Girdwood-Knik River Traverse?

I’ve heard mention a few times of an interesting packrafting trip; Girdwood to Knik River traverse via the new Winner Creek Trail and then a nasty bushwhack to the next put-in near the Lake George Glacier. We were thinking of staying high as long as possible along the ridges to avoid the alders lower in the valley. I have flown through the Gorge and know packrafting through it is probably unlikely, so we were thinking of heading up and doing a bit more bushwhacking and dropping back down before the lower lake. Another option would be to get into the Hunter Creek drainage and put in immediately after the fork (anyone who’s ice climbed back there knows getting through the boulder gardens there would be very difficult if not impossible!)… and then follow that back out to the Knik and continue on towards the old glen bridge. Any beta on this from anyone? Thanks!

Chris Flowers did it first way back when, solo and fast in a Sevylor Trail Boat.

He and I and Jason Geck, Betsy Young, and Ian Thomas took a bunch of neophyte boaters in my Alaska Pacific University packrafting class across in September a few years ago. Mistake.

It’s a great Chugach test piece, but you need good weather and expert routefinding skills, IMHO. Not to mention some big smiles from the Big Guy.

The day we rafted out was the most varied day of packrafting I have ever done. It was like a Hig and Erin adventure in one day of boating: little creek, quicksand, class III rapids, braided river, lakes, icebergs, lakes and icebergs, all on one float on one day.

The hiking requires really good route finding skills, persistence, patience and a high pain threshold, not to mention super care.

We hiked to above Berry Pass the first day (via Winner Creek before the trail); second day we made it to the pass between 20 mile drainage and Knik drainage (stay high, and good luck crossing the upper 20 mile – need low water, hard to do it in a boat); third day we camped below toe of the Lake George Glacier. Fourth day we floated out.

Be sure you have good beta on the Knik Gorge iceberg situation – we went through there and I know nothing about “doing a bit more bushwhacking and dropping back down before the lower lake. Another option would be to get into the Hunter Creek drainage and put in immediately after the fork”.

But don’t let this put you off ChugachPeaks – it’s THE Chugach test piece traverse. An intense Magical Mystery Tour best for three people with good judgement. BTW, I know of more parties who have turned back than of parties who have made it through.

Thanks for the great info! This will definitely help increase the odds of success. To clarify, the route variation I mentioned would be the following; Between Lake George and the end of the gorge (if you’re headed downstream) has been mostly clear the few times I’ve flown the gorge. However, there has been enough ice in one spot, about 3/4 down that would make passage nearly impossible. My idea was to skip most of the gorge and packup the packrafts again and hike above the west (or left) side of the gorge and drop back down at the end of the gorge near the secondary “lower lake.” I’d have to take another look to make sure getting cliffed out there wasn’t guarenteed, but bringing a thinner 30m rope and one harness would probably allow a party to rappel any cliff bands, as most would be small in that area.


FYI - Eric & Tony biked up to the gorge this past weekend. The glacier has surged all the way to the wall:

Another super cool Eric P video. Looked like neat biking!

Seems like this run up against the wall might happen every winter? Then summer comes and the upstream river draining off the Colony, Whiteout, and Lake George Gls melt the channel through the Gorge? When we went through there was a place that was pinched off by 'bergs…if it does damn the rivers, there’ll be a whopping big lake up there.

Yeah, like Roman Said, I bet its always like that in the winter then gets carved out in the summer. Its welllll worth the bike trip if you have good studded tires. I’ll do it again in a heart beat!
looking foreward to boating season!

In re the comment regarding “beta on the bergs in the gorge”, isn’t that passage always choked with floaters?

Is anyone interested in doing this route during the first week of July? I’m doing a long hike through south-central AK starting in mid-June and need to get from the Placer River to Sutton/Chickaloon over the Chugach. This is the obvious route but I don’t feel comfortable taking it on alone. If I can’t find an interested party I plan to do Crow Pass and Eagle River and then walk the roads. Send me a private message if you’re interested, thanks.

Anyone do this route recently?

If anybody wants to to try this trip, I am looking for something to do the last week of July and into first week of August. I am currently living out of state but will be back during that time period. PM me if interested in this trip or a different one and looking for partners. I’ve tried a variation on the original route unsuccessfully in the past, I have an idea for a similar route that I’ve scouted from the air that looks promising.

My friend Neil and I did the traverse last week. Roman’s summary is pretty much spot on on both the risks and rewards. Yeah, the upper Twentymile did have some pretty brutal bushwhacking, but Neil’s routefinding got us pretty far up the valley before we had to delve in. Some sketchy ravine-crossings higher up and some canyons to avoid going down the other side of the pass. Then down at the Gorge it took some creativity to get through/around/over the icebergs but it’s all flat water so the stakes aren’t as high.

The traverse was an ass-kicker, for sure. It takes some delicate route-finding to avoid the traps, but there some cool stuff back there and I have to say it never felt as dangerous as our hitchhike back home from the Old Glenn bridge with a guy taking bong hits while weaving through traffic.

nice work on the flower power.

Helicopter service at Knik River Lodge is first class, for anybody looking to do just the gorge. I got dropped off at Lake George last week and picked my way through the ice bergs in Knik Gorge. Only got out of the raft once as a particular section of rock seemed easier to traverse than the bergs did to navigate. It was a good move, too. Lot’s of beautiful streams and falls hidden in the rocks, not to mention knock-out views of the glacier. One just might be able to hike back to the lake on those rocks.

Resurrecting this thread to ask - has anyone done this in recent years?

Just finished this traverse solo over 3 days during 4th of July weekend with peak summer flows on the Knik River. I had a blast but I still don’t recommend anyone else do this solo or with the Knik River at 40k cfs. The river crossings, whitewater and route finding require expert skills. I would recommend going at 10-25k cfs in a group of 3. Be prepared for a lot of intense bushwhacking.

I hiked up to blueberry pass then left the trail and walked up to Kellys Knob. From there I crossed a glacial stream below Longspur Peak and hiked up to an obvious grassy notch that provides a good lookout to Twentymile Valley. I descended into bushwhack central and traversed up Twentymile Valley along a long series of lower less brushy benches that ended with a grassy slope heading down to the river. I crossed the river by packraft just upstream of a small gravel island. From there I bushwhacked upstream 1000ft and climbed 600ft up dense bushy slopes to a staircase series of grassy slopes with plenty of drinking water. These slopes provide easyish access to the Knik/Twentymile divide. Don’t drop down to early towards peak 4360, there’s a steep gorge that can be crossed easily uphill.

From the divide I followed the headwaters of the Knik (Knik Creek?) for one mile then walked on river left on a series of moraine benches (easy walking). I bushwhacked one mile from the top of the last moraine bench to the base of Peak 4360 where Crown Creek and the “Knik Creek” converge. With the Knik River at 40k cfs, “Knik Creek” and Crown Creek were both continuous class 4-5 with no eddys. I packrafted across Crown Creek just upstream of the confluence and hiked up a 150ft scree slope. From there I bushwhacked through 2 miles of dense alders (If the creeks were lower, I would definitely boat this section. I saw too many mass slide events, rolling boulders and grand canyon style waves/holes at 40K cfs.) At Lake George Glacier I dropped down to a long flat non-brushy bench for 2 miles then hiked up to the left and traversed along a narrow rocky ridge dividing Far Out Creek and “Knik Creek”. (WARNING; As of July 2019 the “Knik Creek” was flowing under Lake George Glacier. Don’t boat this section.). At the end of the ridge I dropped down into an old channel/floodplain leading to the other Lake George at the base of Hat Trick Peak. Note: The “Knik Creek” rerouted and all flow now goes to the east of Wedding Knoll, most satellite imagery does not show this yet.

From Lake George I packrafted down a nice mellow channel into a braided section. All gravel bar islands are submerged at this water level. When the river becomes a meandering channel again be prepared for three Class 3 rapids. They start just above the confluence with Inner Lake George (big fun wave trains and large holes at 40k cfs). There is one more class 2-3 rapid at the mouth of the Upper Knik near the base of Mountaineers Peak. As of July 2019 the Knik Lake is chocked with icebergs and the glacier is still pushed up against the rock wall for a small 20ft section (I was still able to navigate through all the iceberg fields in the gorge and at the end of the lake). From there it was all smooth paddling back to the car.
I would suggest doing this in 4 days to enjoy the views a little more. It took me 13 hours to get from the Alyeska parking lot to the divide, 12 hours to get from the divide to Lake George and 6.5 hours of boating from Lake George down to Hunter Creek.

Well done.

I gave this a half hearted attempted - started around 9pm the night of the 30th, camped at berry pass, next morning dropped into upper 20 mi in the same spot Cam described but ended up reversing/bailing and paddling out 20 mi as it was socked in with smoke and I wasn’t in the right headspace happily charge a big bushwack…

Would be keen on trying this again this summer if anyone else is interested. Partners would be nice mainly for bushwack morale/camaraderie.

Once again nice job Cam.