Denali HWY-7mile lake-Eureka Creek-Delta River

We left Maclaren Summit on the Denali highway (Apx 40 miles from Paxson) on July 4th in sunshine and shorts. Followed a distinct ATV trail that turns into a single track and then eventually just easy tundra cruising. We put in on the west end of seven mile lake and paddled about five miles to a cabin and camped there for the night. The next day we hiked up the drainage behind the cabin and across the tundra to Eureka Creek. The water was fast in Eureka Creek with some fun wave trains. A lot more water than we expected, but easy class II. We paddled to the start of an obvious canyon and camped river left on a big outwash plain. We scouted the upper portion of the canyon from awesome game trails on river left. The upper portion is runable in a pack raft with some class 3/4 waves that can eat packrafts. The canyon then tightens up quite a bit and is likely beyond packraft level during summer flows. The canyon is several hundred feet deep and is limestone at the base. We hiked around the tighter portion of the canyon via game trails and connect the bogs high up on the terraces on river right and then put in lower on the canyon. If you zoom in on google earth you can basically see what is runnable and not runnable in the canyon. We floated down to the Delta and pulled out at the first intersection with the Richardson Highway.

Great packraft trip with only about 2 hours of fairly easy bushwhacking, awesome scenery, and lots of moose and caribou.


nice Jeff!
jesus, how many people went? 7 boats?

Variation on a theme…

We did approximately this route July 3-6th 2009. We hiked out the Mclaren Summit trail up on the bench, cutting crosscountry to sevenmile lake. Paddled only about 2 miles on the lake before taking the first “low” pass north. This pass was a succession of lakes, boulders and snowfields on the north end, relatively easy and opened up onto great tundra hiking down to Eureka Creek. Put in and enjoyed class I-II water on Eureka for a bit before it got bigger, probably class III with a few hungry holes, for maybe 1/4 mile? Yee-haw! Everyone made it. Kept going until just before the oxbow prior to the canyon and got out on river right and stayed on land until we were just below the canyon, having not scouted it out to see when it calmed down. A mix of tundra, bog and a couple of miles of bushwacking, but it all went well and we enjoyed the easy class I-II flow of Eureka into the Delta and took out just past where Farren Creek comes in along the Richardson. With about 6 hours driving from Anchorage on each end, this trip took us a solid 4 days. Happy to share more details via email with folks wanting to know more details wendy.loya at yahoo dot com.

We did this trip over the labor day weekend last year. Beautiful scenery, excellent walking with solid tundra and very little bushwhacking, and fun water. Just from the description of others…I believe the wave trains/holes were probably a bit smaller in the fall with the cooler weather and lower volume of water. Some pics posted here:

Word is that the canyon section of Eureka Creek goes at Class IV/V.

Just went “into” Eureka Creek Canyon on Google Earth. This shows the creek climbing the walls of the canyon and contouring along the sides. Gnarly! :mrgreen:

I’m looking at doing this trip in August with some friends. With regard to the cabin that is spoken of at the edge of 7-Mile lake, who owns the cabin? Is it possible to reserve or just show up first come first serve? There are probably not that many people in the area until caribou hunting season picks up I suppose.

for those of you who have done this float, any word on the fishing?


I did this route earlier this summer, and found a life jacket for a dog in some willows on Eureka Creek below the canyon - if someone dropped it and would like it back please get in touch and I can get it back to you.

In regards to fishing - I saw lots of grayling in the clear streams that dump into Eureka Creek. I didn’t have fishing gear, but wished I had.

Live To Rally & I just completed this trip, with a slight variation on the approach and portage.

We began the hike from the Glacier Gap Lake trailhead, which cuts considerable mileage off from starting at Maclaren Summit. After following the excellent ATV trail all the way to Sevenmile Lake, we inflated our rafts for the quick paddle across the lake to the “Tuberculosis Quarantine” cabin. We had a pleasant tail wind for the crossing, which with the long axis of the lake provided a great fetch and some small waves to surf. Having shaved several miles off the approach, we camped high near an alpine tarn, and continued our approach the next day by ascending the pass west of the one Ed Plumb marked on his map. The descent was quick amidst snow, scree, and several caribou.

We put in on Eureka Creek about 5 miles or so above Broxson Gulch, maybe more. The water was never bony and we probably could have put in even higher. The Eureka chalk water was juicy from the get-go, with an assortment of Class II wave trains. The current was ripping at a solid 10 mph. We made it down the creek without incident to a series of ox bows that signal the beginning of the canyon. Earlier posts suggested beginning the portage from the first ox bow. We pushed further on, down to the second, where cliffs enter the picture and the water starts to get bigger, louder, and just a slight bit spicier…II+/III- in the waves & holes. The water was enticing, but our knowledge of the topography ahead trumped our desires. Our portage route from the creek to above the cliffs and bluffs was direct and clean, following a nice caribou trail all the way to the great pebble walking above…which then led to brush and a bit of swamp for a comprehensive 3 or so-mile stretch. We didn’t see any of the habanero spiciness of the middle canyon…but given the flows of July they were likely much more intense than the footage filmed by Gabriel Gersch (

We re-entered the canyon along another game trail leading down a small bluff into a ravine, dropping us right down to creek-side. True to the routine late-night packrafting epics LTR & I always seem to find ourselves in, we ended our portage at 11:15pm, with the idea of looking for a decent gravel bar with a clean tributary nearby to camp on. With only 5 miles left of Eureka, 7 on the Delta, and the still-ripping current, I suggested the car would be an ideal place to quit. Two hours later we found ourselves at it. The remainder of Eureka Canyon was still juicy (II+/III- in spots) and kept us on-edge until it gave way to the Delta River. The flat drift downriver reminded us of 20-Mile, although to the Delta’s credit, it is much faster and more scenic. Our take-out was what appears to be the standard for that section of the river: MP 212 on the Richardson.

Overall, a really good trip. If the whole canyon were runnable it would be the go-to packrafting route for the region.

Some notes as an addendum to The Doobie’s report:

  1. As far as I can tell, we went through the same pass (quad 4 on TOPO! USGS map) as Ed Plumb (see that map and report here: The very nice and well maintained ATV trail through Glacier Gap is ~5-6 miles and brings you right to middle of the lake, at the widest part, for the crossing (quad 17, 20 on map). This trail rewards one with no schwacking, not much mud even after recent rains, and only a couple mellow creek crossings along the way. We didn’t see anyone on the trail or along the entire route once we left the trailhead…
  2. The ascent from near the cabin up to the most prominent north-south valley and western pass (quad 16, 9, 4 on map) at the head of this valley is gradual, with only a bit of low brush wading near the lake and scree/talus near the top of the pass. The descent from the pass on the Eureka Creek side is steeper, but there are a few good lines to make it relatively easy.
  3. My estimate is that we put in about 4-4.5 miles up from Broxson Gulch. Once you’re below the pass the walk is easy all the way to the creek, if you pick a good line, save ~100 yards of easy brush wading (not worthy of being called “schwacking”) to the put-in. We headed N and then NW from below the pass to the put-in (quad 33, 28, 20, 17 on map), staying W of the first set of lakes around 4500’ and on the W side of the drainage ravine coming from them.
  4. As The Doob suggests, at midsummer flows it would be easy to put in higher on Eureka (perhaps even near the headwaters by the glacier) but it looks flat and boring. We didn’t encounter any butt scraping on Eureka. I figured the flow was slower than 10mph, but Doobs had the GPS…
  5. The double oxbow (quad 15) appears to be the best take out, if you’re comfortable with 2+/3- for a stretch between the first oxbow and double oxbow before the canyon. This is the best water of the trip! You could get more of it by continuing through the double oxbow and taking out just after it, but it would make the portage much more heinous due to significantly more intense schwacking. While you would get more river miles and more of the best water on the trip, this would likely make the portage take longer due to the schwacking. If you take out about halfway into the first oxbow of the double oxbow, you’ll be rewarded with a relatively clean and easy portage for ~3 miles with a final <1 mile involving sustained ankle deep marsh walking and a final schwack down a well-defined game trail to the lower put-in.
  6. Some tips for the portage: take the super clean ascent from the take out up the short and well-defined game trail to the tundra/gravel bench. Link open swaths of tundra/gravel through short stretches of brush with game trails. Remember, bous don’t like to scwhack. This area is full of bou and they’ve established many trails through various paths of least resistance (however, bou don’t seem to mind wet feet). There’s a prominent south-north drainage ravine with a good game trail on the ridge just west of it (quad 19) that will take you all the way to the put-in.
  7. The canyon looks runnable, for at least a good stretch, above our put-in but approaching it would be difficult due to the high cliff walls. We also weren’t able to scout that much of it from the portage…
  8. The lower canyon of the Eureka, after the portage, is no more than 2+. I would liken it to a bigger, higher volume Glacier Creek (Girdwood) coming out of the canyon to the Alyeska Hwy bridge. Floating it around midnight makes it more exciting due to the fading light and murky water but it’s still not overly exciting.
  9. The Delta sucks. It’s not bad for a big glacial river, but I hate those. It is much swifter than 20 Mile (near Girdwood), but it’s that sort of thing…

Overall, this is a great intermediate backcountry packraft trip. It took about 20 hours of actual travel time for us, moving relatively fast with no real stops besides put-in and take-out transitions; it’s an easy overnighter at that pace as we did the entire trip in ~33 hours with one 14 hour camp. I think most folks would like it as a two night trip.

The walking is superb from the Denali Hwy through 3/4 of the portage. Only unpleasant part was the marsh walking and final brush descent in the rain. The scenery is incredible and there are curious caribou everywhere that let us get REALLY close before they wandered off. No sign of bear: sightings, scat, or tracks. A few piles of wolf shit, but none seen. The camping at the start of the trip is five star. Problem with a second camp near or off the creek or Delta river is water. There is good drinking water all the way to the first put-in (we didn’t filter, treat or boil it), but after that you’d be hard pressed to find anything that isn’t glacially murky except for the marsh ponds along the portage. The Delta is super dirty and kind of stinky. Lots of beavers…

The only parts of the float nearing class 3 were some large waves, holes, and isolated drops which are all relatively easy to avoid. Otherwise, it’s mostly class 2. If you’re comfortable going through medium sized wave trains and can maneuver well enough to deal with short sections approaching class 3 you will love this trip.

The water is never boring (except the final few miles on the Delta), but never really exciting (for someone that has class 3-4 experience).

Five of us did this trip over 4th of July weekend. We drove 2 cars up at 4pm from Anchorage and camped at 212 Richardson. We tried unsuccessfully to get Tangle River Inn (Jack) shuttle guy to pick up our car at Glacier Gap trail for the shuttle but he wouldn’t do it and instead lectured us about how sharp the rocks were on the creek and how many bears are there and how we were crazy for thinking about floating Eureka because no one has made it out of there so instead we dropped a car ourselves at Glacier Gap about 10am, and were crossing the lake about 3.5 hours later. Went up the easy pass behind the cabin. The descent from the pass had a little bit of snow and it was tricky walking down the scree field, but never unmanageable. We went almost due north all the way to the river and found a moose near the last 1/8 of a mile that ran down a game trail (showing us the easy way to the river by 7:45).

Camping at the river was good. There was a small water source and a breeze with very little bug activity. Sunday we floated maybe an hour and a half to the double oxbow and gained the southern ridge for the portage. The beginning of the double oxbow appears to be the easiest way up to the ridge and I think the best course for the portage is sticking to the high ground for as long as possible, even as you move away from the river. Once the ridge gives way to the plateau (and marsh)at about 3 miles of easterly walking, it’s probably best just to march right through the swamp as the shwacking really isn’t that bad. It’s was ankle deep bog for about a mile heading due east. When we crossed over the last bit of marsh there was a lone pine tree on a ridge leading down to the river that I wish we would have taken because it would’ve probably been a bit easier than walking across the small cut and descending. Half of our party descended the cut/creek (bummer!), and the other half side hilled over the a burn that made a pretty easy but steep descent to the river where a big eddy made for an easy start for the last of the splashy part of Eureka Creek. We lucked out that the Delta didn’t have headwinds (because it was raining by then).

A little less than 20 hours of paddling and hiking. No bears. No sharp rocks.