Clear Creek Packraft

Most rivers in southcentral Alaska are not clear. They are frothing glacial rivers with two inches of clarity. Anything named Clear Creek are a must-do. Cathy and I boated a Clear Creek near Wonder Lake with Andrew McCarthy in 2009. Beautiful granite boulders with Tahoe Lake-clear water. Cathy did Clear Creek (Chunilna Creek) in the Talkeetna Mountains with Gretchen in 2008. She'd forgotten about the class III schwacking and was willing to go again.

We stopped at Gorilla fireworks in Houston to load up. The Talkeetnas are packed with bears. Fireworks are cheaper, lighter and easier to shoot than guns. The Gorilla Girl tried to sell us the Bigger Than Life with 500 Gram Heavy Weight for $40, but we settled on the M-5000 pack that Gorilla Girl claimed: "Sounds like a machine gun." My regular explosives source is in Glennallen.

 

In Talkeetna we jumped on the Alaska Railroad and took the whistle stop to Curry. This wasn't the glass-roofed luxury, drinking coffee and smoking big cigars train. Instead it was full of fired-up locals going to their cabins, including our neighbor Judy. On the train we also met Ryan and Cade, Anchorage packrafters also heading to Clear Creek--company!

 

Curry to Clear Creek is urbanized for Alaska. We followed an ATV trail, then the brushed-out Alaska Intertie. The Intertie was built in 1980 by the Alaska Energy Authority and is part of the Railbelt Electric Grid System that links central and southcentral Alaska, including Delta, Fairbanks, Anchorage and out to Seldovia.

 

We saw caribou, moose, black bear and some chicken shit grizz. They looked fluffy and snuggly. 

 

I was more scared of the blood-sucking eagles circling our camp. 

 

A short hike the next morning and we looked down to Clear Creek.

 

We schwacked straight down to Clear Creek and were greeted by an airstrip, seven cabins and multiple owners who told us "This is private property." They know the dangers of packrafters. The moral: Stay way away from the buildings and roads at the junction of Clear Creek and Bacon Creek. The best option is to join Clear Creek a 1/3 mile downstream of the junction with Bacon Creek.

 

Cade demonstrating proper inflation technique for Ryan. This was Ryan's fourth creek. His first was the notoriously-rowdy Willow Creek.

 

Ryan in the Clear Creek canyon. The pools were stuffed with three-foot King Salmon and Rainbow trout. Conditions were bony. June, when flow is higher, would be better. 

 

We did find high flow at the West Rib in Talkeetna. From Clear Creek we floated another hour down the Talkeetna River and pulled into Talkeetna, a quarter-mile from the West Rib. Also testing flow at the Rib was Thai Verzone, Roman Dial, Joe McLaughlin and Timmy Johnson. They looked pooped from boating the steeeep East Fork of Iron Creek.