(video)1st descent/Upper Kuskulana Canyon/pack raft...

Hey folks,

The Upper Kuskulana Canyon proved to be a pack raft worthy trip. Jule & I left Anchorage at 5:30a.m. Saturday morning, met Tony Perelli & Luc Mehl at Fred Myers in Eagle River @ 6:00a.m., then drove the 5-ish hour drive to the Kuskulana Trestle bridge out towards McCarthy. After making a quick observation, we decided the water was pretty low, but runnable, so we ditched the 50cc kids dirtbike (our shuttle rig) and drove towards the Strelna Creek trailhead. We hiked 15 miles on the Nugget Creek trail to the Nugget Creek cabin (got there at 6:15p.m. in the dark), and got a nights sleep. Woke up to thick fog/cloud cover and sub-freezing temperatures. I put on and floated the first couple miles, the other guys met me lower when the water was deeper. We floated for about 5 hours until we reached the entrance to Upper Kuskulana Gorge, started a fire to warm up, then went in.

The first rapid “Juicy Juice” clamied 1 swimmer. The rapids that followed were fun and very doable, lots of narrow slots in the 2-4 ft. range w/ small holes at the base. Then came the 2nd true river-wide ledge “Double Suck.” Tony gave it a go and cleaned the ledge, then just as the name implies was sucked left towards the 2 sieves… all was well though. Onward we went until we reached “House of God.” Luc gave it a go and unfortunately I don’t have that part on film (recording issue), but he caught the 1st eddy in the move then the rest was history, but he was ok at the bottom:^)

THEN the crazy part happened… the water went slack & we were suddenly paddling a lake. I knew something was wrong and a dam had formed somewhere almost instantly. A few hundred yards downstream and sure enough a HUGE landslide came in from river-left (right where the narrowest part of the canyon used to be). It formed one of the most impressive & runnable class V+/VI- rapids “Hydro-bomb Falls” I’ve seen in Alaska to this day. We were able to walk on the super sketchy land slide to the base of the falls to portage (thank god… I would have been stoked to have my hard shell to fire up this sweet drop, but I don’t think a pack raft was suited for it:^) Putting in at the base a fun class III juicy wavetrain led us to the river mellowing out quickly. A 45 minute float to the take-out (paddling in the dark) saw us at the road at 6:55p.m. We arrived back in Anchorage at 1:00a.m. this morning. AMAZING weekend and good times!

ps: be EXTREMELY careful and do not go into this river next spring until this new rapid has had high water attempting to break the dam in June/July… it could go at any second w/ the amount of water (I assume around 60 ft. deep resevior was created) that’s in that retaining lake!