Matanuska River: Glacier Park to Hicks Creek

Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Matanuska River: Glacier Park to Hicks 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: III-
      Length: 5.5 miles
      Gauge: NWS Matanuska at Glacier Park gauge
      Shuttle: 6 miles
      Put-in: Keith’s Rd, Glacier Park (Lion’s Head takeout)

      Takeout: Hicks Creek Nova pullout, MP 96 Glenn Hwy

      Character: The sections below the Lion’s Head stretch of rapids are still big & fast but with less challenging whitewater.  The Matanuska has a wild & remote feel, despite the Glenn Highway running so close by in proximity; it also has excellent camping opportunities throughout.  A great river for not just packrafters, but any whitewater enthusiast (rafts, canoes, kayaks) seeking a scenic day or overnight river trip somewhat close to Anchorage.

      When the Matanuska channelizes, expect powerful currents & splashy “hit or miss” wave trains alongside massive holes.  Strong upstream valley winds are common, and can make you really work in the slower, braided sections.

      Water Level: This section of the Matanuska can be packrafted at any time of year; but will have low water levels in May & September and peak flows in July.  Summer flows make this section move quickly & offer less recovery time between features.

      River Description: Big features & fast currents can make this stretch go quickly in peak summer flows (June-July).  This stretch offers river reading & practice potential for intermediate packrafters.  Excellent ferry opportunities, eddy catching and “hit or miss” wave trains & holes can be good training grounds for those looking to practice boat control or gain experience in reading glacial water.  As the Matanuska is high volume & fast, swimming to shore can be a challenge; one should feel confident in self rescue or be with a competent crew if assistance is needed.  This stretch is mostly class II+ with the frequent class III wave or hole.  Paddlers should feel adept at looking downstream to ferry towards or away from large big water features.  

      The biggest hazard lies about 2 miles into the run; once you see houses in view on the bluff, keep a wide berth with the metal debris on the right

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Mat-Su Valley Region Matanuska River: Glacier Park to Hicks Creek