Valdez Glacier Stream

Forums Alaska Rivers Glennallen-Valdez Region Valdez Glacier Stream

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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: 4.5 miles, not including lake paddle
      Gauge: USGS Valdez Glacier R at Glacier Lake
      Shuttle: 4 miles
      Put-in: Valdez Glacier View Park, drive 3.6 miles down Airport Rd. 

      Takeout: Richardson Highway bridge

      Character: Fast and cold glacial boogie through constantly changing alluvial gravel braids & sweeping turns.  It has an interesting start, as it flows out of a lake at the terminus of the Valdez Glacier; it is reminiscent of the Spencer Glacier & Placer River of the Chugach National Forest or the Kennicott Lake and River of the Wrangell St Elias National Park.  A scenic must-do if you’re in the area- short and sweet, but the access is easy & views are impressive.

      Water Level: The stream is gauged by the USGS.  As it empties from a glacial lake, it has ample water from May-September.   However, flow ranges vary greatly, from 1000 cfs in the spring and fall & up to 14,000 cfs during peak June melt.  Expect a low volume class II+ run in early or late season, and a faster, higher water III- experience in June or July.  

      River Description: 30-45 minutes, not including lake paddle. This run is made better on a warm day, as you’ll want to take some time paddling around the lake and marveling at the icebergs before taking off downstream.  It sounds obvious, but paddling around a lake littered with ice chunks feels pretty chilly when the weather is foul.

      When you’re done with the lake, paddle East, towards the mouth of the river.  The stream starts off as a single channel for the initial 2 miles; you’ll encounter small waves and class II features.  Once the stream begins braiding out with multiple channels, it becomes wide open and begins to feel a little bit faster & steeper.  

      Some channels have significantly more gradient to them than others and can take on a class III- feel.  Other notable challenges are when the braided currents collide; creating strong boils that can easily suck a packraft tube, demanding aggressive paddle strokes to stay in control.  The easiest take out is on the right, immediately upstream of the highway bridge. (this can change, depending on water level)

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Glennallen-Valdez Region Valdez Glacier Stream