Moody Creek

Forums Alaska Rivers Alaska Range Region Moody 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+ (IV- during peak snow melt)
      Length: Moody Creek: 6 miles.  Healy Creek: 3 miles
      Gauge: None
      Shuttle: Varies
      Trip Starts/Put-in: Drive north from “Glitter Gulch” on the Denali Parks Highway.  At milepost 242 look for a pull out on the left; park here.   

      Character: This trip screams Alaska: from the bushwhacking, epic alpine ridge views, (often with ripping winds!) and spicy whitewater, this trip should be considered a “must do” for the intermediate packrafter who likes the “packing” just as much as the “rafting.”  There’s multiple hike approaches, each is strenuous with 3000ish ft of elevation gain & loss, bushwhacking, route finding & alpine/rocky ridges with exposure.  This continuous class III+ creek has unique geologic features that continue to impress throughout the route.  Most rapids are created by rockfall and are laden with sieves- swims could be dangerous in spots, especially at higher flows.  

      GUIDEBOOK EDIT/AMENDMENT for Hike Description:  The “Dragonfly Creek” route published in the book SUCKS, don’t do it!  After the guidebook was in print, Charlie Procknow & Seth Keister clued me into a better approach, there’s a social trail on the North side of Dragonfly Gulch.  It’s hard to find, but don’t give up- it’s a glory trail, worth finding!  When about 1/8 mile from Moody, you can cut directly south towards the tributary creek coming in on your right to shorten the bushwhacking.  Follow the tributary until you reach the put-in.  Another alternative is to hike up Sugarloaf Mountain- this adds a few more miles to Moody Creek, a few more miles above the put-in described below.  

      River Description (Time: Moody Creek: 1-2 hours, Healy Creek 30-45 min, 2-3 total hours, depending on water level and time spent scouting) Although this is a class III+ creek, you probably don’t want to be in here if your skills top out at class III, as high water levels make the rapids more technical, pushy & continuous.   Class III paddlers would probably feel more comfortable with lower water levels.  Moody creek levels are hard to guess- you can’t see the creek from the road and there is no gauge.  Generally expect higher flows from June snowmelt or from heavy rains.  You can portage most rapids, although the eddies may feel small at higher flows- not the best for larger groups.

      Many rapids are made of large & often sharp rocks, sieves exist throughout! Dmitry Surnin, photo: Cam Brailey

      Moody Creek begins with a few no-name class III rapids before you get to the first “tunnel” rapid, about 1.5 miles in.  The river constricts and there’s a small horizon line; this is best scouted on the left.  This rapid moves fast and continues further than the eye can see.  Expect continuous class III action before  arriving at the “S turn;” where the river makes an obvious turn to the right, left & right again due to massive rockfall.  This is a beautiful area-great for photos!  Best scouting opportunities are on the right.  Shortly after, you’ll see another class III+ tunnel rapid with a horizon line, marked by obvious rocks sticking out in the river; best scouted on the left.  Expect a few more class III/III+ features downstream-the creek doesn’t mellow out until after Copeland creek comes in from the left, about 1 mile from Healy Creek.   Once you get to the confluence, the valley opens up and turns into class I-II.  The best take out is downstream of the bridge- after the Healy meets the Nenana, float downstream and ride the last wave train near the bridge pylons before taking out at the parking area on the left. 

      Scouting Tunnel Rapid on Moody Creek
      Scouting Tunnel Rapid, Low water in August


        I’ve hiked three different routes to get to Moody, and my preference is to stay low and take the Montana Creek trail. The trail can be a bit muddy and it crosses Montana Creek several times, but it’s fairly quick and drops you into Moody Creek right where the whitewater starts, so you can get a couple extra miles of Class II-III splashes (warning: I’ve only put in here in June and July, and it might be a little bony this high up later in the season).

        To find the trail, there’s a small pullout on Grande Rd at the last bend before Kingfisher Creek. The trail starts directly across the road from the pullout. There’s a bit of spiderweb of social trails for the first few hundred feet, but follow the trail that trends south toward Montana Creek. After following Montana Creek for a ~3 miles, the trail eventually turns north up a small tributary to follow the Intertie power line over a low pass and eventually down to the creek.

        Although this route lacks the alpine walking and expansive views of the Sugarloaf routes, you’ll be protected in the trees from the area’s frequent high winds and you won’t burn yourself out on the hike before a demanding (but fun!) paddle. In other words, this approach might be for those who want some “packing,” but are a bit more focused on the “rafting.”

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      Forums Alaska Rivers Alaska Range Region Moody Creek