Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Talkeetna Canyon

Rumor has it that the overgrown airstrip just above the Talkeetna Canyon might be "brushed-out" and usable by the end of the summer. In the past, willows and brush had overgrown this strip so that only very skilled Super Cub pilots could land there and most of the time even they wouldn't risk trying to squeeze their planes into the tight accommodations.

Rafters and kayakers wanting to do the Canyon have traditionally flown in to Buck's Airstrip, Yellowjacket Creek or Murder Lake. It takes a few hours to float from Buck's to the actual Talkeetna Canyon rapids and Yellowjacket Creek airstrip is a little closer than that. Murder Lake is a drop-off point for float planes. From Murder lake, you can float down Prairie Creek to reach the Talkeetna River just a few miles above the start of the Talkeetna Canyon rapids.

The Talkeetna Canyon is one of the best whitewater runs in the country. It's about 14 miles of continuous Class III and IV rapids. A note of interest is that Wilderness Classic veteran Barney Griffith may have made the first descent of the Talkeetna in 1978 with Bill Spencer. The Canyon is not suitable for packrafting.

For more information on running the Talkeenta, check out Andrew Embick's book on Alaskan Whitewater. Fast and Cold You can also check out Karen Jettmar's river rafting book. The Alaska River Guide. Or you can also check out this cool link to Jim Strutz's description of the Talkeetna. Jim has extensive experience on Alaskan rivers.

Contact Talkeetna Air Taxi for more information about when they might start flying in to this small landing strip for Talkeetna Canyon adventure runs.

The Wilderness Classic route from 2003 - 2005 ran from Eureka to Talkeetna and most racers spent a fair amount of time floating the Talkeetna River and circumventing the Talkeetna Canyon rapids. Note: when I passed through this airstrip a few years ago during the Classic, there were numerous fresh grizzly tracks in the sand near the river. This probably isn't a good place to camp if you want to avoid bears. In fact, the whole Talkeetna Canyon area seems to heavily populated and traversed by bears.

Here's a couple Classic racers at the confluence of Prairie Creek and the Talkeetna River "battening down the hatches".

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