Granite Creek

Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Granite Creek

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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: IV- (lower flows) IV (higher)
      Length: 5.8 miles
      Gauge: No gauge, visual at bridge
      Shuttle: 4-5 miles
      Put-in: Bottom of 2nd drainage

      Takeout: Granite Creek bridge, MP 62.4 Glenn Hwy

      Character: Granite Creek offers high quality, continuously technical whitewater with the character varying dramatically between low and high flows.  The drops are over and around large granite boulders; with lower flows, expect ledges, large rocks and fun boofs- an ongoing “creeky” boulder garden.

      With higher flows, expect big holes, waves and LOTS of non-stop maneuvering throughout the whole run.  The run feels similar in character to nearby Little Su- slightly less challenging, but more remote.

      Water Level: Granite Creek has no gauge, but you can get a good visual at the highway bridge.  If it looks almost too bony to float, there’s probably enough water for the canyon to go.  If the water looks murky & fast, expect the canyon to be continuous class IV.   As it relies primarily on snowmelt, expect a fast & non-stop class IV run in June & early July, when the water is high.  The creek can also spike with significant rain.  If the water has a glacial/murky hue, it’s likely to be running higher vs clear water flows.  With lower flows, Granite has a “creeky” type feel, as the rapids are made from large granite boulders. 

      Hike Directions (Eska Falls TH) & Description: 4-6 hrs, 7.2 miles. From Palmer, drive Northeast on the Glenn Highway/AK 1, heading towards Sutton.  Turn left on Jonesville Rd; drive 2.5 miles before the pavement ends.  You can park here, or continue on the 4WD trail to the left for another 1.5 miles if you have a high clearance vehicle.  The road looks intimidating initially, but it improves within ¼ mile.  Whether hiking or driving ALWAYS turn left when given the option. 

      Finding Eska Falls Trail can be confusing; from where the pavement ends on Jonesville Rd, follow the rockier looking ATV trail that heads left.  The trail has numerous branches and forks; always choose the left one.  The hiking & biking trail begins on the right side of a large turnaround after 1.5 miles.  

      From here, this fairly well-maintained mountain biking trail that meanders through the forest for a few miles, eventually taking you up to the alpine with impressive views of Eska & Granite Peaks-not to mention lovely Eska Falls.  The trail eventually merges with the ATV track; follow it up towards the knoll on the right (USGS peak 3,216).  Continue on this ridge trail for about ½ mile until it abruptly stops at an ATV turnaround.  

      Rachel & Rhane make hiking look good. #models passing Eska Creek Falls

      From here, take the most obvious looking game trail down the nose of the ridge towards the meadow- you’ll be able to see the ATV trail you’re aiming for when you’re up here- take a mental note!  When you reach about 2400 ft in elevation, the game trail disappears and gives way to mild shwaking through tall grasses and fireweed.  Once in the meadow, keep heading East towards the creek and you’ll eventually intersect it.

      When you intersect with the trail, go left & follow the most obvious looking ATV route (it forks a few times).  When the trail makes a hard left, obviously not the direction you want to go, turn right and continue until the large gully where the trail ends.

      There is an excellent game trail about 200 feet before the trail ends at the gully.  Note that there is also a game trail that starts right next to the gully; but this quickly dissipates and leaves you in steep alder country…do not take this one!  The game trail you want starts at: 61.78535, -148.85487.   If you can’t find the correct game trail, well, keep looking; otherwise you’re in for a long mile of thick, unpleasant & unnecessary bushwhacking!  

      Valley view/where to shoot for when hiking. Ideal put-in is above the grey landslide (river left)

      The game trail aims towards a light gray colored landslide, the ideal put-in.  After a few minutes it opens into a meadow before becoming an obvious route again.  About ⅓ mile down, you’ll come to an intersection- turn left.  This descends into the gully, which you’ll cross; the trail climbs up before dropping down and ending near the creek.

      Note: A shorter, more direct hike that bypasses Eska Falls, but leads you to the landslide put-in is possible.  From Jonesville Rd, take the ATV trail (numerous forks, good luck!) to the meadow just West of Knob Hill.

      River Description: 1.5-2 hrs. Granite Creek starts off with a bang as the steeper, more technical drops are immediately below the put-in.  A solid class IV paddler will likely enjoy “reading and running” this stretch, while many will want to get out and scout the first few drops; scouts are more challenging at higher flows, as eddies barely exist.  At higher flows (June/July) you should NOT be on this creek unless you’re a confident class IV paddler.

      Rachel Taylor (Ray-tay) taking a breather within Granite’s continuous boulder gardens. Low water, August

      Rhane Pfieffer shows off his boulder boogie. Low water, August. Photo: Jule Harle

      With higher flows, the eddies are few and far between; paddlers should have excellent self-rescue skills and feel confident in getting back into their boats.  At lower levels, swims are still painful, but there’s more time between rapid sets and eddy opportunities open up.   At lower levels Granite can be a fun and challenging creek for intermediate paddlers to practice creeking skills and catching micro eddies

      Whereas the first half mile is the most challenging, the creek is continuous class III and IV whitewater for the following 4 miles, until you’re out of the canyon.  The canyon never truly “walls you in,” but often has tall & dramatic sedimentary rock along either side.

      Keep an eye out for wood; in 2020 there was a large river wide log about 3 miles from the put-in and another after the canyon opened up, about ½ mile from the road.

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Granite Creek