Fairbanks Paddlers

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Latest News from Fairbanks Paddlers

Paddle and Pedal Outings in the Interior

Paddle and Pedal Outings in the Interior

Paddling Outings with Bicycle Shuttles

These notes on paddling trips that can be made with bicycle shuttles are offered as a way for groups to paddle together while still honoring the mandate against people from different households sharing vehicles during the shuttle back to the put-in. Besides, combining paddlesports with bicycling doubles the pleasure of being out in our sunny interior summers. Practice safe cycling, wear a helmet, obey traffic laws, and wear bright clothing. Combining biking and boating means you need to think about safety for two pleasurable activities.

Paddling in moving water is an inherently dangerous activity. Don’t paddle beyond your ability. Always wear a life jacket. Always stay alert and look ahead for hazards that you may be approaching. Don’t drink and paddle. Remember that the water is cold, especially early in the season. Remember that our Alaskan weather can change quickly and take plenty of warm clothes in a dry bag, as well as extra clothes in case you or someone in your party takes an unexpected swim. Sweepers are the most common danger on our interior rivers. Give them as much room as you can. Sometimes it may be necessary to land on the opposite shore and walk your boat around the end of the sweeper. Sometimes a tree or even multiple logs may block the entire channel and you will have to portage or drag your boat around or over them. If you can’t tell from the river whether it is possible to get around a particular tree or not, it never hurts to pull over, get out of your boat, and walk over to where you can see clearly what the situation is before committing yourself to it.

Remember to bring food and water, rain gear, mosquito repellent, sun block, an extra paddle, bear spray when out of town, and appropriate footwear for walking in the water. Always be prepared for a trip to take longer than expected.

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Paddling Trips for 2020

Paddling Trips for 2020

The board met on Earth Day, April 22, 2020, to discuss our plans for the boating season. In a normal year we would be doing a club float on the Delta Clearwater this weekend. But we concluded that we can’t do that in compliance with the state’s various COVID 19 health mandates.  Setting vehicle shuttles will be difficult given the 6′ social distancing requirement. And the restrictions on travel between communities, and gathering in groups of more than 10 people, are also issues.    As long as these rules remain in place, the club will be adjusting its summer plans to remain in compliance.
Of course there is nothing to prevent private float trips, and we have confirmed that Clearwater Lake is open, although the dirt road into it may still be wet.  The 2019 Delta Clearwater trip description may prove helpful to those of you who aren’t already familiar with it.
You can also download the Delta Clearwater River Float Guide from State Parks
We are planning to send out some suggestions about how to keep boating safely during this pandemic.  We will also assemble a list of trips one could do using a bicycle shuttle rather than a vehicle.  And incidentally, the Delta Clearwater itself is one such trip, about a 9 mile ride.  Hopefully later this season the club will be able to organize some kinds of boating events, on local lakes at the very least, and the board will continue to explore those opportunities.  If you have ideas about things the club could do, please let anyone on the board know.
The current board members are listed on the Contacts page.
Obviously this is a challenging time for all of us in many ways, so let’s think creatively about how to still enjoy our many paddling opportunities without jeopardizing our health, or the health of our friends and fellow paddlers.  Thanks.
Cam Leonard – President
The Alsek River – Presentation – March 5, 2020

The Alsek River – Presentation – March 5, 2020

Fairbanks Paddlers’ first presentation of our Spring Slideshow Series will be Thursday, March 5, 2020 at 7:00 pm at the Dog Mushers Hall at 925 Farmers Loop Road.

Come enjoy a slide show presented by Cameron Baird as he takes you down 150 miles of the Alsek River’s ice age wilderness.

Starting in the interior near Haines Junction, Yukon and finishing at Dry Bay, AK, this 12 day trip cuts along the edged of the worlds largest nonpolar ice cap as it passes through heart of the worlds largest bio-preserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.  As the river cuts through the mountains to the coast we’ll float through iceberg filled lakes, pass by glaciers, raft class III and IV rapids, portage Turnback Canyon, take amazing side hikes, and watch stunning sunsets.

Spring is right around the corner and you know you are itching to go boating so stop by and enjoy an informal evening on the Alsek while we wait for the snow to melt.

The Folk School will be selling hot dogs and popcorn.  This is a bring your own beverage event.  The public is welcome to attend.

Winter Paddling Opportunities at Local Pools

Winter Paddling Opportunities at Local Pools

It’s not too early to polish your paddling skills and have some fun on the water. While the rivers and lakes are frozen, you can enjoy paddling indoors at several different locations and times. Practice your strokes and self-rescue techniques, catch up with old paddling friends, and meet some new ones.

Hamme Pool

Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation makes Hamme Pool available to paddlers on Monday nights from 7-9pm for the same prices as open swim sessions: $4 for Youth and Seniors; $6 for adults. Sessions go from January 6 through May 11, except for MLK day in January and Presidents’ Day in February.

Bring your clean canoe or kayak and brush up on your skills before the river ice melts!
Boats and gear must be cleaned of leaves, dirt and other debris each time prior to getting in pool.

This is not an open swim.
Canoes & kayaks only – all other craft must be pre-approved (packrafts have been allowed in past years).
Youth must pass swim test or wear life jacket.
7:00–8:00p Paddling practice (whole pool)
8:00–9:00p Paddling practice (deep end only)
Water Polo (shallow end) Helmet required
Boaters and boats must be out of building by 9:20

Patty Pool

Epic Kayak Ultimate sponsors kayak and canoe practice sessions at Patty Pool from 3-5pm on Sunday afternoons through April 19, 2020. Cost is $5 per person if you don’t have a membership.

The Alaska Club

Alaska Dream Adventures hosts paddling sessions at the Alaska Club on Saturdays from 5-7 pm. Cost for non-members is $15.

Contact Tony Mustered at (907) 460-2909 if you don’t have a boat you can bring and would like to borrow one.


Annual Meeting Friday Evening, November 8, 2019

Annual Meeting Friday Evening, November 8, 2019

The Annual Meeting will be Friday, November 8 this Year

at the Unitarian Universalist Church

4448 Pikes Landing Road (across from the Princess Hotel off Airport Way)

  • 6:30     Doors open and Gear Swap set-up. Bring your unused boating or camping gear to swap or sell to other paddlers. We suggest that 10% of the purchase price go to Fairbanks Paddlers.
  • 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.
  • 8:00     Program! Roman Dial will come up from Anchorage and present “Four Decades of Packrafting: A Personal View.” Roman was one of a small group of boaters to take packrafting very seriously early on and to really test what this new kind of craft could do. He’ll bring early pictures, stories, and maps. He may also read some sections from his book, “The Adventurer’s Son,” forthcoming in February.Featured image: Aiyagomahala Creek (aka South Arrigetch/Hot Springs Creek) at the end of the long Class III section and just above the Class IV. Photo by Roman Dial (http://packrafting.blogspot.com/search/label/Alatna%20River)..
Final Fall Float – September 11, 2019

Final Fall Float – September 11, 2019

Don and Tracie Pendergrast will coordinate the final Wednesday night float of the season on September 11, 2019. This paddle will take place on Piledriver slough south of the Richardson Highway near the Chena Flood Control Project, Moose Creek, and Eieleson.

Meet up at Piledriver Slough off of Eielson Farm Road (Near Bathing Beauty Pond). We will float to the next pond on Piledriver Slough Road.  The float takes less than 2 hours, and there should be nice colors, clear water, and hopefully no fighter jets ripping through the air.

We will have a cook out at the end.   Don and Tracie will leave a car at the take out, so we can put in immediately and retrieve cars while we’re cooking to save time.

Don estimates that the final fall float of the Wednesday night paddle series should be just over three hours including the shuttle and cook out.

Contact Don for more details at 907-371-4868 or don@alaskacanoeschool.com

Wooden Boat Rondy – August 4, 2019

Wooden Boat Rondy – August 4, 2019

Join the Fun by Floating and/or Volunteering

Fairbanks Paddlers and The Folk School are teaming up to bring back the Paddlers’ Wooden Boat Rondy, an event Paddlers used to hold each year until a few years ago.

This will be a chance to float the Chena River through Fairbanks on or in any kind of river-worthy, human-powered boat, wooden or otherwise (pack rafts are very welcome!). The float will go from Graehl Landing to the Pioneer Park boat launch. At Pioneer Park, we’ll have a BBQ on the lawn (maybe with pizza from the Folk School pizza oven), with boats on display and the chance to visit with river folks. The BBQ will be free, but it will be a potluck, so please bring a dish to share or a few dollars to donate. Paddlers will be providing the core BBQ chow (with vegetarian options).

All the details are here: https://folk.school/events/event/wooden-boat-rondy/ (with more details coming!)

We are in need of volunteers as well. If you would like to volunteer at the event, please contact Don Kiely at don@folk.school (best) or call 907-457-1219. In particular, we need help with organizing boats and parking at Graehl, judging, and clean up, as well as other logistics on the day. Thanks!

Rumor has it that the brand new handcrafted, traditional birch bark canoe that Randy Brown’s class is building this week at The Folk School will make an appearance! Come and see how cool these boats can be.

Lower Gulkana – July 20-21, 2019

Lower Gulkana – July 20-21, 2019

Jeremy Worrall and Melissa Osborn will coordinate a  Lower Gulkana River trip July 20 and 21, 2019. The group will float from Poplar Grove to Sailors Pit July 20 and 21, with optional overnight on Friday 19th for those who prefer to make the drive down the day before.

Poplar Grove is at ~137 mile Richardson Hwy. Eleven miles past Sourdough Campground, It is a small easy-to-miss sharp turn off to the west (right) at a small sign marked “BLM Gulkana River Trail.” If you cross the Gulkana River bridge, oops, you’ve gone 10 miles too far.

We will paddle from Poplar Grove (~137 mile Richardson Hwy) to Sailors Pit (129.5 mile Richardson Hwy). Plan is to camp in the AHTNA campground at Sailors Pit. We will not carry overnight gear in our boats. We will paddle the 10 or so miles to the Sailors Pit, camp overnight, and paddle the same stretch Sunday. Last year we were able to secure a large campsite that was able to house everyone in one place, we’ll hope for the same this year. Once we have an idea of who is coming we’ll coordinate a mild potluck for Saturday night dinner. Plan to be self sufficient for the rest of the meals. Plan to bring 5-10 bucks to chip in for the campground fees.

Meet at Poplar Grove late Saturday morning. We will set shuttle Saturday at 11am. Please plan for a 4 to 5 hour+ drive from Fairbanks.

   *Note: River access from Poplar Grove requires a small portage down a relatively steep, well-established trail.

Skill set needed for this river: Beginners will need to stop and wait for those wishing to play in the play spots. Being able to eddy out and wait, then eddy back in is a great skill you can learn on this trip. Yes, there may be fish in the river. Possibly other fishermen. You will need to carry your own lunch and water to drink.

This stretch of Gulkana is a gentle class 1 river with avoidable, but nice glacial-boulder play holes. (Jettmar’s river guide lists it as class I with some class II in the later miles and at high water there can be a 50 yard class III rapid 2-3 miles below poplar grove) It provides softer and slower current features kayakers can use to hone eddy turns, attain surfs, stern squirts, etc. It is a great place to learn or practice your river roll. The warmer water is less threatening if your roll fails. Canoeists can practice eddy turns and polish current reading skills without hauling overnight gear. Packrafters will find this a great skill building trip too.

Notes from Bruce (who unfortunately can’t make it this year) about past trips “I find we Fairbanks Paddlers, starved of precious park and play holes, work the first small play holes so hard we are worn out by the time we get to the ever better features near the end of the trip.  Day 2 we will target our time on the river to the very best play holes!”

Please RSVP to Jeremy if you plan to attend- jerworrall@gmail.com 907-347-0142



Wednesday Night Paddle – July 10, 2019

Wednesday Night Paddle – July 10, 2019

Alan Batten will coordinate the biweekly evening float down the Chena River through town on Wednesday, July 10. We will meet at 5:30 PM at Graehl Landing, then set shuttle to Pioneer Park, and begin our float around 6:00 PM. I’ll have the club grill and we’ll have a cook out at Pioneer Park probably just after 7:00 PM. All are welcome, PFDs are required to be worn on the water. Please, no alcohol consumption on the water.
Bring your craft, paddling gear, something to grill if you want, and something to share with others. Al will bring some bratwurst or something similar.
cell: 907-378-6384
Reindeer Hills Overnight, June 8-9, 2019

Reindeer Hills Overnight, June 8-9, 2019

For further information and to sign up please email the trip leader, Brad Snow, svaldonza@gmail.com.  Deadline for joining this trip is Wednesday, June 5th.

On the Reindeer Hills Overnight 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 south of Glitter Gulch), starting Saturday, spending the night camped along the river, and taking out Sunday afternoon.

Here’s a description of the river and the trip: 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 take-out on the Parks Highway at Windy Bridge. It is a fast-moving, glacial-fed river requiring maneuvering and river reading skills. This section is 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 broad, splashy and straightforward, with waves up to a foot high in a clear, wide, unobstructed channel.

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 far less challenging than the 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.

Reindeer Hills Nenana River

We will camp either at a site on an island above Bruskasna Creek, or right by its mouth. The Bruskasna site has been popular in the past, but it has become overgrown over the years and the view and possible sun is better from the island.

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.

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. A major difference from previous years is that now 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 $25 ( 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 $5. 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.

Due to prior experience and comments from other trip participants, I am requesting that participants leave their 4-legged friends at home for this trip. Two-legged friends are most welcome.

I will notify participants of the meeting time, place and shuttle plans as the weekend gets closer and folks let me know that they are going.  There will be a designated parking spot on the west side of Fairbanks where people can meet to carpool and leave their vehicle.  We’ll want to leave Fairbanks packed, boats tied on, and gassed by 8am 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 around 7 or 8.

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Upcoming Events

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