Talkeetna Traverse: Chulitna-Tsusena-Susitna-Clear

Forrest McCarthy named this the “Cant Talk” route as it links the Cantwell area to Talkeetna and passes through the North Talkeetnas where some FDs still lurk. We did this in June 2007, at essentially high-ish water.

I am reposting it here as it’s hard to find in the forums but has some beta others might find useful.

We hiked up horse and ATV trails on the lower East Fork of the Chulitna, turning round and running the lower two canyons of the East Fork (Class III+). The lower canyon was particularly spicy in its entrance rapid. We continued back up the East Fork Chulitna and spent our second night at the head of Tsusena Creek, which was non-stop Class II and a bit of III+ as we approached the unmapped 120+ foot waterfall at the 2000 or so foot contour. We portaged on bear trails river left, then put in at the first trib downstream of the waterfall and ran a couple III+ rapids from there to the Big Su. The Tsusena is a creek that just gets bigger and bigger with each passing mile and is non-stop action in granite boulder gardens. Super fun and scenic, if a bit hectic below the waterfall. Alaskalanche has commented that at low water the upper Tsusena has a bit of portaging.

The Big Su was fast and casual. We camped on its banks and headed up to Stephan and Murder Lakes the next day. We paddled across the 5 mile Stephan Lake in an hour and a half, then scraped down the slimy shallows of Prairie Creek until it channelized. It’s a simple Class II low volume creek, probbably not worth doing, with a direct approach to Clear (Chunilna) Creek a better route.

We camped upstream of the confluence of Talkeetna River and Cache Creek and followed Cache Creek to its head waters, crossing over to the upper Chunilna, known locally as Clear Creek. Bear trails were numerous and the tundra pretty good.

The upper Clear Creek above the airstrip marked on maps at its uppermost confluence (marked on USGS 1:250,000 Talkeetna Mountains with an airstrip and a winter road which connects a mine to Gold Creek on the Big Su) was too shallow to paddle. We walked on good ridge walking to the north, then followed the ridge’s nose down on bear trails to the mine. Clear Creek was a splashy creek to start with then entered a canyon section visible on the map and characterized by fun pool drops. After that it opens up into boulder gardens interspersed with flatter water. It’s a full grade easier in our opinion than the Sheep Creek (north of the Kashwitna).

We camped at the mine and made it to Talkeetna in one long day, with a fire enroute for dinner.

I think we did six bodies of water in six days and would recommend this to anyone who likes Sheep Creek at high water.