Little Susitna: Upper Section

Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Little Susitna: Upper 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: IV
      Length: 4 miles
      Gauge: USGS Little Susitna Gauge
      Shuttle: None, car to car
      Put-in: After approx 4 miles on Gold Mint Trail

      Takeout: Same as start, Gold Mint Trailhead lot 

      Character: Steep, technical and non-stop class III & IV whitewater with a rocky & chunky boulder drop feel.  You’ll really wanna stay in your boat on this run, a swim could be pretty dangerous and definitely I’ve found out the hard way 🙁

      Water Level: Refer to the USGS Little Susitna Gauge.  This upper section has less water, as most of the run is before Archangel Creek comes in, which adds significant volume.  Ideal levels for the upper section are 500-1100 on the Little Susitna Gauge.  Once over 1000 cfs, the run becomes much faster and more powerful- familiarity with the run is highly recommended at these levels.

      Hike Description: 4+ miles, 1-2 hrs. From Palmer, head East on Glenn Highway, turning left on Palmer Fishhook, AKA Hatcher Pass Rd, until reaching the Gold Mint Trailhead at mile 13.7.  You’ll need an Alaska State Parks annual pass or pay $5 for parking at the kiosk…rangers WILL ticket you & that shit costs more than the annual pass!

      From the Gold Mint Trailhead, hike upstream on the AK State Parks maintained trail for 4 miles.  You can put on really anywhere, but most people head to the river when the trail begins veering left, away from the water, just over an hour from the parking lot.  There are a few places where you can see the river from the trail, however most of the run, especially the harder drops, aren’t in view from the hike up.

      River Description:

      Continuous class III+ with numerous class IV/IV- salt & peppered throughout the run. Gauge: 800 cfs

      1-2 hrs. This demanding run is continuously technical, attention grabbing and interesting the whole way.  It starts off immediately with a few minutes of class III before the pace picks up, gradient steepens and class IV drops begin.  Most class IV boaters will be able to read and run the rapids, as multiple lines exist; however it can be helpful to go down with someone who’s familiar with the run or get out and scout any steep horizon lines.  If you can catch a micro eddy, you can scout and portage anything that looks too intimidating- albeit the portages are through thick brush & alders.  If you don’t like the looks of the first rapids, it would be easier to get out and hike back to the trail, as “what you see is what you get,” for the rest of the run, with the difficulty progressing as you go downstream.

      800 cfs

      The river loses some of its gradient when Archangel Creek comes in from the right.  However, the whitewater does not stop here.  Expect more class III-IV until returning to the parking lot, unless you’re continuing down the rest of the Little Susitna.  Refer to Little Susitna post.


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    Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Little Susitna: Upper Section