Echo Bend on Eagle River should be renamed “Epic Bend” for the number of near-drownings, lost boats, and other carnage that packrafters have suffered during its normal summer flows – stay off Echo Bend during June, July and August!!!
However, in late Fall, like right now, when the Eagle River guage (http://aprfc.arh.noaa.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=pafc&gage=erba2&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1) reads less than 3.4-3.5 feet, it is super fun and a good flow for intermediate packrafters (Class III).
Brad M found it last fall (we ran it two consecutive days) and he claimed that it looked ideal for packrafting. It is ideal for packrafting at the beautifully-colored low water flows of late September and early October. It has neat drops and multiple channel choices as it pours through the water carved rocks. There is little wood and great fall colors. It’s a couple mile walk up from Eagle River Visitor Center (VC) on the trail. When the trail reaches the river you can put in there or you can use the scout trail if you know where that is (nice walk along the river).
“Meiklejohn’s Magic” starts steep through boulders and gets constricted after about 200 yards to a single boat width river-left drop. This is where people have swum…also a little lower in another maze through narrow slots that have dumped those who have tried to squeeze the slimmer slots. One big Class III hole also gets people – it’s river wide – best to punch hard, lean forward and paddle paddle paddle. It’s nearer the bottom of the steep stuff where the river seems to channel up left.
There are multiple opportunities for take outs on trails that lead back to the VC. Watch for trail signs on river right then watch for brown bears as you walk back. This is the area where someone was attacked…and the poop we saw was practically steaming.
I find this to be very Willow Creek like (Guardrail section) but a closer drive and longer run of more interesting (to me) rapids. It lacks lower Ship Creeks’ intensity (read: fewer swims, fewer consequences if you swim), has more maneuvering and pivot/piruoette moves than S. Fork Eagle River. It’s one of those runs that’s best done in a packraft – too boring for kayaks, too bouldery for canoes, and too small for paddle rafts.
Brad might have more precise descriptions of the number of curves and drops – for me it all blurs together as a great 3 hour loop trip.
I’d give it Alaska Classic status and plan to do it again this week.