Eagle River “Bridge to Bridge” Section

Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Eagle River “Bridge to Bridge” Section

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  • #3902
    Jule Harle
    Keymaster

      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: II+/III- (III+)
      Length: 2.5 miles
      Gauge: USGS Eagle River Glen Hwy Gauge: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/inventory/?site_no=15277100
      Shuttle: 3 miles
      Put-in: Chugach State Park Eagle River Green Belt at Briggs bridge

      Takeout: Eagle River Campground Day Use Area OR across river on right side

      Character: This serves as a classic beginner to intermediate road run in the Anchorage Bowl.  The river usually opens up in mid April & has enough water late into the fall.  During summer months when the water is gray, the river is swift moving with significant volume from glacial melt- stay alert for numerous logs & strainers along the edges.  The glacial hue often intimidates many beginners, but nowhere is the river constricted or with significant obstacles; the rapids are limited to riffles, splashy waves & isolated holes that can all be maneuvered around- with the exception of Campground Rapid (III/III+). 

      Note: The put-in/take out parking facilities are managed by the Chugach State Park & require a parking fee or Annual State Parks Pass.  The gates also close at 10pm, so plan accordingly! (you can park across the river on the right side for a takeout option as well) 

      Water Level: At the time of writing, (2023) the Eagle River Gauge was inconsistent from year to year due to nearby highway construction.  (forum users: please update this post as necessary!) For this reason, this post’s gauge levels are disregarded as it will likely change and the info I reference will be out of date.  A better reference for level is water color while also taking into account the time of day & year.  If the water is clear, expect a low volume class II, sometimes bumpy run down as you avoid rock obstacles, occasionally hitting a submerged one.  With early summer medium flows, generally through the beginning of June, the water turns gray, but it isn’t pumping with full summer volume quite yet.  The pace increases & water begins hiding the rocks, creating small waves & holes, class II+.  With the higher flows that mid-summer brings, this section feels very fast & difficulty increases to III-.  The space between rapids turns into continuous class II boogie water; eddies disappear & finding places to stop is much more challenging.

      River Description:  The run starts off slowly with a few meandering bends; the first notable feature is the island shortly under the bridge.  The river often has two channels around this island, generally with more water on the left.

      It soon turns to the right, with a small class II wave train.  The next major left turn has a series of waves & holes that you can thread through or avoid, with the easiest sneak line being on the far left.  A few hundred feet after this, where the river makes a gradual turn to the right, lies the most technical rapid in this section, besides Campground.  The easiest option involves avoiding the various waves & holes by hugging the inside right shore, although numerous lines exist.

      Alaska Packraft School Level 2 students scouting Campground Rapid, low water in May, approx 2.5 feet

      After this rapid, expect a few more class II+ and III- features interspersed with fairly flat stretches between things before arriving at the well signed and impossible to miss portage trail for Campground Rapid (III).  If it’s your first run down of the season, it’s worth getting out to look at the current wood situation or be ready to eddy-hop your way down to get eyes on it.

      Campground Rapid deserves special mention, as it is a significant step up & much more technical than anything else on the run.  While this rapid used to be a popular “1st time” class III move for many aspiring whitewater paddlers, the massive log jam that has collected over the years can render Campground much more dangerous than its rating would suggest.  The rapid begins with a class II+ lead in as the river makes a left bend before the main feature.  In years past, you could choose a right or left line- avoiding the wood pile on the rock shelf in the center.  However, as more wood collected over the years, the right channel was no longer an option 2019-2023.  The main flow & only open line being on the left.  Summer 2023 the right line was open, but had significant wood hazards; left line was still more common.

      Avoiding the logjam has been described by local paddlers as a “Class III move with a class V consequence,” as one must ferry to the left channel to avoid getting stuffed into the wood pile.  Not an incredibly difficult move…but perhaps not the best place for beginners to practice their ferrying skills.  Just sayin’.

      The left side has a fun ledge drop with a tongue & wave at the bottom- this feature can get pretty powerful & meaty with medium to higher water levels.  It’s possible to portage around the log jam, putting back in directly above this feature.  You can also walk around the entire rapid, getting back on the river to float the final ½ mile of class II, taking out on the right or left immediately upstream of highway bridge; left side is the Chugach State Parks Eagle River Day Use area (parking fee or pass required).  There’s also a short trail on the right side- no fee or amenities, smaller parking area.

      Bottom Campground Rapid, Gauge 2.4 ft/May 2022

      Note: You must take out here, as the lower stretches are on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER).  At the time of writing, they were not allowing public access, but you may be able to get a special permit.

      On the right side of the river, before Glenn Hwy bridge,  (no parking fee or bathrooms)

       

      • This topic was modified 2 months ago by Jule Harle.
      #4831
      Jule Harle
      Keymaster

        5/2/24

        The “stage is currently affected by ice,” so no CFS to report. Water is low. Both sides of log jam are passable. River left is a subtle drop. Several boulders to navigate on river right. The most difficult section right now is approaching the log jam. Great conditions for practicing in little waves and s-turns. Not much boofing to be done.

        – Justin Bickley

        #4984
        pbiskind
        Participant

          Campground rapid still open on both sides. An old raft frame is just peaking out on the upstream side of the log jam- it has an unknown amount of ropes attached to it. Flow is low- around 2 feet on the old scale (700 cfs is my guess).

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        Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Eagle River “Bridge to Bridge” Section