Hatchers Pass to Kashwitna??

Has anyone ever floated the Kashwitna?? Trying to plan a few packrafting trips for the summer and thought that hiking from Hatchers Pass up Archangel Road and over the top into Bartholf Creek drainage and hike the valley down to the Kashwitna and then floating down to the Parks Highway Bridge. Looks like a fun trip if it works to be feesible. It looks to be about 15-18 miles of hiking and 50 miles of rafting back to the parks highway bridge. Anyone with any experience on this river?? Class rating of rapids?? Water depth? Any help would be great. Thanks

This attachment shows my plan feel free to make suggestions.

Looks good on the map dosent it?
Friends that did it reported a bushwack from hell, then more bears than they could shake a stick at, then endless meanders to get back to the highway, missing a day of work in the process…
The traverse to Sheep creek to Barthoff creek would be worthwile, skipping the flatwater but I dont know anyone that has done it.


Thanks for the info. Did your friends mention if there was plenty of water to start rafting right were Barthoff dumps into the Kashwitna? Also did they say if it was basically Class I&II the whole way down or does the meandering start on the lower portion of the river? The meandering would be fine as I’m not looking for too much whitewater as I just got my raft and plan to keep things pretty mellow this first year. So far I’ve just floated down a portion of the lower little su with mine and love it but don’t want to get into suprise Class III rapids just yet. I don’t mind bushwacking and planned to hike on one side of Barthoff valley rather than right along the creek to try and stay as much above the brush as possible. But like you said it all looks great on paper. :slight_smile: I’m not worried about how long it would take due to the fact that I can readily get a week off at a time and that seems to be more than enough for this trip. Anymore information you or your friends have on the trip would be greatly appreciated.


The Kashwitna has been approached from Hatcher pass on multiple occasions. Most people approach it from Lucky Shot Mine Road, go over several passes and descend to the river on a ridge West Bartholf Creek. There is Class 3 whitewater to negotiate. Roman recommends taking out before the flats and traversing over to Sheep Creek. That would make a really fun whitewater trip. To my knowledge he is the only person that has done that.

I went to do run the Kaswitna from Hatcher Pass one week in early June but there was to much unconsolidated snow to get across the passes.


Thanks for the info. Looks like I’ll tackle a few other trips prior to this one until I get some more experience with the packraft in whitewater. I’ve kayaked in Class III+ but I imagine its a different ball game in the raft. I appreciate all the info guys.


I did it in August 2005. I’d concur with CST regarding the bushwacking and bears. The upper part was 10 miles of class 2 and a mile of class 3, then like 15 miles of meandering oxbows. It picks up again around where the North Fork comes in and there are some more class 3 rapids before reaching the highway. The hiking from Hatcher Pass, before the bushwacking, was great.

Taking a cue from mountain hiker Tim Kelley and Alpacka Sheri we (Jason Geck, Gordie Vernon, me) combined excellent brush-free Talkeetna Mtns hiking with good splashy white water on “Independent Sheep”, a Memorial Day weekend a few years back.

Hike from Independence Mine over Dogsled Pass (skip horrible Baultaff), heading north to drop over another 2 passes and into Kashwitna. Good trails lead down through the alders on ribs, then blow up and take in a couple good whitewater drops on Kashwitna to ~650 foot contour. Get out and then hike over to Sheep Creek by way of the pass with the lake.

Sheep Creek is intensely fun. I think Jeff Conoway has done it like 5 times at all water levels.


Ian Thomas has done the whole Kashwitna, too. He’s a park ranger in Chugach State Park and says that there are some significant rapids near upper section boring in the middle and then at the end it’s splashy again where Class III keeps river boats out.

Ian says it’s an intermediate, not a beginner river.

Ian says you can call him if it’s not late:


He can tell you about Kashwitna.


Thanks for the info. I haven’t gone yet. Just got the packrafts so kinda easing into the whole thing. Did the 15 mile float on upper ER to the Briggs Bridge one day and the bridge to bridge the next. These things sure are a lot of fun. As for now I’m stuck on the slope for the next 3 weeks. UGH!! So I bought the electronic copy of you book to try and pacify myself until the next time I can go out. I’m hooked already.

Thanks all

My brother and I did the trip in 1987 using a small inflatable raft
over the July 4 weekend. The trip took 4 days… 2 days hiking into the
Kashwitna and 2 days paddling out. You can’t float Barthoff creek and
hiking down the valley after Bomber Glacier is difficult, though mostly
down hill. Areas of alders, willows and swampy ground. There was very
heavy snow that year and Reed Lakes were still frozen and the area starting just
below the lakes was covered in 3 feet of snow. The rock slide leading to
Bomber Pass and Glacier was covered also and a 20 foot snow bank blocked
the pass. The B29 was not visible and in those days the tail was still
erect, so at least 20 feet of snow covered the glacier. We took out at the
North Fork of the Kashwitna and hiked the 4 miles to the Caswell Lakes
subdivision and a parked car. There are two difficult sections below the North Fork
that will require a protage. Then lower for miles it will be real slow as the river gets
into the Susitna valley. That’s why we took out at the North Fork. We had been on
the lower part in an air boat many times.
The river is fast! and even the loops in the upper part was moving at
least 5 mph, we the covered miles fast. We paddled most of the time but mostly
to control the raft and keep warm. The water is very cold as it is mostly
glacier melt. We were only on the water for 4 or 5 hours each day. There
were several spots we chose to portage and some we should have. We started
the trip from the large island below Barthoff. There is a fair amount of
difficulty dealing with the river at Bartfoff as it is flowing very fast.
Another problem is the water level. It can vary greatly depending on the
year and recent weather. I would say the river was in the middle of it’s
range. I flew over the area later in the summer and the river was much
higher and probably would have been too difficult for our small raft. Then
once the snow has melted off and it begins to snow and freeze in the
mountains again instead of raining and melting the level begins to drop
and can get pretty low and probably slow in that upper loop area.
Below the North Fork are some difficult spots that you must portage then
all the slow loops. There was a road being punched in back then below the
North Fork about a mile or so and that may be the best take out now. I
haven’t been back to that area since the late summer of 1987 but expect
you could drive around the Caswell Lakes subdivision and find that spot.

Email and I will give more details.

I posted a guidebook-style entry about this over on my blog:

Do you have any plans on publishing a pack rafting guidebook? Your “guidebook-style” posts in your blog are great trip planning/dreaming/motivating material…