Iron Creek

Forums Alaska Rivers Talkeetna Region Iron Creek

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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: III/III+
      Length: Iron Creek: 12 miles, Talkeetna: 35 miles
      Gauge: No gauge

      Shuttle: Fly in access, 8 miles from Talkeetna boat launch back to Fish Lake/Alaska Bush Floatplane Service
      Put-in: Hike from Rainbow Lake

      Takeout: Talkeetna boat launch

      Character: This small creek will have a big water feel if you catch it at higher flows.  The highlight of this run is the canyon stretch: big waves, huge hit or miss holes and fun whitewater features.  A class III boater may want to get out and scout the rapids, whereas those more experience will likely enjoy boat scouting and reading the water as they go.  With higher water levels, stretches can appear big and continuous, but nothing gets larger than class III+.

      Water Levels: Iron Creek has no gauge.  The creek relies primarily on snowmelt for flow, but can spike with significant rain.  The creek is usually runnable from mid May through September.  Check with pilots, as Rainbow Lake needs to be open & thawed for float plane access; this could be as late as June.  Expect a higher “big water” run during peak June snowmelt or a run with lower & clearer water in later summer/fall.

      Hike Description: Approximately 2 miles, 1-2 hours. Fly from Talkeetna to Rainbow Lake.  Have the pilot drop you off at the cabin on the north shore.  Begin by contouring the lake and heading east, trying to follow remnants of an old winter trail at first.  The trail peters out; continue bushwhacking and hiking northeast on the path of least resistance, no need to gain elevation or hike up towards the ridge.  Expect to get your feet wet, walking through bog and battling mosquitoes if it’s bug season.  You will want to trend as far upriver as possible (makes the run longer!) but mainly because there is a granite-walled canyon that you don’t want to miss.  If you hike from the west side of the lake heading downstream, you’ll miss the best whitewater.

      River Description: From the put-in, there’s a mile of warm up before the 1.5 miles of continuous III-III+ in the canyon.  If the water is turquoise blue/clear- low to medium level, 800-1500 cfs range, expect class III- with some recovery time between rapid sets.  If you catch Iron when it is higher, the water looks silty, gray or brown- likely a pushy class III/III+ ride.   In late June, Iron Creek can feel  big and engaging; but keep in mind the canyon never completely “walls in.”  You are always able to get out and scout anything that looks intimidating.  You’ll find lower flows in the class II+/III- range later in the summer, possibly just class II+ in early fall.

      After about 2 miles, when  a creek comes in on the right; the bigger rapids slow down.  In another mile the canyon opens up, turning into split channels- stay alert as wood is always shifting around and there are blind corners. At the time of writing, there were 2 mandatory wood portages.

      After an hour or so of choosing channels, you’ll reach the Talkeetna confluence.  The Talkeetna has few big features- mostly fun wave trains and a few squirrelly eddy lines, but predominantly flat water throughout the next 35 miles downstream to town.  Expect this to take 3-4 hours, depending on the flow and how hard you paddle.

      This can be a long day; it could make a great overnighter if you wanted to break it up.  If you’re tight on time and have some extra cash, you can hire a jet boat to pick you up where Iron Creek meets the Talkeetna, or anywhere downstream from there.

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