Latest News from Fairbanks Paddlers
Join us on Tuesday, February 20 at Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Company in Fox, Alaska for the second presentation in the Fairbanks Paddlers’ winter/spring slideshow series. Doors will open at 5:30 pm with a limited menu plus beverages available from the bar. Food service will end when the presentation starts at 7 p.m. Please support Silver Gulch for generously hosting our events at no charge to the club. Bring a friend or make a dinner date with a partner. Come early and enjoy good food, beverages and meet up with old friends and new ones from the paddling community. The presentation is free and open to the public.
Silver Gulch is located at 2195 Old Steese Highway North in Fox, Alaska.
Killik River Presentation
Tom Paragi will narrate images of scenery and wildlife from a late summer 2023 paddle down the Killik River. The trip started near Tulilik Lake in the Brooks Range, went north through Sunday Rapids in the foothills, and ended below the confluence with the Colville River at the start of the arctic coastal plain.
We have two more presentations scheduled in the winter/spring series. Don and Tracie Pendergrast will be sharing their trip on Utah’s Green River on March 12. If anyone has an additional trip to share, we would welcome a double feature on this evening.
On April 9, Michael Engelhard will present his traverse of the Brooks Range by packraft and foot, from the Canadian border in the east to Kotzebue Sound in the west. You can pre-order Michael’s new book, Arctic Traverse: A Thousand-Mile Summer of Trekking the Brooks Range from The Mountaineers. It will be available April 1.
Fairbanks Paddlers Slideshow/Movie Night winter/spring series returns to Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Company in Fox, Alaska. They have generously agreed to open especially for Fairbanks Paddlers on Tuesday nights for this years’ presentations. Doors will open at 5:30 pm with a full menu plus beverages available from the bar. Food service will end when the presentation starts at 7 p.m. Come early and enjoy good food, beverages and meet up with old friends and new ones from the paddling community. The presentation is free and open to the public.
Silver Gulch is located at 2195 Old Steese Highway North in Fox, Alaska.
A Tour of Alaskan Sea Kayaking Adventures
Gail Davidson will share images and stories from a number of sea kayaking trips along the coast of Alaska from Southeast to Prince William Sound and beyond. After 20 years of dreaming about sea kayaking, Gail finally got her hands on a used Klepper in 1998 and has been visiting the Alaskan coast at least once a year ever since. There now three Kleppers in the shed, waiting for kayaking time to come around again.
We are in the process of planning planning three additional presentations in the series. Tom Paragi will present on February 20, with details to be announced. On April 9, Michael Engelhard will present “Arctic Traverse: A Thousand-Mile Summer of Trekking the Brooks Range” in conjunction with the publication of his new book from The Mountaineers.
We are looking for additional presenters for March or to share a double feature with Tom on February 20. Please let us know if you have a trip you’d like to share.
UPDATE: As a result of public input, the comment period has been extended to February 1, 2024.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation posted public notices of public scoping for possible updates and revisions to DNR regulations involving PWCs ( personal watercraft or jet skis ) and UAVs ( unmanned aerial vehicles or drones ) on November 15, 2023. The current deadline for public input is December 29. Please read the following letter from Fairbanks Paddlers president, Don Pendergrast, who learned of these notices as a member of the Citizens Advisory Board for Alaska State Parks, Northern Region
I currently serve on the Citizens Advisory Board for the Alaska State Parks, Northern Region. This of course includes some of our favorite paddling sites and access points like the Chena River State Recreation Area, many State Recreation Sites (Chena River, Upper and Lower Chatanika River, Clearwater River, Birch, Harding, and Quartz Lakes, and many more). There is the potential for some regulation changes over all of our State Parks concerning Personal Water Craft, PWCs (that’s Jet Skis), and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, UAVs (that’s Drones).
The primary step to include input from the public is called scoping. In this case the scoping period started on November 15, 2023 and will close on December 29, 2023. There was essentially no public announcement for this scoping period only a notice on the DNR website, and the period included both Thanksgiving and Christmas, a time when when the average State Park user is not particularly focused on public comments.
So I’ll ask you two things:
1) Complain loudly about the lack of public notice, the comment period over the holidays, and ask for a 60 day extension. Call Ricky Gease, State Parks Director at 907-269-8700.
2) Make your comments before the deadline in case there is no extension.
Comments for PWCs (Jet Skis):
Comments for UAVs (Drones):
Some Talking Points
Each of our State Parks was created by a particular statute, its “enabling legislation”. As a result each State Park is unique and has its own set of regulations and historic and preferred recreational uses. What works well in one park may not work at all in another. Fortunately State Park regulations are tailored to each park, and this system works pretty well.
What could happen is replacing a local “from the bottom up” approach to State Park regulations, that is regulations tied to specific park units, with a “from the top down”, “one size fits all” regulations that are likely to create user conflicts.
Our State Parks are drastically underfunded, and are not at all ready to mitigate any user conflicts that may result from across the board State Parks regulations.
Because recreational use patterns are different in each park, currently the regulations are tailored to those existing uses. Making regulations that effect established recreational uses are certain to create user conflicts. We do not need to go there without serious reflection, study, consideration, and most importantly public input.
According the to US Coast Guard statistics jet skis are the most dangerous of all watercraft, accounting for 30% of all boating accidents, and 36% of all reported boating injuries.
While jet ski use may be appropriate in certain State Parks, the Upper Chena, Chatanika, and Clearwater Rivers are narrow, shallow and often have tight turns. Such waterways are fine for paddle craft, but inappropriate and unsafe for jet skis. Furthermore, in parks with critical habitat and state designated wilderness, like Kachemak Bay State Park, jet skis would likely be a detriment to that habitat and wilderness values, and their use largely unenforceable.
Drones are regulated by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the State Parks have no authority over their airspace. While State Parks could regulate launching (“throwing up” in drone pilot parlance) and flying drones from the ground on State Parks, it is the FAA that controls the airspace. There are stringent regulations for drone use, pilots, power, size, altitude, closeness to humans and animals, and so forth. Alaska State Parks has neither the expertise, manpower, or budget to sufficiently regulate the use of drones.
Please complain and comment,
Fairbanks Paddlers Annual Meeting will be held Saturday, November 11th at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4448 Pikes Landing Road (across from the Princess Hotel off Airport Way). The public is welcome to attend, and we encourage new members to join us.
- 6:30 Doors open. Meet and greet old friends and new. Talk paddling trips. Help set out food.
- 7:00 Potluck Dinner. If your name starts with a letter between A and Z bring food! A roast turkey will be provided.
- 7:30 Short Business Meeting. We’ll review the year’s activities and elect board members.
- 7:50 Guest Presenter: Barry Whitehill
Presentation: “Just like Alaska, only different – Floating Finland’s Kakkalojoki and Parankajoki; and Latvia’s Gauja”
Join Barry Whitehill for a glimpse into his 2023 floats outside of Alaska.
THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELED DUE TO PREDICTED UNHEALTHY AIR CONDITIONS.
Join the Fairbanks Paddlers and the Folk School Fairbanks for a family-friendly paddle and potluck with an optional overnight campout at Chena Lakes August 12-13. We have the Island View Pavilion reserved from 4-8 pm. All levels of paddlers welcome!
Saturday afternoon will be filled with games and activities, including paddling games – both dryland and on the water – and drop-in family and kid-friendly activities. Saturday evening join us for a potluck dinner. Bring your instruments and stories for sharing around the campfire!
We plan to paddle to the island for an optional family-friendly campout. Campsites are first come, first served. You may want to arrive early and reserve a site, if you plan to stay overnight. Bring your own breakfast and your favorite watercraft.
Bruce Campbell will be coordinating a trip on the Upper Gulkana River, from Paxson Lake to Sourdough Campground, on August 4-8, 2023. If you are a Fairbanks Paddlers member and are interested in joining the trip, you should respond directly to Bruce’s personal email (firstname.lastname@example.org) For the club’s insurance purposes, you must also be a member of the American Canoe Association. Please send Bruce your American Canoe Association membership number, or complete the ACA waiver and check the one-event box and $10 fee. You can loin ACA or renew your annual membership from the Join/Renew link at https://americancanoe.org/ You can join Fairbanks Paddlers before the trip at https://fairbankspaddlers.org/join
This 47 mile paddle is the best whitewater learning stretch of the Gulkana River, featuring good class II stretches of rock obstacles to navigate. Again, the Gulkana is the best skill building river on the Road System if you choose to make use of the opportunities it presents. The canyon, hopefully, will have enough water to go class III. You can read the BLM brochure for the river here: (https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/documents/files/PublicRoom_Alaska_Gulkana-River-Brochure.pdf).
The class III designation requires special reporting to the ACA for this trip, which I am willing to undertake. Please be sure you either have the annual ACA waiver and membership, or complete the one I’ve attached. You can complete the full ACA membership and the Fairbanks Paddlers membership online.
Tentative trip plan (subject to change based on wind, input, etc.:)
Friday August 4th: Drive to Paxson Lake campground and set shuttle to Sourdough Campground. If the wind is gentle, we paddle across the lake and camp on the far side. If the wind is as it often is, we may camp overnight at the Paxson Lake campground and paddle across early, early in the morning – like 5 am early, just to put a number on it, before the wind builds.
Saturday: Paddle through the lake outfall rock garden and depending on how tired we are, either camp on the large gravel bar at the confluence with the Middle Fork, or continue on downstream. It is about 15 miles to the Canyon campground and we will likely camp before reaching the canyon.
Sunday: we paddle to the canyon, set camp, and play. Some may choose to go on short hikes, others may choose to portage kayaks and packrafts back upstream and run the canyon over and over. (Most I’ve done in one stay is 11 runs)
Monday: Depart after lunch, camping over halfway to Sourdough.
Tuesday: Finish the paddle to Sourdough and drive home.
Bruce will track water levels on the NOAA website. Generally, a gauge height of above 6 at Sourdough implies enough water for the trip. Above 9 is high, and 11 is full flood stage – too high. I do not recall gauge heights at the lake, others may have insights.
Bruce will also track weather and especially wind. Paxson Lake is not fun when the wind is blowing. It tends to die down during the night and early morning can be the best time to cross. Or it can be glass smooth – Ha!
What kind of paddling skills are required? You need to be able to read current, steer and navigate around obstacles. The rock gardens will advance your ferring and eddy attaining skills.
There is not menu plan as of yet. Please offer suggestions describing what you might cook for a group meal. Group size TBD.
Please see the message thread started by Bruce on the Fairbanks Paddlers email group at https://groups.io/g/fairbankspaddlers/
Please respond to Bruce Campbell via email at email@example.com. Tracking text messages is nor workable.
(Featured image – Gulkana Canyon – Sept 14, 2022 – 8′ and ~4000 cfs on Sourdough Gauge – photo by John Schauer )
The Fairbanks Paddlers club does not offer formal safety or skills courses. Our collaborative trips are coordinated by volunteers from the club, and are not guided trips. There may be some opportunities on club outings for some informal mentoring; however, participants joining these trips should have the proper paddling and safety skills and appropriate apparel and equipment to safely conduct themselves.
There are a number of businesses around the state offering professional instruction in a variety of paddling and river safety skills. Here are several course providers of whom we are aware.
Fairbanks Paddlers wants to share these resources with the boating community, but does not specifically endorse any specific programs or businesses. If you have additional information or know of other courses or programs, or you are an instructor or business, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Fairbanks-based Alaska Canoe School offers a variety of skills and safety courses ranging from Introduction to Canoeing on lakes, to Canoe Instructor Certification courses. This spring, Fairbanks Paddlers is coordinating with them to offer a Paddleports Leadership Course designed to prepare participants to help coordinate group paddle outings. They are also offering a Rescue Practice Class. Neither of these classes is canoe specific.
Alaska Dream Adventures is based in North Pole. They offer introductory kayak and canoe classes from their boat rental concession at Tanana Lakes. They also offer guided trips, kayak and canoe sales, and shuttle services.
Jule Harle, author or the Alaska Packraft Guidebook, offers a number of courses that “focus on paddling skills and boat control needed to push deeper into the wild rivers of Alaska, as well as self and group rescue techniques, risk management, trip planning and good on-the-water decision making”. In addition to scheduled courses, she offers custom and small group instruction and guided packraft trips.
Luc Mehl is an outdoor educator with certifications in swiftwater and ice rescue instruction, located in Anchorage, Alaska. Luc offers in-person instruction in swiftwater rescue, ice rescue, river safety, and packrafting skills. He also offers several very unique online courses in paddling and river safety skills, trip and emergency planning, and remote travel on wild ice.
Luc’s “Paddle Up a Level” online course is a perfect companion to his comprehensive, award-winning book, The Packraft Handbook. This online course isn’t intended as a substitute for on-the-water experience. Rather, it is structured to accelerate progress in developing safety and paddling skills. You can practice the skills that are presented with friends on local waterways. It is a great resource for those considering other on-the-water courses.
Traverse Alaska is based in Denali Park. In addition to hiking and river trips, they offer packrafting and swiftwater rescue courses.
New Wave Adventures
New Wave Adventures offers rafting and packraft trips in the Denali Park area. They provide introductory packrafting instruction on Otto Lake. They also partner with the Rescue Company to offer swiftwater rescue courses.
Turnagain Kayak is based in Hope, Alaska. They offer a variety of whitewater kayak, packraft, SUP, and sea kayak instruction.
McCarthy-based Kennicott Wilderness Guides offers a number of guided packrafting trips in the Wrangells. They also offer two packraft courses, and plan to offer a packraft specific Swiftwater Rescue Course.
The Trips (updated!)
Our Break-Up is a bit late this year and so is our traditional annual trip on the Delta-Clearwater River near Delta Junction. This area has some of the first water to open up in the Interior each spring, and if our timing is right we may have an excellent opportunity to see many species of waterfowl (including swans) up close.
May 6-7, 2023
The first overnight trip (Saturday night May 6, finishing Sunday May 7) will be coordinated by Don and Tracie Pendergrast, and will be limited to eight (8) people total. Interested paddlers should contact the coordinator, who will send out details early next week. Note that Don will need to contact you via email, so if you contact him via text or voice be sure to give your email address. The planned day trip for May 7, 2023 (Sunday) coordinated by Gail Davidson has been cancelled.
May 20-21, 2023
Bruce Campbell will coordinate another overnight float May 20-21 putting in at the same Clearwater State Recreation site, but will take out at the Tanana River bridge on the Richardson, rather than at Clearwater lake. This float is focused toward and led by pack rafters, but Bruce says “any craft are fine as long as they can slow down and stay with our slow little rafts.” This is a self-supported overnight trip. Everyone is welcome. The Tanana can be windy, so be sure to have warm clothing you can add. Plan is to leave town early by 8am, leave one car as shuttle at the bridge about 10am, the rest proceed to the campground (there is a parking fee) with the goal of being on the river by 10:30 or 11 am. Overnight campsite is either just above the confluence with the Tanana, or on an island in the Tanana.
Please RSVP by contacting Bruce at email@example.com or 907-322-9221 if you want to join.
Memberships, Insurance and Waivers
Please note that all participants must be current members of Fairbanks Paddlers. Memberships can be renewed at https://www.fairbankspaddlers.org/join/ or at the put-in.
Liability insurance for our trips is arranged through the American Canoe Association (ACA). This takes a big worry off the minds of those of us who volunteer to coordinate trips. However, this does add another level of bureaucracy to our trips, so please be patient with that. Each participant will need to be a member of the ACA, either an annual member or a member for the event. Everyone, both annual ACA members and daily members will have to sign an ACA waiver, and annual members will need their ACA numbers. To join the ACA follow the hot link https://americancanoe.org. Individual annual memberships are $40. Please join as a Fairbanks Paddlers member. If you do not have an annual membership, an event membership is available for $10. Waivers and event memberships will be available from the trip organizers.
Parking at the put-in requires either a $5 parking fee payable on site to Alaska State Parks, or a State Parks parking sticker on your car’s windshield. These cost $60 and can be ordered online at https://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/passes, or purchased at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center in the Morris Thompson Center or at the DNR Information Center in the woods off of University Avenue and Airport Way. State Parks are in serious financial trouble these days (especially the Delta Junction-area State Parks) and need our support.
Fairbanks Paddlers is Covid Aware. People riding in other people’s cars must be prepared to wear masks. Also we need to know whether individual drivers are comfortable having other people in their car or not. We have to get car-pooling and shuttle drivers sorted out before leaving on the trip.
Contact the Trip Organizers
Please do not “just show up” for these trips. Contact the organizers or you cannot be part of the Fairbanks Paddlers trips.
People interested in the day trip should contact Gail Davidson before Thursday, May 5: email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: 907-479-7127 or 907-460-1983. ( This trip has been canceled. )
For the May 6-7 overnight trip (limited to eight people) contact Don Pendergrast before Thursday May 5: email email@example.com, phone: 907-371-4868.
For the May 20-21 overnight trip contact Bruce Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-322-9221
This is a flat-water trip that moves from the crystal clear Delta-Clearwater River onto a slough of the Tanana, followed by a 1.5-mile paddle up a creek to Clearwater Lake and across the lake to the take-out. From the Clearwater State Recreation Site to Clearwater Lake is about 12 miles and takes 4-8 hours depending on the wind direction and water conditions. Occasionally, depending on water level, the initial turn up the creek requires some strategy but there will be many of us there to help if this area turns out to be a problem. In recent years the current was strong enough there that most of us had to drag our canoes for a few hundred feet. You pretty much have to get into the water (calf deep or knee deep) to do this. If you are lucky you can find gravel in the streambed to walk on, but where the gravel stops there is thick organic muck so be psychologically prepared. A map and further river information is available at the State Parks web site (http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/aspunits/northern/pdfs/clearwaterfloatguide.pdf).
The Clearwater River itself has a gentle current and no serious obstacles. The slough of the Tanana has a strong current that must be respected, but no serious obstacles other than an occasional sweeper that must be avoided. The Clearwater Lake outflow has a sluggish current that is not too hard to paddle against, except sometimes at the mouth as noted above. Paddlers should have basic boating skills, be able to avoid sweepers and be able to paddle in a straight line well enough to make progress upstream. The water is extremely cold so plan accordingly. Rain gear and extra clothes in a dry bag are a must. If one paddles straight through the trip can be done in 4 hours or a little more. But considering a lunch stop and stretch breaks plan on 6 hours on the water.
What to Bring
Canoes and hard-shell kayaks are the most common boats on this trip; going up the creek with a raft or packraft would be challenging and even IK’s have to struggle. All participants must bring and wear a personal flotation device (life jacket). Migrating ducks, geese and swans commonly make the lake their first stop in the interior, so bring your binoculars. Bring a dry change of clothes in a water proof bag and a variety of layers so you are prepared for temperature changes. The Delta Junction area can be distinctly cooler or warmer than Fairbanks. River boots or waterproof knee boots could be useful if we have to drag the boats a ways. It could rain so bring rain gear. There may be a few mosquitoes out. Also bring lunch and drinks. We will stop for lunch on a gravel bar.
Overnighters will need to bring camping gear and chocolate in addition to the equipment mentioned above.
Find a great deal on used boats or paddling gear, or sell the boats you haven’t paddled for a while!
Fairbanks Paddlers will be working with Beaver Sports to host a Boat Swap on May 13, 2023 under the awning outside the Beaver Sports Boat Shop on 3480 College Road.
- 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. – Bring your non-motorized boats and paddling gear to sell
- 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Find bargains on “new to you” boats and paddlesports gear
- 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. – Find out if your gear sold and pick up your unsold items.
15% of sales will be donated to Fairbanks Paddlers. Please price your items accordingly.
If you are a Fairbanks Paddlers member and would like to volunteer to help, please contact John Schauer at (907)460-6290
Other questions? Please contact Fairbanks Paddlers at email@example.com
Alaska Canoe School is offering a Paddlesports Leadership Course May 19-20, 2023. Fairbanks Paddlers is supporting the course to reduce the cost and encourage participation.
This course is for any member of the Fairbanks Paddlers who would like to plan personal or club paddle trips and will provide opportunities to build skills, knowledge, and judgement to safely choose, plan and lead trips. We will also learn strategies to provide support, knowledge and leadership to other paddlers. Discussions and scenarios will encourage participants to share their knowledge and skills with the group.
Though there is an on water session, this is not a paddling skills course. Participants may bring their chosen paddle craft.
Participants will be required to sign a waiver and meet the participation requirements of the Alaska Canoe School and the American Canoe Association.
- Dry land Session: Friday, May 19, 2023 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
- On Water Session: Saturday, May 20, 2023 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
- Location: Flat Water venue TBD
- Class Size: 12 participants maximum
- Cost: $25.00 for Fairbanks Paddlers Club members
Please visit https://alaskacanoeschool.com/courses/paddlesports-leadership-course/ to register, or contact Tracie Pendergrast at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (907) 750-4902 for more information.
Join Fairbanks Paddlers
April 1 through March 31
Green River Presentation at Silver Gulch
March 12, 2024 @ 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Co, 2195 Old Steese Hwy N, Fairbanks, AK 99712, USA
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Arctic Traverse Presentation at Silver Gulch
April 9, 2024 @ 5:30 pm - 8:45 pm
Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Co, 2195 Old Steese Hwy N, Fairbanks, AK 99712, USA
See more details