Winner Creek Gorge

Forums Alaska Rivers Girdwood and Hope Region Winner Creek Gorge

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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: Winner Creek: 2 miles, Glacier Creek: 4 miles
      Gauge: None, use Glacier Creek at Alyeska USGS gauge for reference:
      Shuttle: Varies

      Character: 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.

      Jim Gonski @ beginning of box canyon, low water

      Water Level:  Winner Creek has no gauge, but you can reference the Glacier Creek gauge.  Paddling Winner Creek when Glacier is below 200 cfs would make a pretty low run; doable, but you may be aggressively paddling to avoid getting stuck on rocks.  250-400 cfs is ideal; Winner isn’t too pushy, but still exciting class III whitewater.  If you go when Glacier is above 400 cfs, expect more powerful features and less recovery time between rapids- less ideal if uncertain of current wood hazards, as the time to eddy out or negotiate them is limited.

      Hike Description: Approximately 2 miles/1 hr.  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-in.  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,  following small social trail until reaching a large gravel bar on the beach.  Alternatively, 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 & scenic walls that you miss with the first put-in. 

      Water Description:  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, return 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. 

      Portage the class V falls on the right, put back in at Glacier Creek

      At the time of writing, there was a big logjam downstream of this large eddy. Take out here & walk around the waterfall section to put back onto Glacier Creek. Refer to Glacier Creek description for more info.  2-3 hrs paddle time total if doing both runs. 

      Will Day in Winner Creek’s box canyon, low water


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    Forums Alaska Rivers Girdwood and Hope Region Winner Creek Gorge