Granite Creek

Granite Creek, dropping south out of the Talkeetnas, is a beautiful clearwater creek that nicely combines the packing and rafting in roughly equal parts. This is a continuous Class III/IV run that shouldn’t be attempted if your skills top out at Class III.

Access is via the maze of ATV trails off the upper end of the Jonesville Road, which leaves the Glenn Highway in Sutton just west of the general store. If you know the way to Eska Falls you’re in good shape for getting started. If not, you may have some hit/miss experimentation to find the corrrect ATV trail. Embick’s Fast and Cold has a fair description of what you are aiming for. Follow the ATV track across the lovely meadow described by Embick until the track ends at a massive gully. Head downhill towards Granite Creek, aiming for a large light-colored landslide. There is an improved game trail along the south side of this gully that eventually drops into the gully, which you follow to the river.

The run starts off with a bang, with the fastest and biggest drops in the first 1/4 mile. The run continues with non-stop Class III/IV drops over and around granite boulders for 5 miles. There is wood in the river in 3 places, and these places come up fast. The first wood occurs where a landslide on river right has brought trees into the creek. The second spot of wood occurs where the river has taken a new channel through the woods. The third and last wood is on the lower river after emerging from the mountains.

The run ends at the Glenn Highway or the Matanuska River, where a car or mtn bike completes the shuttle. While Granite Creek is ungaged, nearby Moose Creek has a gauge, and it seems that anything over 12’ on the Moose Creek gauge is enough water to run Granite Creek. A longer run on Granite Creek is possible by hiking past Eska Falls, up through the Throne Room, and over the pass into the west fork of Granite Creek. You may have to hike down the West Fork to the main stem to find enough water to float. All reports indicate that this segment of Granite Creek is harder, with several larger Class IV drops. Alternately, you could access upper Granite Creek starting from the King’s River road and hiking up through Sheep Valley.

This goes on my favorite creeks/rivers list.

I ran Granite last year by making a long and grueling hike up the creek. This year (July 23rd) Mark Oathoat showed me the real way to access off of Jonesville. The ATV trails are definitely a maze, but if you know the landmarks you are aiming for it is really quite easy.

This is a great packrafting run with a fairly short hike. I believe we started hiking about 10:30 and were at the Glenn Highway bridge by 4 or so. Our run would have been faster if I wouldn’t have ripped my spraydeck.

man, that drop above the put-in looks nice! wonder what is upstream?

According to the second hand info in Embicks book the upper is IV±V- depending on water.

My video really didn’t show the suckhole very well.

My video shows the hole, and how it pours into the wall. The rock under the water on the river right line, behind the hole, is what bugged me, looked like it would pop me right into the meat of the hole, then the rest of the ride would end up how it ended up. It is runnable, but I’m not sure if I could pull it off,with style, at the level I saw it at. More water would cover the hole, I think, less would reduce violence, but it’s all just speculation at the moment.

The Doobie and I ran this Sunday, July 27, 2014. With a classic late afternoon start, leaving Jonesville Road at about 4:15, we put in 8ish and were back at the highway by 10pm making for about a six hour trip. We put in just north of Knob Hill, around where the obvious east-west tributary comes into Granite from the west. Our approach route needs some work, as I know the ATV and (new) hiking trail routes to Eska Falls and the Throne Room (having previously taken this route to the Dnigi Hut). We went way high, nearly to point 3215 to the southeast of Eska Falls. I lacked Embick’s beta, and just went with Brad’s mention of “if you know the way to Eska falls you’re in good shape for getting started.” I guess I should have paid more attention to the “for getting started” part…

At 2500-3000’ I decided we needed to head back down towards Knob Hill, as I was worried about us putting in to high up the creek with a late start and running into rowdier water (like the drop pictured in this thread’s video). I think we found the meadow Brad mentions and Embick describes, and from there a very rough and overgrown game trail which we followed down to the creek. The schwacking wasn’t actually too bad, as far as the thickness of the brush is concerned, but it is quite club-ridden which demands some extra care.

I think if we went directly towards Knob Hill, and now that we’re familiar with the game trail, we could cut an hour off the approach. We could further reduce the trip time now that we’ve scouted the creek this season; there’s no must-portage wood or other obstacles. The run is clean, at least the 4-5 miles we floated.

It’s a great hike and float, but committing. Walking out the creek seems like it would be a real PITA, so does walking back the way you come in (up the game trail back to ATV trails) if you’re intimidated at the put-in. The creek is VERY swift and continuous, even at lower flows with the Moose gauge around 200cfs. Eddies are small, few, and far between. There are a some noteworthy drops, the most difficult ones being in the first 1/4 to 1/3 of the float.

When Moose is running at ~200cfs I would rate this 4-5 miles stretch of the creek a solid Class IV- due to it being committing, continuous, and fast with no easy walk out. With more flow I think this stretch definitely steps up to a solid IV, with the ability to become IV+ just in this lower stretch. I think Brad is correct in suggesting that 12’ on the Moose gauge is the lower end of good-runnable for Granite. I wouldn’t want to run it with less than 170cfs on the Moose gauge; the drops would still be flowing fast and pushy, but not clean.

Compared to the Little Su below 500cfs, I don’t think it’s as technical nor with as big and numerous distinctive drops, but it seems much swifter with much less slack water and very few eddies. If you’re comfortable and competent running the Mint to Picnic Area stretch of the Little Su around 500cfs, I think you could handle this stretch of Granite.

If folks reading this can help delineate a cleaner approach as far as when/where to depart from the Eska Falls route to more quickly reach the best descent to Granite, I would greatly appreciate it!

How was the wood situation?


See paragraph three. To elaborate, there’s minimal wood that impinges on the creek from the banks, it’s easily avoidable (at least for someone competent enough to attempt this float in the first place). I removed a big log that was hung up on boulders in one of the drops. Unless something unexpected changes and you’re familiar with the run, you should be able to just go for it and not worry about any portages.

Were you part of the Upper Little Su crew I bumped into at the Mint put-in/take-out Saturday? If so, nice work!

Thanks - don’t know how I missed that paragraph. There were some tricky wood sections last time I went down the creek and I haven’t been down since last years flood. Seems like the flood actually helped clear some wood on certain creeks.

I was part of the Upper Little Su crew. That is a great run at the 500 level!

Granite is a great run, and you have to go up the trail on the knob then it goes up to the canyon rim where it ends at a horse trail, the rest is pretty obvious. Stay south on trails until to see canyon horizon.
Glad we met on Little Su, I was the dummy that missed by buddies, and son, at the takeout.

That run above the Motherlode does have a gnarly section about 2 miles long, it has some darn steep rapids, and at 500cfs, they were a ride.

Just checking to make sure we are referring to the same knob. Is this horse trail and canyon from the higher point above tree line to the SE of Eska falls (the obvious point visible while hiking up), or are you referring to the forested “knob hill” which is on the map?

To clarify, we went to the forested “knob hill” listed on the map; followed an ATV trail through a marshy, wet meadow which ended at a steep, club-ridden game (or maybe old and overgrown horse) trail; and followed this at times hard to track trail along the south side of a gully to granite creek. Sound right? I’m imagining there’s an easier way…

Yes, you just took a different 4 wheeler trail that heads to the same horse trail. There is not an easier way than that as far as I know.
Kinda sucks alittle.

Has anybody run Granite this season (2016) yet? I was wondering how bad the wood situation is, especially from the canyon on down.