Campbell Creek South Fork Lower Canyon

Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Campbell Creek South Fork Lower Canyon

Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)
  • Author
  • #3896
    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: III
      Length: 0.75 miles
      Gauge: USGS Campbell Creek Spenard Gauge:
      Shuttle: None, start & end at car
      Put-in: 61.14757,  -149.72124

      Takeout: 61.15103, -149.73729

      Character: Anchorage paddler, Jared Kern, brought this run to my attention as he lives nearby and often paddles it after work. This run is indeed a quick post-work “fix,” as the hike is under 2 miles & paddling takes less than 20 minutes if you’re familiar with the run.  The creek is low volume, tight, constricted and somewhat “manky-” many would deem the whitewater quality as “so-so,” but you can’t beat this run if you’re looking for a river fix within city limits.  

      Class V kayakers put-in much higher and run the canyon proper, putting in where the Wolverine Peak trail crosses the creek; this packraft variation puts you below the class V gnar, but still includes two notable class III rapids: Bubba Home Free & Sucker.

      Stay alert for wood on the edges & throughout the run; expect a few mandatory portages from massive trees that have fallen into the creek.

      Water Level: Campbell Creek is gauged by the USGS.  Keep in mind, this gauge reflects Lower Campbell Creek, both North & South Forks. This run is only the South Fork- therefore you’ll have less water than the gauge reads.  Going lower than 90 cfs would make for an incredibly bony and thin ride down.  Ideal flows are 100-125cfs; it can obviously be run higher, but it’s helpful to know where the portages & rapids are, as eddies become incredibly small & limited. 

      Hike Description: 1.7 miles, 30-45 minutes. Start at Hilltop Ski Area in Anchorage.  Drive up Abbott Rd towards the mountains, turning left at signs for Hilltop Ski Area.  Park in the lot at the end of the road near the ski lifts. 

       Leave the parking lot, following the main trail for ½ mile before the first intersection.  Turn right, following signs and staying on the South Fork Bivouac Trail for the next mile.  (However, if you’d like to scout the takeout-it’s somewhat easy to miss if it’s your first time down, continue straight for about 600 more feet until reaching the creek).

      After another mile, keep your eyes peeled for a “Y” shaped tree on the left as you near the top of a hill.  This unassuming spot is where you put in to avoid the class V, but still get some class III action.  From this spot, there is a faint social trail that goes down to the creek.  This spot is easy to miss & hard to find if it’s your first time, a waypoint might be the best bet in finding it: 61.14722, -149.72180. 

      River Description:  You can get a pretty good feel of the run’s character where you put in- low, rocky and technical.  From here, you’ll warm up with less than 500 ft of rock dodging and maneuvering before the first horizon line.  This is Bubba Home Free (III), a 5 ft ledge drop ending in a pool.  The ledge has different lines depending on the water level, but right of center is usually good.  Bubba is pretty easy to session if you’re looking for opportunities to refine your boof stroke.  Bubba sure loves a good ol’ boof. 😉 

      Not too far downstream, the creek makes a sharp left bend below an island; this is Sucker (III).  As you come around the corner, threading through the waves & avoiding rocks, try to line up for the final move, a narrow 3 ft drop into a pool.  Immediately below Sucker lies a massive tree & root wad in the river; portage on the right.

      From here, you’ll boogie on down just under ½ mile to the take out.  Get out on the left where a big, open field meets the creek.  From here, the hike back to the car is only ½ mile; walk up the hill towards the main trail you came in on.


      Bubba Home Free Rapid (III) Jared Kern

      • This topic was modified 2 months ago by Jule Harle.
    Viewing 1 post (of 1 total)
    • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

    Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Campbell Creek South Fork Lower Canyon