Kings River “Magic Mile”

Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Kings River “Magic Mile”

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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/IV+ at low flows (medium or high water class V)
      Length: 1.1 mile
      Gauge: No gauge, visual at bridge
      Shuttle: None
      Put-in: East Fork Kings: 61.87595, -148.60825

      Takeout: End of canyon section: 61.79424, -148.61359 OR Kings River bridge on Glenn Hwy

      Character:  The Magic Mile is a steep and demanding whitewater run; it’s continuously technical with the riverbed losing almost 300 ft of elevation within the infamous mile. The rapids are created by giant, irregularly shaped crystalline boulders- many of which are undercut and holding wood. Paddler lines require good precision and timing. Low water provides ample opportunity to eddy hop & boat scout, however some of the larger rapids & steeper horizon lines mandate land scouting & setting safety. As the rapids are not set in a canyon, scouting along the banks and/or portaging (& staging for photography) options are available, and relatively easy as per Alaska standards.

      Water Level: Kings River is not gauged. The Moose Creek gauge can be used for a rough estimate of what the Magic Mile might be doing; based on past reports, 80-150 cfs on Moose makes for decent levels on the Mile. This tends to be a late/shoulder season or fall run, as packrafters require lower flows. Some spring seasons (early May) might offer low flows, but the riverbed would likely be dammed with ice along the shore or throughout the drops. Medium & higher flows (June-August) make this section demanding and continuous class V.

      Hike Description: (9.5 miles, 4 hrs plus additional 2 miles if taking out after canyon) From Palmer, drive northeast on the Glenn Highway/AK 1, passing the Kings River.  Keep going to mile 71.8 to a large pullout on the left (just under 6 miles from the Kings River bridge).  There is a large gravel parking lot in the woods with a road heading uphill; this is Permanente Rd.  From the parking lot, you can take Permanente Rd (most 2WD vehicles can navigate the first stretch) about 1.8 miles.  A 4WD vehicle can continue past this point, but you’ll have to navigate some pretty serious mudholes and eventually steep-ish rock slides…).  Most people park here and begin walking.  

      Note: DO NOT park in gravel pullouts, local residents asked me to share this-they don’t mind people using their roads for river access, but need pullouts clear of vehicles at all times to make space for oncoming traffic during narrow/one way stretches.  Please respect this!

      River Description: There’s just under ½ mile of class II floating before the action begins. Most of the rapids and moves are unnamed, with the exception of a few major drops that stand out when compared to the rest.

      There’s a short class III boulder garden entry move with a large eddy on the bottom before a sharp left hand bend. Get out to scout the first major rapid, Bubblegum (V) on the leftThis rapid feels chunky and rocky- Tim Johnson, author of Alaska Whitewater, named it so, because of the large boulders trying to throw you off line. It has notoriously held problem wood where the water goes/best line is- check for the current wood situation and portage on the left as needed.

      This drop is a good indicator of the character of the run- if you don’t likewhat you see, it’s probably easier to get out and bushwhack back to the trail and paddle the lower canyon section instead.Continue downstream eddy hoping and scouting down the run. A few no named steep ledges, tongues and horizon lines come up quickly, but with ample scouting eddies.

      The next major rapid is less than ½ mile from Bubblegum; it’s a steep and narrow notch between 2 boulders; get out to scout on the left when you see a MASSIVE boulder on the bank.  Low water forces you to run the left notch, as that is where most volume goes. Tim Johnson named this move Pick Your Faith (IV+), as that is what you’d have to do if you were to get washed into the undercut on the left of the landing. The landing has a large eddy, great for setting safety or for photos.

      After this, expect plenty more unnamed boof moves, slots and super mega power ferries as you thread and weave your way around and through features until the next mandatory land scout. The most challenging and continuous rapids lie at the bottom of the run. Scout Underground Railroad (V) on the right, a very large and obviously constricted drop, near waypoint: 61.86208, -148.60896.

      The line involves maneuvering your boat through a narrow flush of water that pushes close to nearby undercut boulders. After this, eddy out immediately (right or left) to scout the last big drop, Chunder (IV+). Multiple lines exist, but a left entry is most common as fan rocks and sieves exist on the right. The rapid ends with a fun boof on the right side into a large pool. After Chunder, the “meat” of the Magic Mile is over, but you’ll still paddle almost a mile of class III+/IV- read and run whitewater before the river mellows out to class II+/III- until the lower canyon. See King’s River Canyon description.

      Jule Harle, Moose Creek Gauge 90cfs

      PC: Tim Kelley

      “Notch,” Cam Bradley setting safety

      PC: Jule Harle

      Amy Christenson

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Kings River “Magic Mile”