North Fork of the Eagle River
June 28, 2022
Yes rental cars are expensive but Uhauls aren't! And they're dark and roomy.
... we had quite the rainy spring. Like woof, so much cold and rain. With a trip planned to go to Alaska for our friends wedding (congrats Andi and Eric!) and decided it would also be a great idea to make the most of Anchorage's beautiful weather! We had three days and decided to ski, packraft and run because why not in a place where you can do all three!? If you're curious about my skiing trip report, you can take a look here.
Also, Alaska travel tip! Looking for bear spray? This facebook page is where travellers post where they left bear spray for the next folks to find. No need to purchase!
Lil' wedding photo <3
Dan and I had gone packrafting a couple times before - once when we were teens on the Bogachiel river in the Olympics, and another time down in Wyoming on the Snake. That said, it had been a long time since our last packraft but Alaska is sort of the place that beggs for multisport adventures! When we landed on rafting the upper north fork of the Eagle riger, we also ended up renting from Alaska Gear Rentals, and they were great! They gave us pumps, sprayskirts (for only one of the boats) and paddles along with the packrafts with their seats. We were set.
We had a couple of options to packraft out of Anchorage, and what we landed on was the upper north fork of the Eagle River. This included about a 12 mile hike up the river which took us about 5 hours! While the approach trail started out fast and open, it started to feel a lot more bush-whacky after about 3 miles. There was some river crossings, marsh navigating, and we even got attacked by a Grouse! But we ended up making it to the put-in.
At the put in, we chatted with some backpackers, pumped up our packrafts, and set off! Since my raft didn't have a spray skirt, Dan decided to leave his behind as well (we'd take it next time tho!) which meant that both our boats were non-self-bailing, and had no sprayskirt. As we were gathering our items in Anchorage for this trip, the locals around us kept saying, "Have fun, the water is cold right now!" to which I thought, "yeah no duh, it's glacier water in June, but we aren't going to get too wet or anything..." How naive I was...
Walking up the river with the packraft!
The North fork of the Eagle is only a class 2 river, which is well within our weelhouse skill wise, however the starting rapids are the biggest, and when you haven't been in a packraft for a while - you forget how to captain them for a bit. Upon the first rapid, I got wave after wave pounding over my boat. Completely drenched in the freezing glacier water and since my raft wasn't self-bailing, I found myself sitting in a blow-up bathtub of glacial river. After somehow not swimming the rapid, body filled with adreneline, I saw Dan eddied out to the right just before the next big one. I paddled over to him, and like drenched dogs with our tails between our legs we emptied out our rafts and scouted the next rapid on land this time. Since this paddle started off with a line of waves, we happily decided to walk the second rapid, and put in just after it, where the river calms down and we can re-learn how to steer our boats.
After the start, we remembered how to captian a packraft and no longer got puddles of water in our boats for the rest of the float. Packrafts are quite nimble once you get the hang of them! The weather and sun were perfect, and asides from a couple of areas where we had to scout for strainers and navigate around them, we had a relatively straightforward time floating back to the take-out before Echo Bend. Echo is a class 4 rapid, and especially after the start of this class 2, we decided we were quite happy just walking around Echo.
All in all, a great way to explore parts of Alaska!
Total mileage of the day- 23mi
Total elevation gain - 1,500ft
Total moving time - 9 hours
Song that was stuck in my head all day - "Water" by Jamacian Queens