Matanuska River: Chickaloon to Kings River

Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Matanuska River: Chickaloon to Kings River

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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: III
      Length: 12.5 miles
      Gauge: NWS Matanuska at Glacier Park gauge
      Shuttle: 20 miles
      Put-in: Chickaloon Bridge, mile 77 Glenn Highway

      Takeout: Above King’s River

      River Description: 1.5-2 hrs. With the obvious exception of Lion’s Head, the 2-3 mile stretch below Chickaloon is the most interesting in regards to whitewater features.  It’s less braided than it’s upstream & downstream stretches & can have massive holes and breaking waves.

      When using the Chickaloon to put-in, take note of the large rock near the confluence, as it has the potential to hold logs.  The actual Chickaloon is over before you know it, and you’ll soon be at the Matanuska confluence.  At higher flows (June & July) the converging currents of these 2 rivers are capable of flipping a packrafter who isn’t familiar with negotiating strong eddy lines or strong currents.  

      Once on the Matanuska, an island divides the river into 2 channels.  Either channel goes, and is more/less similar in difficulty (III-), but during higher flows, it’s best to be decisive & paddle strongly towards either one, as there’s an infamous log jam worth avoiding on top of the island.  It’s not a terribly difficult move to make, but paddlers can end up in the dangerous wood pile because they were unaware or indecisive of where they wanted to be.

      Shortly downstream of the confluence, you’ll come into one of the few named rapids on this stretch, Carbon (III); named after Carbon Creek coming in on the left.  You can scout from a large pullout less than a mile downstream/west of the Chickaloon confluence. The massive holes- or waves depending on water levels, will either thrill or scare you.  Putting in here, downstream of these features is also an option- and might be a good idea if you have a timid paddler in your group.

      For the next 4 miles, you can either hit or avoid numerous waves or holes in the river.  The Nova Bend waves are the next named features, scoutable from the road near the pullout at mile 74.  Immediately upstream of this section an island divides the river; the right has bigger whitewater features; all are “hit or miss” and the left side is an option as well.  Check out locally owned & operated Nova River Runners if you have family or friends that want to ride in a raft, they are one of the original raft outfits in Alaska.

      After Nova Bend, the Matanuska resumes braiding and really slows down.  There are numerous take out opportunities before Kings, if you’re looking for a shorter run.  It is also possible to keep going & float the entire way to the Old Glenn Highway bridge, 1.5 miles east of Palmer; know that the Mat widens & braids significantly more.

      Note: If taking out at Kings, it’s easier to use the pullout 1/3 mile upstream of Kings vs taking out directly at the Kings River confluence- you’ll likely bash through some brush to get back to your vehicle if you wait until this confluence.

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Matanuska River: Chickaloon to Kings River