Willow Creek “Red Gate” Section

Forums Alaska Rivers Talkeetna Region Willow Creek “Red Gate” Section

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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: II+/III-
      Length: 2 miles
      Gauge: USGS Willow Creek at Willow: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/monitoring-location/15294005/#parameterCode=00065&period=P7D&showMedian=false
      Shuttle: 1.5 miles
      Put-in: Numerous options, description below for 6.8 miles upstream of Upper Willow bridge

      Takeout: Shirley Town Drive, turn left after 5.5 miles on Willow-Fishhook Rd.

      Character: The Red Gate section is an excellent beginner-lower intermediate run at most levels.   It has plenty of features and opportunities for practice: catching eddies, ferrying, weird seams & a handful of decent surf waves.

      Note: this is a heavily used fishing river.  Please be respectful and try to stay away from their lines. 

      Water level: Refer to the Willow Creek gauge.  Ideal flows for beginners are between 500-1200 cfs.  Lower runs are possible, although it begins to get pretty bony & shallow in spots.  You can certainly paddle this section much higher than 1200 cfs- the rapids are similar in nature, but with larger features- it becomes a really fun run!  With higher flows, the recovery pools and slower water between the rapids begin to disappear- the creek becomes much more continuous and a less ideal learning environment for new boaters. 

      Put-in Directions & Ethics: From Wasilla, drive North on the Parks Highway for about 45 minutes. After mile marker 71, turn right onto Willow-Fishhook Road, following signs towards Hatcher Pass.  After 6.5 miles, you’ll see a red gate on your left; you can park here or open the gate & drive further down to the turnaround.  

      The Red Gate put-in is on private land.  The owner is not only very generous to allow access, but is a legend in Alaska as an environmentalist and accomplished climber.  He asks that users either rent or purchase a key to access the creek.  Even if you aren’t driving a vehicle down the road, as of 2022, he still requests people pay the gate fee.  Please respect this situation so we can continue to have access! Contact James with Susitna Sled & Kayak to rent or purchase a key: 907-495-1505; you can message them on Facebook as well.  His home & business are well signed; you’ll see the shop shortly after the Red Gate area on the right side of the road. Please return the gate to whatever state it wasis in when you arrived.

      River Description: Directly below the put-in lies the most difficult rapid, Splashies (III-).  At higher flows, many beginners elect to walk around this rapid; there is a brushy trail that leaves the driveway, putting you in immediately below this rapid.  (The portage spot is where the put-in rd makes a right turn.  Look for a trail here.) This rapid has numerous lines, but is easiest to run down the center after a left entrance. About halfway down, when you reach a large granite boulder, you’ll encounter a large wave train.  There can be a fun wave to surf and decent sized holes to hit.  Read & run class II+/III- to the takeout.

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    Forums Alaska Rivers Talkeetna Region Willow Creek “Red Gate” Section