Campbell Creek Lower “Town Run”

Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Campbell Creek Lower “Town Run”

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    Jule Harle

      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.

      Difficulty: I-II
      Length: Varies, 1-6 miles
      Gauge: USGS Campbell Creek Spenard Gauge:
      Shuttle: Varies, less than 10 miles….GREAT ROLLERBLADING!
      Put-in: Varies, Campbell Creek Trail North, Lake Otis Park, & Valley of the Moon Park are common

      Takeout: Varies, Campbell Green Belt Parking on Dimond, between Arlene St & Victor Rd. are common

      Character: Campbell Creek’s main stem is formed at the junction of the North and South Forks, which come together and flow through the heart of Anchorage.  Hands down the most urban experience possible while packrafting in Alaska.  A commonly floated run, due to its proximity to town & multiple access points along the Campbell Creek Greenbelt trail system… and for its reputation as being novice friendly.  Although the creek is somewhat benign in regards to whitewater, there are a handful of decent play spots to practice ferrying & eddy catching.  There’s also plenty of wood that comes up quick & isn’t so “beginner friendly.”

      You’ll navigate blind turns, meandering bends, numerous strainers & even the occasional shopping cart as you float among neighborhoods, parks & random homeless camps.  Oh, and PLENTY of salmon- stay alert for both bear & moose.

      Urban Wildlife, Photo: Andrew Paxson

      Water Levels: Campbell Creek is gauged by the USGS.  Low water, around 90-100 cfs is fun, but expect the creek to move slow.  Medium flows, 100-125 are ideal, as you won’t scrape bottom & the floating becomes easier.  With higher flows, above 125 cfs, the creek becomes much more swift- the blind corners move very fast & would likely intimidate a newer paddler.

      Put-ins: Multiple options exist depending on how much paddling you’re seeking.  The creek parallels the Campbell Creek Greenbelt Trail system, a paved multiple use path that cuts through Anchorage.  You can really put-in anywhere you like along the trail, however Campbell Creek Trail North, Lake Otis Park, the Peanut Farm Restaurant, & Valley of the Moon Park are the most commonly used put-ins. 

      Takeouts: Many options exist, although the last take out is upstream of Campbell Lake.  There’s great parking at the Campbell Green Belt on Dimond, where the road crosses the creek, between Arlene St. & Victor Rd.

      Cold Class I on Campbell Creek, Photo: John Harley

      Cold class I on Campbell Creek. Photo: John Harley

      River Description: Time- Depends on put in/take out, allow 3-4 hours for the entire run from Campbell Creek Trail North down to Campbell Lake. The length of the run and time involved depends entirely on where you put-in & take out.  From the Campbell Creek North Trailhead (very beginning), you’ll float through some slow moving class I-II bends for less than a mile before arriving at Lake Otis Park.  Both upstream & immediately downstream of the brown pedestrian park bridge contain some great practice features: catching eddies, ferrying & sometimes a small surf wave even appears with flows over 125 cfs- great skill building training grounds.

      The section below the Lake Otis Park put-in is where newer & beginner paddlers find themselves in the most trouble.  The creek cuts through residential areas- you’ll literally float right next to people’s yards.  The once slow & meandering character soon gives way to swift moving class II water.  While the water features by themselves aren’t very challenging, this ¼ mile is the most difficult part of the run.  The creek is very narrow & moves faster with a handful of blind bends.  You will have to maneuver around overgrown trees & brush that reach far into the creek bed- these often come up quick with little warning.  

      The homeowners appear to be somewhat familiar with under-prepared urban floaters getting into trouble & wanting to bail- judging by the numerous signs that litter their yards, “Not a Take Out, “Private Property,” & “Keep Going Downstream,” etc.

      An alternative put-in avoiding this stretch can be found a mile further down near Shelikof St.  From here, the creek immediately goes under the Seward Highway; look for a fun class II wave train here.  In another mile you’ll float right by the Peanut Farm- a fun place to stop for a drink or snack if you’re having a casual day.  Either way, you’ll likely become the center of restaurant conversation & possibly even have a stranger take your photo as you paddle by; the dining area has great views of the creek.  This restaurant is also a popular put-in or takeout option.

      The creek more or less maintains it’s meandering class I-II character, with the occasional log jam or funny wood feature to keep you on your toes.  It’s pretty standard to get out of your boat a few times to walk around annoying wood.  

      From the Peanut Farm, it’s another 1-1.5 hours to Taku Lake.  After Taku Lake, the creek meanders increase and pace slows down, it’s another 2ish hours until arriving at the Campbell Lake take out on Dimond.

      Perhaps one of the coolest parts of this run, is easily turning your paddle trip into a multi-sport day.  As the creek follows the Campbell Creek Trail system, it’s easy to get creative in getting back to your car.  You can stage bikes, but be sure to lock them- Anchorage has a serious bike theft issue, or come prepared with running shoes- heck, even roller blades!  What’s cooler than packrafting- Roller Rafting!  From the take out near Campbell Lake it’s a 6.5 mile trail ride (or roll) back to the Lake Otis Park put-in.  

      Another mildly entertaining & unique aspect to this urban run is the interesting trash items that wash up along the banks- oh you know, single shoes, decimated floaty pool toys, abandoned bikes, weird children’s toys & even the occasional pair of used underwear.  Expect the unexpected and remember to wash your hands. 

      If this motivates or inspires you to be a river steward, the Anchorage Waterways Council sponsors annual creek cleanup events, held in May & September- check it out at


      • This topic was modified 2 months ago by Jule Harle.

        Be ready to dodge around trees and obstacles. It’s slow, but pay attention as you round corners.


        Perfect for a quick rainy day float in town!

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      Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Campbell Creek Lower “Town Run”