Moose Creek (into Yanert & Nenana Rivers)

Forums Alaska Rivers Alaska Range Region Moose Creek (into Yanert & Nenana Rivers)

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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
      Length: Approx 22 miles: Moose: 7.5 miles, Yanert: 6.7 miles, Nenana: 7.75 miles
      Gauge: No gauge for Moose Creek
      Shuttle: 10 miles

      Put in: (for hike): mile 228 on the Denali Parks Highway.  Large gravel pullout with ample parking for trailers or large vehicles.

      Take out: McKinley Village commercial raft put in for Nenana.

      Character: Steep, technical and continuous class III+ whitewater with a boulder drop feel…as if Echo Bend & Sheep Creek got together and had a baby. Moose Creek has the massive rocks and steep rapid horizon lines of Echo Bend, but with the large, rounded granite boulders similar to Sheep Creek in the Talkeetna Mountains.  The high potential for sudden problem wood & the non-stop nature of many of the rapids will make this run feel more like a class IV experience at times, even though the actual moves remain class III+.  With medium to high water levels, a class III paddler would likely be terrified, while a class IV paddler has ear to ear grins.

      Water Levels: Moose Creek has no gauge. It relies primarily on snowmelt, but usually has enough water throughout the summer. Expect a pushy, higher and more demanding run in June, with water levels tapering off later into the summer. The Yanert will be at its highest June-July, but still in the class III range.

      Hike Description: Most of the hike is on a well-maintained horse trail through Ahtna land, however the first 1.5 miles is through a private property land access easement.  The trail begins as a dry, wide ATV style track; after 1/3 mile veer right at the junction.  Trail soon becomes wet & marshy as you near the powerline; be sure NOT to follow the marshy track under the powerline, as that is not the direction you are headed.  But keep your eyes open for the well worn trail on your right, continuing East.  The trail maintains its decent shape as you gradually ascend a ridge with views of the surrounding area.  When junctions arise, it’s generally better to take the higher or left option; both trails will merge, but the left maintains elevation & is usually drier.

      The trail is established & has great alpine views. Photo: Jule Harle

      After 2.5-3 hours of hiking, you’ll arrive at Ravine Creek- a considerable crossing that’s best attempted downstream from where the trail initially meets the water if it looks high. In another mile, after a much smaller creek crossing, follow the trail towards the right (NOT left). You’ll continue on the ridge for another 2 miles before crossing a deep ravine.

      After this ravine, the trail gradually begins descending. You’ve got another ½ mile of decent walking until the trail cuts through alder & willow. The trail is still well-defined, but gets muddy & wet until reaching the river valley floor. The trail continues up valley along the creek -you can never actually see Moose Creek, but you’ll hear it. Most boaters bushwhack down to creek somewhere near the two drainages (both which are small crossings) on USGS maps. The brush is light & made quick when following game trails. It’s possible to continue on upstream, but this is an ample put in as a full day trip with plenty of hiking & boating. Length & distance: 11.5 miles, 5-7 hours.

      River Description: If you put on immediately upstream of the second drainage, you’ll have 3 miles of class II floating until the action begins. Although the whitewater doesn’t demand your attention, keep your eyes open for wood- expect to either portage or paddle around downed trees & log jams.

      After 3 miles, the river gets faster. You’ll know you’re entering the rapids when you see a tan colored cliff with rocky scree on the right as the river makes a sharp left turn.  The creek becomes pushier & steeper as the rapids pick up. Stay alert for wood, especially on blind bends. Although this run can be “read & run” for experienced paddlers proficient with boat scouting & catching micro eddies- the high potential for wood should invite a conservative scouting attitude.

      A ½ mile after the rapids begin, you’ll enter the most technical & demanding stretch of the run. In 2021, the creek divided into 2 channels; the left turned into a massive beaver pond, forcing you to portage, while the right channel had a class IV- rapid with some nasty wood in the middle of the drop. DEFINITELY scout this section out if it’s your first time down, namely for the wood factor.

      Cam Brailey at the beginning of Moose Creek rapids. Photo: Dmitry Surnin

      The whitewater is continuous for the next 2.5 miles, with the biggest rapids being the initial ½ mile after the beaver pond portage. Opportunities exist to scout rapids from land, but boat scouting may be the preferred method. Either way, catching micro eddies & quick decision-making are musts as you navigate downstream.  

      Once the rapids on Moose end, you’ll float class II for a mile until the confluence with the Yanert.  With summer flows, the Yanert is big water class III-. Expect large wave trains, giant holes & glacial boogie for its entirety.  All features are “hit or miss,” as there’s no specific rapid or line one needs to make.  The largest rapid on the Yanert is immediately before its confluence with the Nenana- HUGE wave or hole in the center of the river- you can sneak it on the left, but it’s a thin sneak if it’s high.  You can scout or portage on either side, left seems better.   The glacial boogie continues when the Yanert pours into the mighty Nenana, although there are some calmer class II stretches throughout. When you see the lodge high up on the right, you’ll know you’re near the takeout. Take out in the gravel area on the right where the commercial rafts begin their canyon trips. Total Paddling Time 5-6 hours. 

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Alaska Range Region Moose Creek (into Yanert & Nenana Rivers)