Info on floating the Chulitna River

Hi Everyone,
We took an extended 4th of July and made a 4 day of the Chulitna River from 7/3-7/6. We floated with our 16ft, 13ft, and 9ft catarafts. I must say I ranked this trip in the top 4 best experiences. Saturday night we were lucky enough to set up camp a mile across the river from where we saw 8 different bears fishing in the late evening and early morning. Plus the views and different angles of Mt. McKinley were phenomenal.

Our put in was at the East Fork of the Chulitna at the Chulitna Bridge on the Parks Hwy (mile 184). If you are coming from Wasilla there will be a large open gravel area on the left hand side immediately before the bridge, this is where we put in. Our take out was at the Sustina Bridge on the Parks Hwy (mile 104). There are other possible take outs at the McKinley Princess Lodge and Talkeetna boat launch.

We contacted a taxi service in Talkeetna to inquire if they would shuttle our vehicles so that they would be waiting for us at the take out. It’s not something they have done before and were hesitate about driving our personal vehicles. We ended up paying friends to help us out.

You can fish for grayling and trout for approximately 8 miles from the put in. When the east fork meets with the west fork just below Honolulu Creek the waters become filled with glacial silt. There are king salmon in this river although we did not see many in the clear water.

It’s hard to say what the river level was during our float since there is not an active gauge. Our GPS indicated there were times when we were floating 7 to 9 miles per hour. On average we floated approximately 5 to 7 miles per hour.

Once you pass under the bridge where the river and Parks Hwy crosses at the McKinley Princess it is approximately a 2-3 hours float to Talkeetna depending on the water level and wind. As you get closer to Talkeetna be aware Mahay’s runs jet boats up the river, although we never got close to one another.

From Talkeetna to the Susitna Bridge is approximately a 2 hour float.

We did see 3 other catarafts on the river and a couple with inflatable kayaks.

It’s my opinion this float is for intermediate to advance rafters. I’m sure it would also be a completely different experience in our packrafts. In the catarafts you float a little slower, sit higher out of the water, and have the option to put your feet in the water and Fred Flinestone your way off a gravel bar in you get caught in the shallows.

I hope this information helps anyone interested in floating this river. If you have specific question or want additional information we would be happy to help you out. You can reach me here or by email at I don’t check my email every day so give me some time to respond.

Anyone who has floated this river please feel free to add your input.

Shuttle Info

Just paddled the East Fork Chulitna and wanted to share some shuttle info. We put in at mile 185 on the Parks Highway where it crosses the east fork of the Chulitna and took out in Talkeenta.

We got a ride with Alaska Yukon Trails shuttle service (800-770-7275) from Talkeetna to the put in, leaving Talkeetna at 10:15am and we were paddling by 1pm. They charged $60 person. For 2 people a little more expensive than gas money (depending on your cars mpg), but didn’t need 2 cars and saved hours of driving. They allow one 50lb bag, and charge extra for more baggage (they have a small trailer, not sure if enough room for big rafts), not a big deal with packrafts.

Other options:
Park Connection (800-266-8625), another shuttle that leaves Talkeetna 6pm in the evening.

Alaska railroad Hurricane Train. I have been told by folks on the train that for an extra $15 they will drop you off a few miles past their normal stop at Hurricane (Hurricane is $48 minus 20% for Alaska residents), where the tracks are right next to the Chulitna. This is below the confluence with the west fork, so you miss out on the first stretch of the river. This stop is not on their schedule and not advertised, you just need to ask for this stop when you buy your tickets (might be worth calling first). Departs Talkeetna 12:15 Thursday through Sunday.

There is now a gauge on the Chulitna:

Anyone have any early seson reports on this river yet? I’d like to do a raft trip the June 1-2 weekend, but with teh winter we’ve had, I’m not sure it will be doable. Anyone drive by there recently? Any other rivers that might be open enough to get a 14’ raft down this early? Just looking for a week-ender.