina upstream, bicycleable? If anybody recalls. Rocky? Mtn bike or fat-tire?

Thanks to anybody that could help with intel. Thinking next week. Hear everything is flowing ok but with ice right now.

Skill level intermediate. Suck but sometimes I can make it look good

Give it a go.

I’d ride down the Kennicott bar maybe a ways as I recall it being bony in May and maybe not so easy with bike on board. The Nizina and Chitina should be no problem. Watch after noon winds can bring you to stand still in sand storm.

If you flip, get on top of upside down boat to calmer water then turn it over.