East Fork Eklutna

On October 14th Chris Brehmer and i met at his house at 7:30 am. With his wife out of town, Chris deftly cooked breakfast burritos for four young children and myself. We then proceeded to put one kid on the bus, drop one at daycare and two at elementary school. Chris and I then sped to the Eklutna Lake Trailhead, sprinted on bikes in under an hour to the east fork trail head. We hiked about three miles back, scouting the canyon the whole way. We ran the canyon through what I would call kick ass PR III water. Two logs across necessitate get-outs, but you can see them coming for along way. We made it back to the bikes and made it to an unnamed east anchorage elementary school to rescue the youngins at 4pm from homework club.

I have run the East Fork three times before and this is the cleanest I have ever seen it as far as obstacles go. Take advantage of these unusual late season conditions and go get this gem of a run! Take a saw and a come-along and remove the logs! I’ve got nothing better to do, any body got time?

Cody Arnold
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East Fork Eklutna River Trail and thought you might be interested and i was right, very exciting place…


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I made this trip yesterday. Had plans to climb Bold Peak but there was a lot more snow up there than I thought, so I instead I grabbed my raft and rode to the bridge, passed more hunters on quads than I cared to count, and scouted the water up to Tulchina Falls. A couple of hunters said they’d been in the area since Thursday, watched the water rise super high, and had subsided about two feet by the time I got there Sunday morning. I took that with a grain of salt, but it did look as if the water had been in the bushes not long before. Apparently another packrafter was there the day before when the water was seven or eight inches higher. That would have been nice, I think.

The ride was a blast. A bit of splashy warmup. Wasn’t sure about a couple of spots but I made it through fine. For anyone possibly headed out there, there are two logjams relatively close to each other, closer to the bridge. I’ll gladly go with anyone with a saw to cut them out. Unfortunately, one of them keeps you from running one good long set of rapids (unless you have superior eddying abilities where there are no eddies, and I wasn’t willing to take the chance with the water going as fast as it was) but the other, not far below, is easily portaged on river left on a sand bar (which may or may not exist when the water’s higher). A bit of butt-bumping all the way down, but not an obnoxious amount.

What I enjoyed most about the run was the steady increase in difficulty as you head down. The last good set of rapids was probably the most fun I’ve ever run and not ended up swimming the first time through. I had a crash course in hip-throwing and ended up on top of the rock I meant to go left of, but the drop was smooth and awesome. The sky even cleared up as I got back to the bridge - sort of. Eleven miles of biking in a wetsuit was a new concept, but overall the day was bloody amazing. I’m really glad I did that instead of climbing in the snow.

This little creek is getting quite a bit of play this week. Bob Gengler ran it October 2nd right after the big surge and said it was great. Patrick and I ran it today but it had come back down. We put in about a mile above Tulchina Falls. Quite a bit of butt dragging but an enjoyable trek none-the-less. The atv made the commute a breeze. Atv’s can be used on the Eklutna Trail from Sunday through Wednesday.

Ran East Fork yesterday from as far up as seemed legitimately possible. Where the East Fork trail starts climbing the knoll way back in the valley, we bushwhacked a short stretch down to the river then hiked up gravel bars for a bit until it was just too shallow/low volume. While the approach is long (10.5 miles on bike and probably another 6 on foot to where we put-in), it’s pleasant and the scenery is worth the hike/bike alone - especially if you haven’t experienced this particular valley before. If you have a fat-bike it’s perfect for the approach, especially when carrying packraft gear. I biked the approach with my XC bike earlier this week to climb Bashful, and with the NeckRomancer fatty yesterday which was much more stable and comfortable.

In my opinion, most of the run is Class 2+ with maybe a couple short Class 3- spots…except for the long rapid discussed below. The water intensifies as you descend the valley; more obstacles (mainly boulders, but some wood) and an increasingly swift current as many small tributaries pour in and the gradient steepens. Scout the river along the way and pay attention to the canyon walls of the Mitre on river left. As the walls rise and get closer to the river the water gets burlier and signals when you really need to start paying attention and perhaps eddying out to re-scout what you should’ve initially scouted on the way in.

The long, gnar rapid which may qualify for Class 4 is right before Stiver’s gully area as you’re hiking in (or right after Stiver’s as you’re floating) and is easily scout-able. In the state it was yesterday, there’s little room for error…a couple places where tight chutes in powerful water between big boulders are the only clean routes through…and not that clean with holes that are easy to get stuck-in throughout this area.

There are a few sweepers in the long upper section before the big rapid, but they’re easily passable and not must-portages if you don’t mind a little schwack. Below the big rapid I recall one sweeper that you probably need to get out of the boat to pass. It’s not far before the E Fork bridge. All the log jam sections had pretty clean routes or chutes through them, although they look intimidating as you approach them…probably advisable to scout the line as you near.

This is a fun trip considering the currently low water levels in non-glacially fed water throughout the region. The East Fork Eklutna is definitely not low.