South Fork of Eagle River

Recent rains have brought the South Fork of Eagle River up to a good level. JT Lindholm and I ran about 6 miles of it today (August 15th) and it was pretty rowdy in places. There are 3 segments that, for lack of creativity, are called the upper, middle and lower. The upper segment starts approximately 0.5 miles below Eagle Lake and runs down to Symphony Lakes Trail bridge, the middle segment runs down to the South Creek Drive road bridge near the Symphony Lakes trailhead, and the lower segment ends at the first Hiland Road bridge at roughly Mile 5.5 of Hiland Road. There are two unpassable footbridges in the middle segment that have to be portaged, but otherwise the trail bridge at the end of the upper segment, a driveway bridge in the middle segment, and the two road culverts are passable.

The creek is largely free of wood after extensive clearing efforts over the past year. There are a few snags in the lower segment to watch out for, but you can get around them if you know the run. If it is your first time down, I suggest scouting some of the drops in the middle and lower segments.

The upper segment is the easiest of the three, generally Class II with a few Class III drops. The middle segment is the hardest, especially below the red driveway bridge. Approximately 1/2 mile below the driveway bridge watch for a footbridge that you must portage. Several hundred yards downstream of the footbridge is a a sequence of three drops in succession, the first drop being about 4’. It is non-stop action for the next mile until another unpassable footbridge is encountered. Portage that and within 200 yards pass through the first culvert marking the end of the middle segment. The middle segment is sustained Class III, perhaps even Class IV-.

The lower segment is busy Class III for the first several miles but the action gets serious in the final mile, on par with the challenges of the middle segment, approaching Class IV. If you are not on your game you could make a real mess in the steep drops and corners before the Hiland Road culvert. A good eddy on river left just downstream of the culvert marks the end of the lower segment. The creek continues dropping steeply down to the mainstem Eagle River, but there are several big waterfalls ahead. Here be dragons…

More information about the South Fork can be found in the Old Trip Reports at the Yahoo site ( The water level in the South Fork seems to mirror Ship Creek (,1,1,1,1,1), with flows in Ship Creek above 5’ indicating sufficient water in the South Fork.

The South Fork is at a great level right now, and looks to stay that way for a while. JT Lindholm and I ran it on September 10th and found it to be pretty wild. Some of the drops that we had previously considered the hardest were somewhat washed out while other unremarkable drops became quite remarkable. At the current level it approaches Class IV,and because of the continuity of the run, with non-stop action, you should be a Class IV boater to consider the segments below the first driveway bridge at current level.
St George Webii.jpg
Southfork Web.jpg

Although both Ship Creek and Eagle River are running at good levels, the South Fork of Eagle River is still quite low and not currently runnable as of June 9th, 2008. Cold temperatures have minimized the glacial melt so that Eagle Lake is well-below full with little outflow. In fact, Symphony Lake was still mostly iced over as of June 7th.

I’ve had lots of inquiries and I will post on this forum as soon as the South Fork is runnable. There is still uncleared wood in the river that I am working on removing, and hopefully will complete before the water comes up.

Any better yet?
June 20, 2008?

My folks live just below the first driveway bridge. I was up there fri. I suspect its better but could come up a bit more in regards to Brads write up. Merely my observation as i’ve not run it yet.

I think it looks good now (June 23rd). Be warned that there is some wood still in the river. The worst is a 6 tree jam in the segment between the road bridges.

Anybody want to go?

Brad Meiklejohn

I’m interested. I can go either thursday afternoon or saturday. I live on Hiland road around mile 6. My phone number is 622-2289.

Hey Brad,

I would love to run SF. When is a good time for you? What is the time comittment for the trip? I ran Glacier today from the hand tram to the bridge no wood and a great -3 flush.
We met at Chikaloon rescue three course.

John Evingson

My partners and I all agree that 5.03 (for Ship Ck) is a tad low for floating South Fork, at least the upper section.
Despite what appeared like low water, we gave it a go anyways.

Low water rocks! (for taking breaks)

This was still a pretty good time and I can only imagine what it would be like with some more water in it.

Pictures of bruised butt forthcoming… :wink:

As of September 19th, the South Fork of Eagle River still is quite low, despite the rains. Whereas an earlier post of mine suggested that the South Fork is boatable when the Ship Creek guage is above 5.0 feet, that correlation appears not to hold true. The main distinction between the drainages is the presence of the lakes at the head of the South Fork valley, which act as reservoirs. If the reservoirs are full as a result of glacial meltwater, the flow in the South Fork rises. Now that we are getting snow in the high country, the glaciers are not melting and the lake is not putting out enough water to reduce the butt bruising.

I’ll keep an eye on it and let folks know when this fun run is doable.


I live on South Fork. If we wanted to put a gauge at the bridge, just before the Park entrance, my family could post daily updates thru the summer. My property is the house on the left just before you cross the bridge. We have the little pond with the kayaks in it.

Danny Crow

This would be very cool.
How is the creek looking?
Has anyone looked at it or even floated it yet??

As of today, May 14th 2009 the Southfork is too low. With not much snow remaining to melt we’ll have to rely on rain to bring the Southfork up to runnable levels. Echo Bend is good right now. Ship Creek is a bit too burly. Willow is at a good level.

As of June 10th 2009, the South Fork of Eagle River is running at a nice level. Creek cleaning has removed several nasty sweepers and strainers, and as of today the upper two-thirds of the run is passable from approximately 1 mile below the lakes downstream to the road bridge near the South Fork trailhead. I have not scouted or cleaned the lower third of the run between the two road bridges, so paddle that section at your own risk. I know there is at least one river-wide sweeper in that section, and probably more.

Because of the abundance of dead spruce lining this creek, the wood situation changes all the time, thanks in part to residents who consider the river an easy tree-removal system. Cut the tree so that it lands in the creek and washes downstream, and voila, no more dead spruce on your property!

Having read some of the recent candid posts about near-death packrafting experiences, a fatal packrafting accident is somewhere in our future. While the South Fork is generally Class III, the potential for encountering sweepers and strainers warrants that this creek be treated with caution.

We ran the upper and middle sections today- put in was about a mile below the lakes. Water in the upper section was runable but thin. Had a lot of butt-wiggling and scooting to do to get over rock gardens. Middle section was fun and completely free of problematic wood. A few trees in the river but nothing you’d get stuck in. Just go around or bounce off them. Middle section had a good amount of flow but still got stuck a few times on rocks that are normally submerged in higher water. Have fun!

Anyone know what kind of minimum flow to look for on the main Eagle River gauge to get an idea of the South Fork? I know Ship has been mentioned, but that correlation doesn’t always hold true.

I live on Hiland Road right next to the South Fork and still have not figured out a correlation to any of the the surrounding creeks. The South Fork comes up in really big rains and really warm weather when the headwater glaciers are melting, but otherwise tends to be too low for decent boating, as it is right now.

I can understand not having a correlation based on surrounding creeks, but there has to be some correlation with the main. What was the eagle river gauge reading the last few times you paddled the south fork? That might get us started in figuring something out. If you don’t know the flow, how about the dates you paddled it? Historical gauge data is rather easy to come by now days…

So the Ship Creek gauge reads 4.76 today, Brad. According to what you have experienced that is too low to run the upper section?

Yep, the South Fork is too bony. Since I live right next to it, I will try to post when it is running at good levels.