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.