Wood River Lakes – Lake Kulik to Lake Beverley
Wood-Tikchik SP, Alaska
6/26 – 7/4, 2013
A group of ten of us – four adults, six children - took two packrafts (an Alpacka and a Yukon Yak) and three inflatable kayaks on a float trip in Wood-Tikchik State Park, AK. Our plan was to fly in to the upper Tikchik lakes, and float the Tikchik river to Tikchik lake. However, due to the late winter and late ice out, we could not fly in to the upper lakes and had to change plans. We ended up flying in to Lake Kulik, and paddled down to Lake Beverley where we were picked up 9 days later.
We landed at our first campsite, a quarter mile east of the Grant River on Lake Kulik. Water levels were high but there was enough gravel for a good site. Beautiful weather for two days, great view of mountains to the west and south from this spot. There is extended marshland north of the campsite, where we saw moose and northern pike unaccustomed to people slapping up against our boats. Lots of birdlife, it was amazing to see the various small bird species react when a bald eagle was anywhere within a mile. Besides the chorus, they all took turns dive bombing the eagle until it eventually vacated.
We caught char and pike at the mouth of the Grant River. We walked up in the river bed for a ways, but it was too difficult on our kids to get all the way to the waterfall. Adults could do it in a long day.
We paddled the length of Lake Kulik in one long day, but there appear to be good campsites to the north of Emerald Island. We took a break there and had a fire. The island itself was said to be good exploring or even camping, but didn’t see any great access points. The Wind River drains Kulik, and starts around a blind corner that we felt obligated to scout. The river was fast but the rapids were not too challenging, never needed to scout after the first bend. There’s a research cabin at the head of the river. The Wind River is a beautiful section, but brief.
Where the river dumps into Lake Mikchalk, there is decent camping 1/8th of a mile around the northwest shore from the river. You can see GoldenHorn Lodge in the distance, and there is a fair bit of air traffic in this corridor. Beautiful spot though. The wind picked up and stayed up the rest of the trip. The next day we paddled Mikchalk to the Peace River. The Peace is a slow river and the initial segment was flatwater and no real shelter from the wind. However, the current and protection both improve downriver.
The Peace River empties into the upper part of Lake Beverley, and we encountered a maelstrom upon hitting Beverley, with whitecaps and high winds. There is a lodge on the right bank here, and they were gearing up their boats and working in the shallows when we came through, which added to the chaos. About ½ mile along the western shoreline is a campsite that is frequently used and has been improved by the park service with a sign and a fire ring. We camped there, and were weather bound for the next two days due to wind and rain.
We tried to fish the mouth of the Peace River but didn’t have much success from the bank or from our boats, as without a motor or anchor we really couldn’t hold in the right position. The sockeye were just showing up at this time.
When the weather let up enough to paddle, we headed out to cross the Golden Horn and get into the Silver Horn. The winds and waves were still significant and the larger boats took on a fair bit of water. The packrafts managed better due to the spray skirts. It is a deceptively long crossing, without great breakspots on the other side, so be prepared. The Golden Horn looks spectacular, but is lined up perfectly along the axis of Lake Beverley so if the prevailing winds are strong along this axis, it will be rough. The SilverHorn is much better sheltered, with a couple narrow areas to break the wind and waves. Once we got into the Silver Horn, the paddling was easy and the scenery is spectacular. There is a campsite on the southern aspect of the Lake just as the Silver Horn begins, and the campsite we used which was 2/3 of the way into the Horn on the northern aspect. Didn’t see any other options for camping, but we didn’t go all the way to the end of the Silver Horn. Someone has built a small cabin near the end of the Silver Horn, which is visible and not sure who built it or why.
Another day of bad weather in the Silver Horn precluded paddling. Be aware that this campsite is the mouth of a dry drainage, and the more it rained the more the drainage filled. Didn’t hurt us too badly but another day of rain we’d have been forced to vacate. At lower water levels, there may be more gravel around the lakeshore for camping options but we had to largely pitch tents in the drainage.
Left before sunrise the last day, beautiful conditions and gorgeous sunrise in the Silver Horn. We were picked up on a point on the southern aspect of Lake Beverley.
With better weather, one could easily make it well into Lake Nerka in this amount of time, depending on side trips and layover days. We brought the packrafts because we were intending to spend the bulk of our time on the Tikchik River – as it ended up, the bulk of our time was flatwater paddling on the Wood Lakes. However, I was impressed by how the packrafts managed the flatwater, and our experienced packrafters had no trouble keeping up with or exceeding the inflatable kayaks.