The 2018 Annual Paddle and Potluck trip on the upper Chena River scheduled for Saturday, May 12 has been postponed.

The National Weather Service special advisory statement as of Thursday afternoon reads:

Rising River levels through this weekend…

Temperatures in the upper 60’s and mid 70’s this week are resulting in significant melting of the higher elevation snowpac in the central and eastern interior. This is causing rapid runoff of the snowpack in the hills north and east of Fairbanks. Automated snow gages in the Upper Chena river basin earlier this week indicated there was approximately 7 to 16 inches of water stored in the remaining snowpack.

Water levels on rivers draining the hills north and east of Fairbanks will have significant rises over the next few days. This includes the Chena, little chena, Chatanika, Salcha, and Goodpaster rivers. Water could approach bankfull levels in some locations this weekend along with increased debris such as logs and sticks moving downriver. Water levels are expected to gradually fall early next week.

As of Friday  morning, May 11, the river at 40 mile bridge is at 18.8 4 feet and is predicted to peak near flood stage at 19.1 ft by mid-day Saturday.  At about 18.3 feet, the road usually has water over it in places and some river access points are closed.  There are few gravel bars out of the water, and river access at the first bridge put in and 31.4 mile take out can be challenging.  While there is plenty of water in which to maneuver, Swift currents can make hazards more challenging to avoid, and there may be new log jams or trees in the river.
I drove up to look at the river Thursday evening.  The water was near bank full.  The large gravel bar below first bridge is an island, and will likely disappear if the river rises as predicted. There is a large log jam on the upstream side of the bridge that can’t easily bee seen from a vehicle on the bridge.  It appears open on both river right and left, but requires avoiding some large logs in swift current. I observed several large logs floating downstream in the rising water near the 31.4 mile takeout.  Very little shore ice was  visible from the road at 31.4 mile, first bridge, and second bridge. There is some ice along shores visible downstream of third bridge.
I am hoping we can reschedule this when levels are at a more reasonable level.
Enjoy the warm weather.  If you go paddling this weekend, be safe out there.

LOGISTICS

We will launch at the first bridge (approximately Mile 37 Chena Hot Springs Road) and take out at the mile 31.4 river access (the Nugget Creek winter trailhead).  Meet at the First Bridge at 10 a.m. (Look for the big gravel bar on river right downstream from the bridge, accessed by signed dirt road on the right just before the bridge, then left at the fork out to the gravel bar).  It takes about an hour to get to the first bridge from downtown Fairbanks. We’ll unload gear, run shuttle vehicles down to the take out, and launch. Plan to have lunch on the river and be at the take-out by late afternoon.

GEAR

This section of river is suitable for canoes, kayaks, packrafts, inflatable kayaks, or small rafts. We will pack lunch dishes, a small propane grill, collapsible table and minimum impact picnic gear  into the boats and have our potluck on a gravel bar along the river.  Be creative.  Kayakers and pack rafters may wish to coordinate with canoeists to help carry bulkier “luxury” items like camp chairs or coolers.  The trip will occur rain or shine.

REQUIREMENTS

To come on this trip, you will need to be a current FP member ( Join or Renew online, or bring cash or check to the put-in.  We’ll also have membership applications/renewals at the put-in), wear a PFD, carry spare clothes and rain gear, and be at least an advanced beginner paddler with experience in swift water and the ability to confidently maneuver a boat to avoid sweepers and strainers. In recent years a there have been channels obstructed by logs just upstream of the takeout in the vicinity of the Chena River Public Use Cabin. The Upper Chena is Class I.  Woody debris obstructing the river channel constitutes the main challenges. Skills to recognize hazards, maneuver in swift current, and avoid sweepers or logjams are essential for a safe trip.

Please let trip coordinator John Schauer know if you plan to attend by noon on Friday, May 5.  (907)457-3962 or johnjschauer (AT) gmail (DOT) com.  If you leave a message, please state how many are coming with you and the number and type of craft that you plan to paddle.

Hope to see you on the river!

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