Brushkana Creek

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    Jule Harle
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      SOURCE: The Alaska Packraft Guidebook: Premier Rivers & Creeks in the 49th State (1st ed) Copyright: 2022 by Jule Harle.  Refer to the guidebook for additional info, photos, waypoints or detailed river maps. Author permission required to reproduce, duplicate or transfer following content.

      QUICK RIVER STATS:
      Difficulty: III-
      Length: Varies depending on take-out
      Gauge: None
      Shuttle: Varies
      Put in: From Cantwell, drive West for 31 miles on the Denali Highway.  You can put in where the bridge crosses the creek or hike further upstream on the social trail, river left. (Brushkana Creek Campground is an excellent place to stay- great facilities.)

      Character: A lower volume but still fast & splashy stream that starts above timberline.  It’s more of a “great views” kind of trip, less so a whitewater adventure.  The steepest gradient & more technical drops are ⅓ mile upstream & downstream of the bridge; you can put in at the road bridge or alternatively hike upstream for more class III action.

      Water Level: No glacial influence, primarily snow melt or rain; May-September (lower water after spring snow has melted) 

      Hiking further upstream: The trail starts off fairly obvious, but dissipates after ½ mile and involves linking together various social and game trails for as long as one cares to entertain walking upstream.  (ie: don’t expect an obvious or well-defined trail the entire time)  From the highway bridge, look for a social trail on river left side of the creek.  After ⅓ mile this trail heads up away from the creek around the cut bank, towards an abandoned cabin, before dropping back down.  Another ⅓ mile later an ATV trail heads up away from creek and into the bog; stay in the creek valley and continue linking together game & social trails, steering uphill/away from creek whenever there’s a cut bank or small ridge. (generally better walking).  After 1.5 miles you’ll come to a large gravel beach; this is a great spot to put on, especially for large groups (waypoint: 63.27578, -148.07390).  You can continue further, as long as seems interesting, for more of a similar character of paddling.  

      River Description: The upper section above the Denali Hwy bridge is mostly class II+ continuous boogie.  When the cabin at the top of the cutbank comes into view on the left, the gradient increases and class III rapids begin.  As you get near the highway bridge, you’ll come up to one of the bigger rapids on the creek.  (you can scout from the bridge beforehand).  

      The creek continues with this character- class II+ boogie water with the occasional class III feature to keep you alert & awake as you float past the campground on your left.  As you near Monohan creek, the gradient lessens and the creek gives way to a calmer class II.  Monohan Creek comes in from the right 2.9 miles from the highway bridge; although there’s more water, the creekbed widens and pace slows down.  It is possible to find an ATV trail.

      Brushkana below Monahan soon becomes class I, requiring active paddling to continue downstream.  When the creek eventually starts to meander and feel like a slough, stay on guard for wood hazards.  The water is very slow moving, but some portages around downed trees may be necessary.  About 3 miles (45 minutes to an hour) of paddling will bring you to the Nenana confluence.  This section is also class I and feels more like a “moving lake.”

      Rapids upstream of Denali Hwy bridge

      The views of the Alaska range are the gem of this 2 mile section.  If you were interested in a longer/multi day float trip, you could potentially continue on to highway bridge for a remote feeling wilderness float.  If you’re in the market for a day trip however, keep your eyes open after Stickman Creek comes in from the left, followed by a dirt cutbank a few hundred feet downstream of it.  This is the best visual for when you are nearing an ATV trail that leads back to the road.  Don’t expect to see the trail from water level; but look for a small swampy eddy on the left just under a mile from the previously mentioned cutbank, before the river makes a right turn. (waypoint: 63.33022, -148.20180).

      Hike back to the road: 2 miles, 1 hour.  Follow the ATV trail for just over a mile before turning left at the first intersection.  In another 0.6 miles, if you veer right, you’ll end up at the massive gravel pit near the highway, near mile marker 109.

      • This topic was modified 3 months ago by Jule Harle.
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    Forums Alaska Rivers Alaska Range Region Brushkana Creek