Herbert River

Herbert is a great day trip worth the drive. I ran this a few times last year. I do’t have current beta so expect some changes due to rock shifts and wood forming. I don’t think I will have to time to post a better report before leaving for the summer. So here is “better than nothing”.

I have not run this river yet this year. Expect wood, and be ready for it.

It was pretty flooded/pushing when we ran it. Walking trail and put in right bellow glacier. River right of island was no go-log jam, river left went. Pretty clear of wood for a bit longer, then things start to get steep. There was a long series of class III IV. I think at lower water it would be II-ish. Similar feel to Eagle River. At low flow watch for undercut rocks and possible foot entrapment. Those rapids end and the river turns left, a big pool had formed just past the turn left. A steep rapid leads into a short gentle section, then another supper steep rapid that takes you under a foot bridge. There is a big eddy on river right just after bridge. River wide log jam just past eddy. Make sure you pull out after this bridge. Walk the fishing trail over the bridge and put in just down river. Rest is pretty chill, a couple splashes but mostly just moving around wood. When we ran it water was high enough that we could just scoot around trees, at lower levels it may be river wide, so practice some caution here, there may be dragons.

I did this trip on Sunday, June 27, 2014. I’d say the river was at a solid medium flow, but this was the first time I’d pack rafted down it. The Mendenhall gauge was reporting between 7-7.5’ on this day (for reference).

Overall, this is a great day trip and well worth the 4-6 hours it takes. You get great views of the Herbert Glacier and the float out is exciting and then relaxing. I was surprised at how little wood I had to deal with. Apparently some jet boaters have put in a fair amount of work on this river clearing it of sweepers, strainers, etc. Be sure to thank them if you run into them! Ultimately I only had to portage 1 or 2 very short sections.

The hike in is easy-peasy. This would be a great one to bike-raft as the trail is popular for bikers. It is possible to scout a bit of the river on the hike in, but not much. Plan to read and run. It takes about 2 hours to get to the put in moving at a casual pace.

I put in below the last big rapid at the base of the glacier. There are some exciting rapids and holes above the put-in, but I’m not sure they’re appropriate for a pack raft… They’re certainly out of my comfort zone at this point. Immediately below the put-in there is a fun wave-train section of river. After this the river is a bit more mellow but there are a few other exciting sections with fun waves and manageable holes. Most of this is found in the upper 1/3 of the river.

I took the river right side of the island. It was pretty mellow with 1-2 portages required. Again, these were easy as far as portages go. Next time I do this I’ll most likely head down the river left channel at the island. I suspect it might be a bit more fun.

As hippotour mentions, this is a dynamic river with respect to wood, so always be ready to get out and do a bit of scouting–especially around blind corners, etc. When I did it, it was in great shape (much better than the Eagle River) with respect to sweepers and strainers.

I took out right before the highway bridge and walked back to the parking lot.

Video on youtube:

Current beta as of July 2018:

Walk trail to your choice of put ins along river. In video we put in at the end of the glacier carved upper upper canyon for that fun wave train.

River is calm and braided for a bit then you will enter a few smaller rock gardens. The river then tightens and picks up speed. You will hear white water and see a small island. The left channel may or may not have water in it depending on river level. Big rapids start just after this small Island. They are difficult to scout and at higher flow are Class IV. Lower flow class III.

These rapids run out into a second larger Island. This Island is very large. Juicer river channel is river left and is featured in this video. Caution in this stretch of river as it gets woody in here. If you are not comfortable boat scouting I’d recommend getting out at Big Island and scouting river right of left channel to check for wood.

After wood rapid you have a short section of flat water before entering bridge rapid. Bridge rapid often is full of wood as well. There is a nice sandy beach on river right. Get out and scout rapid or portage.

Big eddy after bridge and both sides of river. Typically there are several log jams in this section of river. You can get out and walk fishing trails on river left to put in at the confluence with Windfall Creek. Or if you want an adventure stay in the water and see what log jams are up to. Just don’t drown in here. It would suck for everyone.

River is fairly tame after this section and typically clear of wood as jet boaters keep it clear. There are several submerged sweepers in the this section that you can otter slide over. Do give them caution though as it would be unfortunate to get sucked under them.

Keep in mind wood is constantly changing. Juneau is in a rain forrest after all. Stay safe out there and leave me comment if you have a question.

Thanks for the updates. Keep 'em coming.

Ran Herbert on Saturday 8/18/18. After recent high waters there is definitely new wood and at least one additional mandatory portage. River-wide logjams right after rapid under the bridge (2nd big bridge on the trail to Windfall Cabin) and another one shortly after that. ALSO a river-wide logjam (the new one) AFTER you’ve portaged the previously mentioned two logjams and put back in where Windfall Creek dumps into the Herbert. That last one involves some Devil’s Club "shwacking. Otherwise the river was at a fun flow level.