Lake Clark National Park & Preserve

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Lake Clark National Park and Preserve contains three designated wild and scenic rivers and many other spectacular streams that visitors can float to experience remote Alaskan wilderness. Those used to day trips in the lower 48 will find a new experience up here. Trips can exceed 200 miles and have you floating through alpine tundra for days.

Their length and isolation make these serious trips. But you will have plenty of time to take in the sights as you drift along. The whitewater rarely surpasses Class III. Take advantage of it and learn how sublime wilderness solitude in the north country can be.

Don't let your guard down entirely though. River conditions are in constant change and novices need to arrange the services of licensed outfitters in the area. The Lake Clark region is known for "sweepers." These are trees that have fallen fully or partially into the river causing the current to be directed through the branches. The turbulence created can flip a raft, trapping the occupants in the strong current. As the sweepers can occur at any location along the rivers, it is advisable to include a flight over the river on your drop-off trip in order to observe current conditions. Onshore scouting of unknown river sections is advised. Because take out points can be easily missed, topographic maps of the area should be followed.

Mulchatna River
Beginning at Turquoise Lake the river flows across the alpine tundra to the Bonanza Hills as a shallow, rocky channel more suited to rafts and kayaks than canoes. Below the Bonanza Hills, as the valley broadens, it is an easy float suitable for canoes but, as the river wanders through an upland spruce-hardwood forest, sweepers are abundant. Farther downstream the floodplain widens to wetlands and joins the Nushugak River. Popular trip length is from 100 to 230 miles.

Chilikadrotna River
Beginning at Twin Lakes, a swift, steady current and narrow course winds through an upland spruce-hardwood forest, providing a challenging river for intermediate boaters. Sweepers are abundant on this river, which combined with the swift current and twisting course, require constant alertness. Rafts or kayaks are recommended; canoes only for very experienced boaters. Popular trip lengths are from 70-200 miles when combined with the Mulchatna River. This river is known for its excellent fishing.

Tlikakila River
This small but fast glacial river flows through a deep, heavily forested valley from Lake Clark Pass to Lake Clark. The river flows past snow-capped peaks, glaciers, waterfalls and sheer rock cliffs. It is recommended for raft or kayak; canoes suitable for experienced paddlers only. A one-mile portage must be made from the drop off point at Summit Lake. Class III rapids, which can possibly be rated at IV at high water, occur below the North Fork confluence but can be portaged. Trip length is 70 miles. Visitors should be aware that the Tlikakila is on a busy aircraft route.

Other Rivers
There are three other rivers in the Lake Clark Region that may interest visitors as possibilities for float trips. The Stony, Necons and Telaquana Rivers are located in the northwest section of the Preserve. The Telaquana starts at Telaquana Lake; the Necons starts at Two Lakes. Both flow into the Stony River. If more information is desired on these and other rivers, contact the Lake Clark Field Headquarters office.

Trip Plannning
Water levels fluctuate greatly throughout the June through September season. Normally, high water from snowmelt occurs some time in June with rainy periods in late August. Water levels can rise and fall very rapidly, sometimes 3-4 feet in a few hours. Because water levels fluctuate widely and ratings are based on relatively few observations, decisions should be based on observation.

Because these rivers are in very remote areas, aid in an emergency will not be readily available. Adequate planning is necessary for self-reliance, including rescue and repair. Wet suits are recommended for whitewater kayakers and warm, water-resistant clothing is a must for everyone. Life jackets are mandatory and must be worn at all times. A throw line is an important emergency aid and trip members should become familiar with its use in order to aid anyone who has fallen into the water. Hunting parties should plan to use a raft with oars and a frame in order to safely transport meat and maintain control of the raft.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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