Eagle River “Echo Bend” Section

Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Eagle River “Echo Bend” Section

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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: III+/IV
      Length: 2.5-3 miles
      Gauge: USGS Eagle River Alaska: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/inventory/?site_no=15277100 
      Shuttle: None
      Put-in: Echo Bend: 61.19624, -149.24901

      Takeout: Rapids Camp Yurt or Albert Loop Trail

      Character: Echo Bend has been nicknamed “Epic Bend,” as many beginner packrafters have gone in under-prepared or unaware of appropriate water levels for their skill level, resulting in spooky swims.  

      The rapids section contains about a mile of boulder choked, steep, and continuously technical whitewater.  This run can feel intimidating for first timers, as the gradient and giant blocky boulders obstruct views and offer poor downstream visibility.  Scouting, both from your boat and the river banks are advised, as the giant rocks are notorious for holding wood and creating logjams.  Swimming, especially at higher flows, is incredibly dangerous as there are numerous sieves throughout the river.  Paddlers should feel confident with self-rescue skills.

      Water Level: At the time of writing, the gauge was inconsistent due to nearby highway construction; water levels in regards to the gauge are disregarded as it is likely the gauge will change and information in print will be soon out of date.  A better reference is water color while also taking into account the time of day & year.  Echo Bend is generally a lower water September run for most packrafters; if the water is clear, expect a class III/III+ experience.  Early season can have good levels, but with more potential for ice bridges.  As the river develops a thick glacial hue, expect higher flows: Echo Bend takes on a bossy class IV character, with pools disappearing and water surging through the giant boulder obstructions; usually mid summer, June through mid August.  Medium levels look like a milky turquoise & are likely to be found in late May & again in late August.

      Hike Description: From Eagle River, drive 12 miles on Eagle River Rd to Eagle River Nature Center (ERNC).  From the Nature Center, follow signs to the Crow Pass Trail.  This section of the trail is well-maintained by the ERNC; expect to see other hikers, groups and families enjoying this accessible area. 

      After 1.5 miles the trail nears the Rapids Camp Yurts; this is the first take out option and the preferred one if you plan on doing multiple Echo Bend laps.  After Rapids Camp, continue hiking another 1.5 miles; you’ll see a small wooden sign labeled “Echo Bend” where the trail nears the river. 

      River Description:  You’ll warm up with ½ mile of braided class II before the river has an obvious horizon line with rocky obstructions; this is where the rapids begin. 

      Although the run is continuously technical, micro eddies exist throughout.  The steeper and more demanding rapids occur shortly after the entrance move; be sure to get out and scout for wood if you’re unable to boat scout or eddy hop your way down.  Numerous lines exist throughout the rapids; water levels and current wood situations often dictate the best line.

      The higher the water level, the more demanding, pushy & continuous Echo Bend becomes.  At lower flows, the drops feel steep, but less volume allows more time to maneuver around rocks or recover from a swim.  It’s highly recommended to experience Echo Bend at lower flows before a medium or higher flow lap down.  With medium flows, the river will begin to feel powerful, but still stay in the III/III+ range.

      At higher flows, found in mid summer during peak glacial melt, Echo Bend becomes a true class IV run; the as holes gain more power with abrupt seams and sharp eddy lines. You’ll have to paddle hard throughout the entire section & work to stay on line, using strong ferries to negotiate the rocky drops.  With high summer flows, the river is incredibly powerful, becoming less ideal for most packrafters, although many class IV kayaker find the run worthy enough to hike in a hardshell.

      The intensity lasts about 20 minutes, assuming there’s no carnage, before difficulty weans down to class III.  The first takeout option is 1.5 miles from the put-in; you’ll see the Rapids Camp yurt on the bluff, the trail is right next to the river.  From here, it’s 1.9 miles back to the ERNC.

      You can continue downstream for a few more class III- rapids before the river mellows out to class I until the Albert Loop trail nears the river.  Keep an eye out for cabin stairs when looking for the take out. Please respect cabin users; continue on slightly past the cabin, taking out and transitioning slightly downstream from it.  From here, it’s a 1.5 mile hike back to the ERNC; after ½ mile turn left to get back on the Iditarod Trail. 


      Julia Dramis maneuvers through boulders w/medium-low water level in early Sept.

      PC: Jule Harle

      Betsi Oliver sets safety for Ben Sullender, low water September

      PC: Emily Sullivan

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Eagle River “Echo Bend” Section