Eagle River

Did Juneau’s Eagle River today. Hiked up Amalga Trail about 4 miles, bushwhacked a few hundred feet just past where the trail gets close to the river again after skirting around the swampy area. I don’t know conditions above that point or whether can put in at the lake and start there, “Falls” on my map at the outlet, maybe a local can expand here on whether that is runnable.

From where I started, found a gravel bar and a small braid to put in, immediate fun class ii+ rapids once the braid joined the main channel. Those lasted around a mile. Each time the river braided out there were river-wide or near river-wide sweepers and logjams. I portaged three times, I think in better visibility one would only have one portage, a river fog had developed while I was paddling that limited my visibility to 50-100 feet at water level so I was jumping out at the slightest hint of hazy trouble. Other than that, no problems until the river-wide log jam visable from the highway bridge, get out river right at a gravel bar where there is a rough path from previous paddlers.

Not local so don’t know what water level in relative terms was, seemed moderately high based on studying the bank. Around four hours to hike in and raft out for me. Nice run with good trail access. Seems that the Juneau folks have more fun runs very close to town with good access than one might think.

You can put in at the lake and run and short II+ section. Watch for the horizon line and eddy out before the falls. There is a short trail that you can take around the falls. Even at low flow that waterfall looks like it recirculates most of its water. I wouldn’t run it, but I’m a wimp. Like all the rivers around Juneau wood moves and changes a lot so make sure you are paying attention.

I ran this last Sunday, July 6, 2014. I would have classified it as a solid medium flow but it was my first time running it (and hiking the trail for that matter), so that might not be right. The Mendenhall gauge for that day was at ~8’. I’m sure that’s not a good reference point, but it’s all I got.

The trail in to the cabin took a couple hours. This trail is definitely not as well maintained as the Herbert Glacier trail. Expect some of the boardwalks to be REALLY slick.

Overall, I thought this definitely felt like “more” than the Herbert (which I had done the previous Sunday). As both johnz1967 and hippotour mentioned, there is significantly more wood in the Eagle River (this year) than the Herbert River. I think some jet boaters have been putting in a lot of time to clear out some of the river-wide logjams in the Herbert. I was able to sneak around the majority of the wood at the flow level I experienced, but there were a handful of sections that required manageable portages. I was doing a lot of eddy catching and scouting.

I hiked all the way to the cabin on the lower lake and put in there. The cabin was a pleasant spot to gear up somewhat out of the bugs. It’s a pretty short paddle down to the river outlet where I took out and scouted as I knew there was a significant waterfall early on. I’d say the section above the falls is 1/4 mile of class 2/2+ water. As hippotour mentioned, be ready to catch an eddy and walk the falls. I did this on river left as it looked a bit more mellow on that side. The right-hand side didn’t look like there were many eddies. I suspect there’s a trail from the cabin to below the waterfall on the lake/river-right side. So if you didn’t want to paddle the short section of the river before the falls, you could probably gear up and put in just bellow the falls.

After portaging the falls, I put in just below this in fun class 2/3 water. The holes seemed manageable (or dodge-able), the waves were fun and there were definitely eddies to catch. I did a lot of scouting due to concerns about wood and because I was alone. Some more experienced paddlers might be more comfortable reading-and-running this entire section in a solid push… Through the majority of the whitewater section of the river, I chose what I perceived to be the more conservative route (alone, wood concerns, etc.). A little ways down the river pinches and there’s a large boulder right in the middle. I went to river right of this and got a really fun, pushy ride (pleasure nozzle?). It was definitely the highlight.

After the rapids, the river mellows out quite a bit but as both previous posters mentioned, there’s a lot of wood to be on the lookout for and dodge. Ultimately, I only had to portage maybe 3-4 times (including the nasty log jam at the very end) but I was in and out of the boat a lot scouting.

About 100 yards before the highway bridge, there is a huge, river-wide logjam. Take out before this and head back to the trail. I actually climbed up and over the log jam and ran into some jet boaters who have been working on getting this log jam cleared up (quite the task!). I thanked them for the work they’d done on the Herbert River and gave them some upriver beta. It looked like their plan was to open up a slot on river left. I took out on river right directly under the highway bridge.

The entire trip took me between 5 and 6 hours but, again, I was in and out of the boat quite a bit scouting. Here are a few videos: