The Reindeer Hills Overnight will be the weekend of June 17-18, 2017. On this trip we float the Nenana River between approximately 17-mile Denali Highway and the “Windy Bridge” (the curved bridge on the Parks Highway a few miles north of Cantwell; NOT the high bridge north of Glitter Gulch), starting Saturday, spending the night on the river, and taking out Sunday afternoon.
The put-in is on the Denali Highway, about 18 miles east of Cantwell. The river parallels the road for a few miles, then cuts north behind the Reindeer Hills, returning to the road and the take-out on the Parks Highway at Windy Bridge. It is a fast-moving, glacial-fed river rated class I to II-. A set of rapids, perhaps a mile long, starts near where the river turns away from the Denali Highway and is straightforward, with some waves up to a foot high in a clear, wide, unobstructed channel. A few large rocks near the waterline lurking along the sides towards the tail end of this rapid, however, keep paddlers alert.
The primary challenge to newer moving water boaters on this trip is the numerous bends often populated with sweepers and strainers in fast-moving current, requiring competent river-reading and paddling skills. A decent back-ferry is recommended, as well as suitable cross-current forward movement skills. It is definitely a step up from the upper Chena, but not as challenging as lower sections of the Nenana. If you are comfortable on the upper Chena and are looking for a change of scenery and a little more challenge, this may be the trip for you. Its vistas are beautiful, especially on a clear day, and there is a fair chance of seeing moose, caribou, or bear. We will camp either on an island above Bruskasna Creek, or right by the creek’s mouth. The Bruskasna site has been popular in the past, but it has become overgrown over the years and the views and possibility of sun is better at the island camp.
We could easily have rain on the trip, and the nights can be chilly, even near freezing, though that’s usually more likely earlier in June. The river water, however, is extremely cold; a drysuit and fleece layering is nice, though not necessary, but rain gear, non-cotton layering and extra clothes are a must. I’ll bring a large kitchen tarp, cookware and kitchen tools, a 4-burner stove, a groover, and two tables. People should bring snacks, lunch, eating utensils, a cup and a bowl or plate. We can talk about major meals when I have a clear idea of who is coming.
Participants must be current members of Fairbanks Paddlers. I’ll have membership forms on hand for those who need to re-up for this summer. Fees are $10 for an individual and $15 for a family sharing one roof. If you desire a business membership you should contact the club treasurer before the trip.
I will notify participants of the meeting time, place and shuttle plans as the weekend gets closer and folks sign up. There will be a designated parking spot on the west side of Fairbanks where people can meet to carpool. However this falls, we’ll want to leave Fairbanks, packed, boats tied on, and vehicles gassed by 9am at the latest. We’ll likely get off the river Sunday afternoon around 3 or 4 p.m., but after running shuttle and loading, plus the 2-hour drive to Fairbanks, plan on arriving home no earlier than 7 or 8.
For further information and to sign up, please email the trip coordinator, Brad Snow, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
See you on the river!