Eagle River “Wilderness” Section

Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Eagle River “Wilderness” Section

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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: II
      Length: 8 miles
      Gauge: USGS Eagle River Gauge: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/inventory/?site_no=15277100
      Shuttle: None if starting at ERNC TH, 70 miles if coming from Crow Pass TH
      Put-in: Crow Pass Trail meets Eagle River “Fjord site”: 61.13976, -149.10425

      Takeout: Above Echo Bend: 61.19647, -149.24870

      Character: A fairly popular packraft trip for Southcentral paddlers who like hiking just as much as they like boating.  Personally, I prefer paddling Upper Eagle River vs. hiking this portion of trail on the Crow Pass traverse.  You can take in better views of the Chugach when you’re on the river vs. hiking, as the trail is often tucked in the forest, away from the open riverbed.  

      The only downside to this run are the shuttle logistics; some people prefer to hike directly from the Eagle River Nature Center to the put-in for this reason.

      Water Level: The best season for this trip is late June-Sept; be sure to check current conditions- Crow Pass often holds snow through June.  The river will be at it’s highest from mid June-early July; this makes the initial mile below the put-in feel very fast and has potential to be class III- for the initial few hundred feet.  By September, when the water becomes clear, the 8 miles will move much slower, taking 2-3 hours. 

      Trip Begins: (Crow Pass TH): 12 miles to river + add’l 3 mile hike out. From Anchorage, drive 35 miles South on the Seward Highway towards Girdwood; turn left onto Alyeska Highway.  After 2 miles, turn left onto Crow Creek Mine Rd & follow for 6 miles to trailhead.  The final mile is rough and single lane in some areas.  

      Trip Ends: Eagle River Nature Center.  From Anchorage, drive North on the Glenn Highway for 13 miles before taking the Eagle River Exit.  Turn right onto Eagle River Road, driving another 12 miles to its end.  If you aren’t a member, please pay the daily parking fee.  You could also start hiking here, as an “out and back” trip if desired.

      Hike Description: From the Crow Pass Trailhead, the trail starts in the brush zone before climbing gradually into the alpine on the Monarch Mine Rd, one of the earliest mining claims in the state.  After 3 miles, take a few minutes to savor the view of Raven Glacier when you get to the 3,500 ft Crow Pass.  There is a Forest Service cabin near the pass; reservations are required.

      You’ll descend through rocky lateral glacial moraine with the occasional rock cairn as guidance- it’s easy to lose the trail in this section; expect to walk on snow if it’s early season.  You’ll cross Clear Creek after 5.5 miles.  There are bridges over Raven Gorge & Turbid Creek.  I packrafted the Raven Gorge in 2019, first descent, solo.  No big deal.  Juuust kidding. 😉

      As you get closer to Eagle River, the brush thickens & trail becomes more of a foot path through tall grasses at times.  After 12 miles you’ll arrive at the river.

      River Description: The river begins immediately with a class II+/III- wave train.  The initial 1/2 mile is the most challenging, there aren’t specific rapids, but the river keeps your attention as you ferry around large holes and through waves.  Soon enough, it mellows out and maintains a class II character the rest of the way as the braids gradually increase.  

      After 2 miles, the valley opens up and braids widen significantly; the main hazard for the rest of the run is picking the channel with more water while avoiding wood.  You’ll likely have to get out a few times to portage logs; stay alert for bear and moose as well.

      The take out above Echo Bend is hard to nail if you’ve never done it before.  Echo Bend is noted on USGS maps & the trail parallels it nicely; however it’s easy to miss from the river.  If you aren’t up for the Echo Bend rapids (III+/IV), take out on the right, near 61.19647, -149.24870.   Keep in mind the main channel is often on river left, requiring you to wade through shallower channels to actually access this take out.  If you miss it, the river will bend to the right, with a horizon line and sounds of whitewater downstream.  Get out on the right and bushwhack to the East, you’ll eventually intersect with the main trail.

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Anchorage Region Eagle River “Wilderness” Section