Moose Creek - Yentna - Nenana - 3 Rivers Gem

Technically this one should be in the Interior subcategory, but it’s so close to the boundary that I am going to put it under Southcentral. Plus it really feels more like a Southcentral trip than an Interior trip.

How many Moose Creeks are there in Alaska? Almost as many as there are Mud Lakes, Beaver Creeks and bears. This one near Carlo Creek was ferretted out by Jeremy Woods, and I suspect it is a long-time favorite of the Denali Park crowd who may have been keeping it under wraps. The Moose Creek in question drains north off the first set of Alaska Range mountains just north of Broad Pass. It parallels Revine Creek and runs into the Yanert, which in turn flows into the Nenana.

This trip is a gem! It features great hiking on a beautiful trail with outstanding scenery, fun and engaging Class 3+ boating on a blue clearwater creek, fast big water and great canyons. The boating to hiking ratio is about 3:1, and its a very easy shuttle back to your car.

Locate the large parking lot on the east side of the Parks Hwy about Mile 228, just north of a large gravel pit operation. This new parking lot was built to accommodate horse trailers and to get around the gravel pit, which used to serve as the trailhead. It’s a horse trail, not an ATV trail, so it’s good and not muddy walking. The trickiest part of the trail is within the first 300 yards, where a confusion of intersections branch off. Generally head southeast towards the mountains, eventually crossing the powerline and gaining a lateral moraine that you follow for about 3 miles to Revine Creek. This one may be boatable in high water, but in mid-July 2018 had about 1/3rd the flow of Moose Creek. Cross Revine and angle down river a bit to refind the trail, which then reclimbs out of the valley onto another lateral moraine that trends up the Moose Creek Valley. After about 4 miles, you’ll cross a large gully drainage that is flowing into Moose Creek. Climb up out of the gully and descend a spine/ridge down to Moose Creek on excellent game trails and open meadows. If you hit this right there is almost no bushbashing.

From the put-in Moose Creek meanders through about a mile of woody corners with at least 4 wood portages. Once the creek straightens out it begins to drop into the fun bit, and the gradient quickly steepens. This section is similar to the Little Su from the Mint to the picnic area; fast, busy and engaging, but nothing huge or really difficult. I’d call it Class 3+, with 2 notable larger drops and many smaller ones. The gradient is up to 200’ per mile, but only for about a mile, before it eases back to about 100’ per mile the remainder of the way to the Yanert. From the put-in to the Yanert is only about 4 miles, which you could increase by going further upriver to launch on the Moose, but it looked to me that would involve more wood and uninteresting water. I was surprised that this creek still had a lot of water (estimated 400 cfs) in mid July, but nearby Riley Creek was also quite full for this time of year. A late spring melt in 2018 could be anomalous, and Moose Creek might normally be best in June.

While Moose is short, the Yanert rewards with an engaging and fast section of big-water Class 3 for about 8 miles to the Nenana. This is mostly hole dodging and big rodeo waves, with a meaty section just as the powerline wires come into view about 0.5 miles upstream of the Nenana confluence. Here a series of big holes are tricky to avoid, but can be missed by a sneak on river left.

The Nenana is a great and highly-scenic 12 mile Class 2 float past spectacular orange canyon walls to the take-out at Riley Creek. Beyond Riley Creek get ready for Nenana Canyon, described elsewhere. From Riley Creek you can catch a park bus back to McKinley Village and walk or hitch the remaining 3 miles back to your car.

8 miles of hiking for 24 miles of super boating. This can all be done in a long day (4-5 hrs hiking, 4-5 hrs boating) or an easy overnight. Riley Creek may be your best visual flow gauge to whether Moose Creek will have adequate water. Their catchments basins are very similar in size and configuration.

Sounds like a great find, Brad. Thanks for sharing.