Curry to Clear Creek

This is a really fun 2 day trip. We started in Talkeetna and took the flagstop train to Curry, hiked across Curry ridge to Clear Creek, floated it to the Talkeetna River, and continued on the Talkeetna back to town.
When you get off the train in Curry you will see a new rock quarry road leading up the hill…we were told that the workers don’t like people hiking through, but after talking to a few of them we found out that really just applies when they are blasting. Also, they were nice enough to tell us about an atv trail that heads up to Curry ridge. This trail leads off the quarry road and heads west, crossing upper Lane Creek after a few miles, and continuing onto the ridge. The trail ultimately leads off to the northwest, but we went south along the wide open ridge with broad views and easy tundra walking. We tried to avoid getting sucked into the shrubbery of upper “Bacon” Creek (drainage that flows into Clear from the northwest) with mixed success, and dropped down into Clear Creek - about 14 miles of hiking from Curry. From there it was 15 river miles to the confluence of the Talkeetna River. Clear Creek is lots of fun - Class II with III sections. We encountered one cottonwood in the canyon section completely across the river, but it was 5 feet above the river and easy to get under. 5.5 hours of floating to the confluence, then 1.5 hours back to Talkeetna, just in time for a beer at the West Rib.

Based on the above write-up, we recently did this route, and it is a classic. Just the train ride alone is a great part of the journey. The walking is mostly fabulous, and the boating is tremendous.

Clear Creek is labeled “Chunilna Creek” on most maps and Bacon Creek is a major tributary that enters Clear Creek from the west due south of Sherman and southeast of Curry. Purportedly there is a tractor trail from Gold Creek to a mine located where most maps show a landing strip, and one could take the train to Gold Creek and hike in to Clear Creek, but reports suggest that the best boating is from Bacon Creek down. There is also a landing strip near the confluence of Bacon Creek and Clear Creek.
Bacon Put In.jpg
Like the previous writer, we did get sucked into the shrubbery of Bacon Creek, but the result was some outrageous boating on the lower 2 miles of Bacon Creek. We struck Bacon Creek just downstream of the confluence of its two major forks, and found the boating to be excellent Class III for the first 0.5 mile. The valley quickly narrowed into a steep-walled canyon and proceeded over three drops of 6 feet, 10 feet, and 4 feet. We portaged the first on river left, rappelled the second on river left, and ran the third on river right. The other two looked runnable, but definitely Class V. The character of the creek is very much like lower Ship Creek canyon, but except for the big drops the boating is not as intense, mostly Class III/IV.
Bacon Creek.jpg
Bum Rap.jpg
We finally reached Clear Creek and were initially a bit bored after being adrenalized by Bacon Creek. But Clear Creek does not disappoint, and after several miles of Class I the river enters a canyon that is more or less continuous Class II/III for 15 miles. The water is clear, there are tons of fish, and the canyon is very dramatic. There are cabins scattered along Clear Creek, and on the lower river there are several cable crossings, one of which is suspended only a few feet above the water and is hard to see. Keep your eyes peeled for a low-hanging cable.

We were on Bacon Creek for approximately 2 hours, Clear Creek for 5 hours, and the Talkeetna for an hour. A great two day trip.

WOW, I got to do this one for SURE!!! Where did you set camp? Curry ridge?

John Evingson


We did camp up on the ridge above Bacon Creek. This ridge is not Curry Ridge, which is on the west side of the Susitna. I don’t know that the area has a name, but as you can see from the photo it is beautiful country. We were a bit surprised to intersect the Fairbanks intertie powerline on the south side of Bacon Creek, as the powerline doesn’t show up on any of the maps that we had.

Anyone have an idea of whether this might be doable over Memorial Day weekend at the end of May? Or is the ridge too high and still snow-bound? :unamused:

I couldn’t speak to the snowiness of the ridge or the presence of shelf ice there in late May, but I do think it could be easier going at that time of year because the leaves / grass / brush wouldn’t be as thick. We did this trip last August and while the fall color was spectacular, it became quite brushy as we headed down off the ridge and east to drop into the creek valley.

FYI to all. . . .

AK Railroad Flag Stop trains start running May 13, 2010 and run Thursday - Sunday each week during the summer. Train departs Talkeetna at 12:15 PM running north. It reaches Hurricane at about 3:30 PM and turns around at 4 PM to run south. Cost is $96/ round trip and I did not ask if there is a 1/2 price one-way ticket. Actually I was just told by a guy who went to Curry last year that they will sell you a ticket for just that distance and he said it was about $25/one-way; then, packraft back.

This train stops at Curry, Gold Creek and a couple of other places that I did not write the names of down.

I am still looking for beta on whether this may be a good Memorial Day trip? One concern that was mentioned is that it may be very high water since it will be prime snow melt season.

My girlfriend and I went from Curry to Clear Creek over memorial day weekend. The snow was not an issue. In fact, I wish there was more snow because the water on Clear Creek was disappointingly low. Every time the creek got steep we had to walk the rafts through the slippery boulders or portage through the dense alders along the bank. Not enough water. It took us three hours longer to get down Clear Creek than what previous posters took. The Talkeetna river was pretty wild though, with lots of wave trains and sucking back-currents. This was probably due to the hot, rainless weather melting glaciers but not contributing to tundra watershed. The Talkeeta was the most fun, but it was hard to enjoy after all the exhausting portages.
When we arrived in Curry there was not a soul to point the way, so we made the mistake of walking the road to it’s ultimate end, where the tower is at the top of the hill. It’s a dead end. We backtracked until we found the nil used ATV trail which is on the left side of the quarry road about, oh, ¾ of mile from the tracks. Take the ATV trail up past Lane creek and on to the tundra. From the tundra you’ll see the telephone towers in the distance. From here hike mostly south and little east until you hit the confluence of Bacon and Clear Creek. There’s a big house-like structure on top of a ridge west-ish of where the confluence is. We didn’t check out what the structure is, but it looked really big and out of place. I’d like to know. We almost completely avoided alder-bashing during the hike (a bummer, I know, because there is nothing I love more than squirming over springy, snaggy alders for hours) by staying high on the ridge until we reached the point where we could just walk downhill to the Bacon-Clear confluence. Lots of bear sign but only one bear sighting. With more water this would be the perfect overnighter.
Oh, and a one way train ticket from Talkeenta to Curry is 18 bucks for an Alaskan.


Was wondering if you have a link to the photos you posted earlier in the discussion. If so that would be great, we’re going to do this trip this weekend and we’re looking for any info and images we can get out hands on. thanks!

Any thoughts on whether this may have enough water for a September float? Can it be compared to the Willow Creek gauge to get an idea of what this creek may be doing?

Most Friendly Amigos,
The community of seven families at the Bacon Creek/Clear Creek junction do not want packrafters on their private property. Three different people there told us. They own 200 acres on the north side of Clear Creek, from 1/4 mile above where Bacon Creek enters Clear Creek to about 1/2 mile below Bacon Creek. Steer way away from their buildings and roads.

To clarify, the private land at the confluence of Bacon (originally Baking) Creek is 270 acres that encompasses both the north and south side of clear creek, 3/4 of a mile below the bacon creek confluence and 1/2 mile above. Additionally, the land extends up both sides of the bacon creek canyon to the forks of north and south bacon. The land is private and access is not permitted. The curry to clear creek loop from Talkeetna can not be completed by coming of the ridge into bacon creek, you will be trespassing on private land. Please continue to enjoy the outdoors and be respectful of private property.

Sounds like a fun trip. Too bad that landowners spoil the fun. If only they could be like the Red Gate owner and others. Pretty small part. I plan on checking it out anyways.

I saw post about the private land the night before I did the trip this weekend. The way other buddies have done the trip they headed east from the lake up there down to the confluence of bacon and clear at the start of the braided section by the airstrip. We ended up following the powerline south mabye 5 more poles past the highpoint at the end and then dropping straight down the hill to the creek. You know you are there when you run out of tundra and can see the water. The bonus with this was that it was the easy tundra hiking and went fast. The downhill was not bad, we lost most elevation in thigh high ferns and grass with a short but rough alderbashing to the creek. We came out mabye a mile to a mile and a half below the confluence avoiding the shallowest water and the private property. Personally it seemed like the natural line to get out of the high country area to clear creek.

As for the trip the canyon section was super fun, clear water and fun whitewater that kept on going and going. We did the hike a little different that others, we followed the ATV trail to the very end where it meets the powerline then hooked back on the overgrown trail that roughly follows the powerline. I think others head straight up the hill when the ATV trail does the long traverse, then they bushwack to the powerline. The hiking part was pretty boring for me, you are out there remote and all but there is this massive powerline you follow forever that just goes and goes. Not much to routefinding but lots of bushwacking, some just easy grass, some thick alders.

It did pour rain heavily the whole time.

Just got back from this trip. We did it almost exactly the way that Thad describes. We had no contact with any of the property surrounding Bacon Creek. Thad’s route is the natural line down to the river. The folks at the rock quarry in Curry were nice and told us where to find the ATV trail that takes you past upper Lane Creek. The ATV trail is in between the two switch backs on the big road before the quarry. If you get to the rock quarry you went too far.

Agree with everyone else’s comments: The hiking is ok (we had amazing views of the AK range) and the boating and fishing is super fun. We saw lots of black bear and caribou. Overall a pretty fun trip.

I just did this trip May 17th and 18th. I was told the train leaves earlier this year. The Hurricane Turn now leaves at 12:45pm from Talkeetna. It costs $20 for AK residents. The ATV trail from below the quarry was in decent shape, with sections of mud, snow, and standing water. Shortly after Lane Creek we ditched the ATV trail because there was snow on it. We headed over the ridge SE of the creek, which had a fair amount of snow on it in places. We picked out way SE through what we thought looked like the easiest route over a couple small ridges through tundra, grass, and alders until we met up with the intertie. None of the bushwhacking was particularly bad. It was okay walking following the intertie; there was a trail sometimes, and sometimes its precarious alder slash with pungee sticks; there was also the occasional alder and mud. We camped South of the lake in section 5, SE of point 2408. The hiking that day was about 9.5 hours for us. From there we followed thad’s route description to Clear Creek which worked well; grasses some easy alder walking, and a few difficult alder sections. This took less 2 hours. We also had to bushwhack downstream to find an eddy; the current was quite swift.

Clear Creek was much larger than we expected. It was also murky, with the water covering gravel bars and some vegetation; maybe a medium high level? In less than a mile we ran into the first whitewater. We boat scouted from outside bend eddies the first few drops class 2+ to 3+. We portaged one 3+ rapid with more complicated hydraulics and moves than we cared to deal with; this appears on the Bing Maps imagery as the first obvious whitewater section. The class 2+ to 3 whitewater continued for several more miles with one more 3+ drop. The whole whitewater section had lots of 4 foot waves, powerful but avoidable class 3 holes, and lots of rocks to avoid. The water began to mellow out after the first few cabins. Then it was class 1 to 2 to the Talkeetna River. Watch for wood where the river splits channels. We found one easy to avoid cottonwood sweeper spanning a channel that we had to portage around; it was 3 miles above the Clear Creek and Talkeetna River Confluence. Overall the river is so wide a cottonwood can’t generally span the whole thing. We took lefts when the channels split on the Talkeetna and took out at the Talkeetna River boat launch (in Talkeetna) before the rail bridge. Once we got to the river it took 7 hours (including the rapid and sweeper portages) to get to Talkeetna. The Talkeetna River was class 1 the whole way.

I’d definitely recommend this trip. The scenery on the ridge was better than I expected, and the bushwhacking wasn’t too bad for us. The intertie added some uniqueness to the trip too. Be ready for some bigger water if there is a healthy flow. It was definitely higher than any of the creeks we drove over on the Parks Highway, so judging the flow may be difficult.

Hey all!

Seven friends did this trip this weekend and all agreed that it was incredible.

A few notes to help any future travelers:

From the quarry entrance, hike up the road until just below the actual quarry. Go down a small embankment on the left into some alders and that is the 4-wheel trail. We found it wide open and had surprisingly very little bushwhacking…really just a few hundred feet at a time and even then it wasn’t really bad. There is almost no snow anywhere so travel is very easy. We camped at the top of the knoll/ridge. Hiking time was about five hours the first day. The second day we got a leisurely 11AM start and continued on the tundra up and down small knolls/gullies to the Intertie. Eventually we hit the final ridge right above the private homestead at the confluence of Bacon and Clear Creeks and had relatively easy 'schwacking down alder and open grass/birch to a large cottonwood grove/beaver mating grotto and then out to the beach at Clear Creek about 1/3 mile below the homestead (trying to avoid hassling the homeowners).

The first few miles were chill and then we hit the business. Water levels were high and rapids were fun and full value. Nothing really more to add that previous posters haven’t already said…except to validate that this is a great, great, great adventure. Truly a blast.

Enjoy a little video I put together of the weekend. (I didn’t film any of the major rapids since I didn’t have a GoPro, but the smiles on everyones’ faces says it all!!!

My wife and I did Curry to Clear Creek last week. Once the train dropped us off we checked in with the folks at the quarry and they said that we couldn’t hike up because of the trucks on the road but they offered to give us a ride to the ATV trail which worked out great. The ATV trail up was fantastic with very little bushwhacking. Once above tree line and across Lane Creek, we chose to make a B-line for the ridge and followed the ridge up to the high point. From there we paralleled the powerline a bit and camped. We didn’t do as much route research as we should have and the directions we could find were a bit vague so when we found a nice game trail the next morning that appeared to drop straight down to what surely was Clear Creek, we went for it. After a bit of minor bushwhacking we found ourselves along the banks of what turned out to be fairly high up on Bacon Creek. The water was a little shallow but deep enough so we put in and started paddling. Most of Bacon was a ton of fun with tight maneuvering and short drops around big boulders. Then came the big drops… we weren’t expecting these at all but were able to spot them in time to pull out, scout, and portage around them. For the first one we just grabbed the rafts and bushwhacked around to the north of the creek dropping back in shortly after the rapids. The second big drop was much bigger and much harder to get around so we packed everything hiked up an absurdly steep slope and committed ourselves to an epic side slope bushwhack. Right when we thought that the portage might be an all day affair we came upon an ATV trail that was so good we decided to follow it down valley rather than try to put back into Bacon. The ATV trail brought us back down to Bacon just upstream of the confluence of Bacon and Clear. We put back into Bacon where the ATV trail crossed the creek but we encountered numerous sweepers and strainers that we had to portage around before we got to Clear Creek. As everyone else has noted, Clear Creek was a lot of fun. If I were to do it again, I would consider Bacon Creek again but keep in mind that we ground over a lot of rocks which may be impassible in low water and the drops might be harder to avoid in higher water. I would also bring a rope to rappel down past the big drop in order to avoid the hike up and around. As for locals… we pass one while floating past the houses on Clear Creek, she waved, commented on the nice day and wished us luck. Seemed nice…