Alaska Packrafting Trips
“A packraft, easily carried while you walk, run, bike, hike, ski, drive, or even fly, encourages amphibious travel. Packrafts can be simple fun for little kids on local lakes or necessary tools for burly adventurers doing first descents on international epics. Packrafts can be used to get into and out of otherwise hard to reach hunting, fishing, and climbing areas, or they can be used for “sport-boating,” paddled alongside kayaks and other whitewater craft on rapid-filled runs. But mostly they are as much fun to paddle as mountain bikes are to ride. They put joy into boating.” – American Packrafting Association.
Packrafting (or pack rafting) is one of the really great secrets of Alaska. These amazing little boats allow us to enjoy the wilderness here in a way that is virtually impossible without them. A durable, safe floating craft weighing as little as 4+ pounds, rolling up smaller than a medium size tent, is an invaluable addition to the typical backcountry travel gear we tend to carry.
If you’re unfamiliar with packrafting, read this Intro to Packrafting article. Alaska is the perfect place to get acquainted. Rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, even great stretches of open water along the coast of Alaska offer countless different options for packrafting. We can do a trip as a day trip, running easier water such as the lower Chitistone River or Nizina River back to McCarthy in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, or a more challenging river such as the Lakina River, a 30-odd mile stretch of Class II, III and III+ river, depending on water levels. We can do a multi-day trip, classic Alaska packrafting trips such as the Marsh Fork -> Canning River trip in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or the lower Alatna River in Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Types of Packrafting Trips
Alaska Packrafting if often divided up into several different categories or styles of trip
1) Single Day Float Trips These packrafting trips are usually a relatively low key float trip, 5-8 hours in length, with no real previous boating experience needed (though it’s always a benefit, of course). Such a trip might be a fly-in trip, like Glacier Creek -> Chitistone River -> McCarthy, or the Nizina River -> McCarthy. A great way to get deep into the backcountry, have a look around the wild, and paddle back in time for dinner and drinks in town.
Nizina Lake Packrafting
What makes the Nizina such a great packrafting option is the lake at the start of the trip. We can practice some basic paddling techniques in the lake, without having to deal with the river currents, etc. We can also enjoy paddling around these incredible icebergs. Nizina Lake is at the very toe of the glacier. It’s an incredible place to paddle. Check out the video below.
2) Whitewater Packrafting Trips These packrafting trips are for both the more adventurous and river-savvy (that is, experienced) paddlers. We can do something like a fly in trip to the Lakina River, and paddle out. Water levels fluctuate greatly in the summer, with rainfall and/or warm temperatures possibly dramatically increasing water flow. This can drastically alter the “class” of the river, but usually we won’t run anything above Class III – III+ water. It’s a good idea, if this is what you’re looking for, to book a couple of days, and we can do a a day or so running over boating safety basics before you hit the backcountry. These kinds of packrafting trips require a PFD, helmet, etc, and usually a drysuit (supplied) as well; so they won’t work quite so well in combination with backpacking trips, unless we (a) swap out gear at a landing strip, or (b) suck it up and carry a whole bunch of gear. Option (b) is a better choice.
A new whitewater trip added for 2015 is the Dadina River packrafting trip. Great fun!
Once you have the basics down, and you’re ready for some rock ‘n roll and good fun, let’s leave the lake and run the river. Packraft all the way back to McCarthy, past the incredible Mile High Cliffs. We go through two small canyons with some burlier water before our pickup at the confluence with Chitina River. Great Class III packrafting.
3) Backpacking – Packrafting Trips These trips are mostly backpacking treks using packrafts for river crossings and lake crossings along the way. The main emphasis of the trip, for example, is usually the hike itself, and the boats are used to help with river crossings. The Lost Coast traverse in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park is one example of that. A multi-day backpacking trip, where we bring a couple of packrafts to help with just a few sections of the trip. We don’t usually carry one boat per person, instead use a couple of boats to ferry people and gear across the rivers, rather than hiking across the rivers. This is a great option for trips where river crossings are maybe a bit bigger than might be reasonably crossed on foot.
4) Multi-day Float Trips These packrafting trips are more river-based trips than the backpacking/packrafting trips above. The emphasis here is paddling, rather than hiking. One example might be the Marsh Fork – Canning River float in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Packrafting ANWR). Another might be hiking from Bremner Mines to the Klu River, where we can paddle the Klu -> Chakina River, cross the Copper and take out for a flight back to McCarthy.
Mostly, these packrafting trips will be designed to take advantage of the best of what Alaska packrafting offers; great wilderness travel, adventure, fun and excitement. Give me a call at 770 952 4549 or contact me here and we can discuss what kind of trip will be best suited for you and your group.
- Day Trips
- Whitewater Trips
- Multi-day trips
- Backpacking-Packrafting Trips
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(ph) 770 952 4549