Glacier Creek; Chugach Mtns.

Todd & I floated Glacier Creek down in Girdwood last night. We floated from the hand tram to pretty much the front porch of Chair 5 (got out, crossed the street and ordered pizza!). River levels are pretty high right now and the section through the canyon was quite fast and fun! I took a swim shortly after putting in, but the river is mostly knee to waist deep so I was able to get to shore fairly easily.

The put in requires a down-climb through alders and devil’s club - but someone has left a rope tied to a tree to aid in the down-climb (which i imagine would be sketchy if it was raining) so it’s not too bad. (Hike down river from the hand tram and you’ll see it.) Incidentally I was told (later) that if you cross via the hand-tram it is easier to get to down. The canyon is free of sweepers and after the canyon there are a few but they are pretty easy to paddle around.

Some photos are below.



I’m glad to see other people are starting to discover this gem near Anchorage. I’ve floated it quite a few times in the last few summers and rate it similarly to Willow creek’s Red gate section both in character and difficulty. It’s an excellent and relatively safe easy to moderate whitewater run. Rating? Up for debate… You will get wet, and there is swim potential.

For those interested in checking it out I suggest starting just downstream of the hand tram. Hike to the tram then look for a trail through the trees, down a steep bank, and onto a beach just across the creek from where the Winner creek waterfall joins Glacier creek.

I often start the run directly below the tram cables and this offers easy access via an easy trail. The one consideration is you have no warmup before a small drop in the creek. Hit it correctly or swim!

If you want even more of a challenge, try starting higher up on Crow creek. Not at the mine, or you risk going over a waterfall! As you hike down the trail towards the tram (from the Crow creek side), look for an inconspicuous side trail on the left shortly before reaching the tram. A steep trail with fixed rope assist takes you to Crow Creek and a couple of recreational mining claims. A small foot bridge crosses the creek here. The creek is small and quite rocky but very pack raftable. It bounces you down a steep section to a sharp bend with a couple small drops, then joins Glacier Creek. Good eddy on river right just after joining Glacier Creek. A short straight stretch of splashy water takes you to the hand tram.

Check out the gauge at:,1,1,1,1,1

This gauge is manually checked and not always updated. Being glacier fed, and in a rainforest, the flows can spike rather quickly. On the web site click on the dots to get cfs equivalents to the ft. gauge. I suggest floating between 25.8 and 27 ft (roughly 400 to 1000 cfs).

Rachel and I floated today from the handtram down to town. Water was running at a 27 and made it a lot of fun! Our first time running this river so we got out and looked a couple of times. Well placed eddies make getting out pretty easy. Not many strainers/sweepers to be concerned with on the upper part, there are a few after the little canyon to look out for. We really got a thrill out of this run- fast paced for a little packraft with some exciting drops and turns to keep you on your toes!

There are rumors of an accident involving a couple packrafters on Glacier Creek today. There have been helis flying up and down Girdwood valley today. Does anyone know anything?

Pretty bad news…short story can be found at the above link, sounds like it wasn’t an Alpacka as four people were on 1 raft. I’ve floated from the hand tram down twice in the last month and conditions have been nice with no sweepers.


Some actual details on the accident, like what exactly happened would be nice. Like an accident report like you see after an avy. Anything like that exist in the paddling community?

In case you missed this in the paper:

I did read that. Unfortunately it doesn’t mention any details on what caused or how the accident happened, only that “conditions in the area have been rough in recent days”

Anybody looking to run Glacier Creek in the next week? My friend and I would like to run it, but would like someone whose already done it to lead us through. We don’t have a lot of whitewater experience, but are comfortable packrafting Campground Rapids in lower Eagle River (Class 3) for example. We will buy you a beer at Chair 5 for your guiding effort!


Hey Ryan, I might be in that area tomorrow evening, call me if your around cell:317-5048

Thanks, I’ll be on the Kenai till tomorrow night though. However, my friend (Brett) who lives in Girdwood might give you a call.


I guess Brett never called you as he got busy. If you (or anyone else) wanted to lead us through it this Thursday, Friday or Saturday, we would definitely be interested. Thanks!

Hit this yesterday, dueling packrafter and kayaker. Thought I’d add a few clarifying comments. First, this truly is a gem right under my nose that I had ignored. We almost reluctantly decided on it yesterday due to some time constraints, with the unknown factor at least giving us some intrigue, and with the water level being on the low side were merely expecting a nice but not overly exciting run, like what you see from the bridge in Girdwood (take-out).

90 seconds after put in you couldn’t have torn the smiles off our faces.

First, for those unfamilar, the best access is from the intersection of Crow Creek Road and the Crow Mine Road. However, if driving, note that there are ‘no parking’ signs posted everywhere near there. Have no idea how strictly enforced, but if you go back down a couple hundred yards there is a 3-4 car pullout. Don’t park at the official ‘hand-tram’ parking lot unless you want quite a bit of a walk (if you do its easier to walk on the road to above point).

From the mine intersection, take the mine road about 100 yards, on the right will be an obvious trail that leads to the main trail. Its about 3/4 mile to the hand-tram. If you want to put in here you can just go to the left from the tram and there’s an easy trail right down to the water. It will be a flying start but its doable. From this point on we encountered no obstacles, class II-III, fast, kept us on our toes, kept us smiling. In my humble opinion, I would advise this is not a run for first whitewater experience unless guided or extremely comfortable.

As alluded to in an earlier post, a bit more excitement can be had from backtracking from the handtram a few hundred yards and putting in at Crow Creek. Look for the first not-so-obvious path straight down, ropes, and an old sign saying something like “travel at your own risk”.

*Note there is a more obvious way down even further away from the handtram with ropes that also has ropes and I assume leads to Crow Creek. You do not want this one or you will be in for at least one nasty surprise, a nice chest-level (when sitting in a raft) log/bridge after a blind corner. This log/bridge is at the put-in describe above, so if you see it, you’re at the right place.

This 2-3 minute segment on Crow Creek down to the hand-tram is III-IV, fast with a couple of pipes, rocks, etc… that require avoidance but not stoppage, couple of nice 3 ft drops, generally a rockin good time. For maximum enjoyment acclimate the air inside the raft to the water temps as much as possible and re-fill up before blasting off, instead of relying on my normal modus operandi of being able to get out a few minutes after put-in to do so as there might not be a place to stop for awhile.

If you want to see the run,

Looks like it was measured at 25.37 on,1,1,1,1,1,1,1

So now, a question for others more familar with it, whats it like with higher water levels? Smooths things out or makes it rowdier?

Love the helmet cam, which one is it?

I have only ran that once and it was at ~26.1 and I remember thinking these waves are BIG. I cant tell from the video the difference from when I ran it and that level. No question someone here knows though. Thanks for sharing!

That video got my mouth watering immediately.

What an absolutely fantastic video. Loved it. Congratulations

Ran it again this morning, water gauge 25.11 or so per the website. Compared to seemingly such a small difference on my first run (25.37 +/-), its a little bony, especially above the hand tram right now. Runnable, but there are a lot or rocks hidden enough to not easily see but not hidden enough for one’s rear-end to pass by cleanly (data analysis indicates that my butt moved 75% of the rocks hit, but that left 25% putting a hurt on). Rock avoidance and rock “hittance” at this lower level might actually slightly increase the technicalities, and some of the drops were more pronounced, and it might even have been splashier (or I was getting hot and just looking for a reason to cool down), but its certainly a bit slower in between the good stuff. Had to walk a couple times near the end for short stretches, and got in some practice of the “packrafter-low-water-butt-raise-and-scooch” (Roman is that in your class?).

Still one of my faves, but I may have just got the perfect run on it the first time around.

Ran it from the tram Thursday eve. Gauge estimate 25.3 and ~375 cfs. It was splashy, dodgy and lots of fun but nothing felt more than a tad pushy. We had 7 PRs and 2 IKs. One of the IK guys ran the waterfall on the left that is up and sort of out of sight. He nixed the idea of running the one that drops right into the creek because of that finger of rock that curls around the top of the falls and might give big hurt to your head as you tried to pass it.

We had neophytes all the way to Class V boaters and all were impressed with this, a first run for any of us, of this little Girdwood gem. I think those people down in Girdwood are holding out on us for recreation opps. I walked, with a couple of locals, up California Creek to the skyline ridge well up in the alpine tundra this summer and . . . WOW. What a hike! What else are they keeping secret down there.

Is there any possible boating of Winner Creek itself up toward its headwaters or is the Gorge about it?

Anyone want to run this, say Thursday evening, 8/20? I start the Swiftwater Rescue course the next morning so going in with a little boating “pump” would be nice.

If you want to dial into some easy to moderate PR trips, connect with the We will be posting a few more trips this year and plenty in 2010.
Here are pics of last night’s trip

Ran Glacier today. I put in a little downstream from the tram. Didn’t feel like being challenged right off the bat, though my start was swift enuff. Water level was good and I rode some nice wavetrains. I did scrape bottom a couple of times but figure I could have avoided that had I chosen a better line. No significant sweepers or strainers and I didn’t go for a swim, so a good day. :smiley:

According to the gauge,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 that means pd4 ran it at about 300 cfs. I would have thought that rather low but I glad to hear that it can be run w/o too much scraping at that level. We had been running it at about 360 cfs a few weeks ago and thought that might be the “bottom” of runnable flow. So, good news . . . .