Break-up is proceeding apace and we can see patches of flowing water in most interior riverways. 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. This year the trip will be on the weekend of April 24-25, which is a little earlier than it has been in recent years. As usual, we will have a day trip and an overnight trip. Alan Batten will coordinate the day trip logistics on Sunday, April 25, and Don Pendergrast will be coordinator for the overnight trip leaving Saturday and finishing up on Sunday.
We will have a pre-trip zoom meeting for all participants. It is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, April 21 at 7 pm . People who are interested in either the day trip or the overnight should contact the appropriate trip coordinator to get a link to join.
Alan’s (day trip) contact info is firstname.lastname@example.org, H: 488-3205, C: 378-6384.
Don’s (overnight trip) contact info is email@example.com, 907-371-4868
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. As we did in 2019 we are purchasing liability insurance for our trips through the American Canoe Association (ACA). This takes a big worry off the minds of those of us who volunteer to lead 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. Each participant will need to be a member of the ACA, either an annual member or a member for a day. Annual memberships cost $40 (https://www.americancanoe.org/general/register_member_type.asp). Fairbanks Paddlers is an ACA Paddle America Club so we are on the list of clubs in the drop-down menu on the membership form. ACA members will need to know their ACA number when you show up for our trips. The other option is to become an ACA member for one day, which costs $10. Trip leaders will have this type of membership form at the put-in. Please understand that it is now necessary to be a member of both Fairbanks Paddlers and, at least for the day, the ACA. The ACA is an excellent organization that is very effective in promoting boating safety, education, waterway conservation, and river access. It deserves our support.
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 are still in the midst of a pandemic. Fairbanks Paddlers has adopted a covid policy. Briefly, this means that masks will be worn at put-ins and take-outs and whenever people from different “bubbles” are riding in the same car. It also means that we have to have the shuttle arrangements (who is going to ride with who) figured out before we even leave for the trip. We don’t want anyone to be forced into making a last-minute decision about accepting a ride, or a rider, under conditions that they aren’t comfortable with. People might consider doing a bicycle shuttle. It is only 9 miles between the take-out and the put-in. The route is level or with a gentle grade, and all but about a mile of it is paved.
Here’s a description of the river and the trip:
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 creates any obstacle. 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 Parks and Rec web site: Alaska State Parks Float Guide (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.
What to bring:
Canoes and kayaks are the most common boats on this trip; going upstream on the creek with a raft or other inflatable would be challenging. 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 the temperature, which can be distinctly cooler or warmer than Fairbanks. River boots or waterproof knee boots (or hip waders?) could be useful if we have to drag the boats a ways. Also bring lunch and drinks. We will stop for lunch on a gravel bar.