Fairbanks Paddlers annually celebrate the arrival of spring with a 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, so if our timing is right we may have an excellent opportunity to see many species of waterfowl (including swans) up close. I suspect that we are a couple of weeks late for that this year. The day trip will be on May 5, 2024 (Sunday) coordinated by Alan Batten. Interested paddlers should contact the coordinator, who will send out details early next week. Note that I’ll need to contact you via email so if you contact me via text or voice be sure to give me your email address.

Contact info: Alan Batten, alanbatten@…, H: 907-488-3205, C: 907-378-6384.

(Note: Cam Leonard is coordinating an overnight trip May 4 and 5, but it sounds like that trip is already full.)

Membership 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, and we hope it will lead to having more volunteers step forward. However, this does add another level of bureaucracy to our trips, so we hope you will all be patient with that. All participants will need to fill out an online ACA insurance waiver. There will be a fee ($10?–I don’t know how much yet) charged by the ACA to non-ACA members to cover the insurance. If you would like to join ACA it is $40 per year.

Parking at the put-in requires either a $5 parking fee 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. We don’t need a boat launching sticker–those are for boats on trailers.

Trip Description

This is a flat-water trip that moves from the crystal clear Delta-Clearwater River onto a slough of the Tanana, then a short 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 here 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. We’ll stop for an hour for lunch and will probably lolligag a bit beyond that, so I would estimate something like 6 hours for the trip.

What to bring

Canoes and hard-shell kayaks are the most common boats on this trip; going up the creek with a raft could 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 a raincoat. There may be a few mosquitoes out. Also bring lunch and drinks. We will stop for lunch on a gravel bar.