Winner Creek Gorge (June 24, 2020)

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    Jule Harle

      Glacier creek gauge: 310 cfs, 25.9 ft


      Small box canyon with blind corners and tight squeezes through fun class III drops. The horizon lines and tight canyon walls appear pretty intimidating on someone’s first run down. Great introduction to low volume creek moves and maneuvering through small slots. Be extra cautious and on the lookout for wood; any logs choked in the canyon could be a big problem.

      Hike Description:

      Approximately 2 miles. 1 hour
      From Hotel Alyeska, start walking on the Winner Creek trail; after 1.5 miles, turn right at the Upper Winner Creek Trail junction. There are two possible places to put on. The first is ¾ mile from the junction; a few minutes after the trail forks (it doesn’t matter which fork you take, they come back together) Keep your eyes on the left, looking for a small social trail; it’s easy to miss when the brush gets thick by mid June- if you don’t see flagging, use GPS coordinants; following small social trail until reaching a large gravel bar on the beach. Alternately, you can look for a more obvious social trail about 1 mile past the junction, right before reaching a tree canopy “hang out” area. This spur trail will lead you through a small beaver pond before approaching Winner Creek. The second put in feels “brushy” in spots, however it takes you through some mellow class I-II with beautiful rock formations that you would otherwise miss.

      Water Description:

      Winner Creek: 2 miles. Glacier Creek 4 miles.
      1 hour Winner Creek & 45 min-1 hour on Glacier Creek; 2-3 hours total.
      The run begins with some mellow class II, turning right and left a few times before a sharp left turn with a horizon line, signaling the start of the first canyon section. You can easily get out and scout on the left. If you don’t like what you see, now is a good time to get out and bushwhack back to the trail, as the drops only get steeper and more stacked on each other as you continue downstream. At lower-medium water you can eddy hop your way down and boat scout as you go. The drops in the gorge stay in the class III range, however generally appear more technical than they actually are. If the water was high, (usually from rain fall- it’ll have a murky/brown color to it) the drops would feel even pushier and boat recovery would be challenging. Most sections have 2-3 drops in them, followed by slower water afterwards. Once the gorge begins, that remains the nature of the creek until just upstream of the snowcat bridge, where it begins opening up. You can take out here and either head left, returning to your car OR begin walking downstream on the Winner Creek Trail for 10 minutes towards Glacier Creek for more class II-III fun. Many boaters continuing down to Glacier Creek float beyond the snowcat bridge for a few hundred yards, catching an eddy on the left before getting on the trail. At the time of writing (2020) there was a big logjam downstream of a large eddy on the left at the take out coordinates: GPS. DO NOT continue further, as Winner Creek soon plunges over a rocky unrunnable waterfall. (the 2nd part, which has been successfully run a few times by class V kayakers!)
      Refer to Glacier Creek description for more info.

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