South Fork of Eagle River

The south side of the Alaska Range, the Talkeetnas, the Chugach mountains, the Kenai Peninsula and the Wrangells
bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Wed Aug 15, 2007 10:53 pm

Recent rains have brought the South Fork of Eagle River up to a good level. JT Lindholm and I ran about 6 miles of it today (August 15th) and it was pretty rowdy in places. There are 3 segments that, for lack of creativity, are called the upper, middle and lower. The upper segment starts approximately 0.5 miles below Eagle Lake and runs down to Symphony Lakes Trail bridge, the middle segment runs down to the South Creek Drive road bridge near the Symphony Lakes trailhead, and the lower segment ends at the first Hiland Road bridge at roughly Mile 5.5 of Hiland Road. There are two unpassable footbridges in the middle segment that have to be portaged, but otherwise the trail bridge at the end of the upper segment, a driveway bridge in the middle segment, and the two road culverts are passable.

The creek is largely free of wood after extensive clearing efforts over the past year. There are a few snags in the lower segment to watch out for, but you can get around them if you know the run. If it is your first time down, I suggest scouting some of the drops in the middle and lower segments.

The upper segment is the easiest of the three, generally Class II with a few Class III drops. The middle segment is the hardest, especially below the red driveway bridge. Approximately 1/2 mile below the driveway bridge watch for a footbridge that you must portage. Several hundred yards downstream of the footbridge is a a sequence of three drops in succession, the first drop being about 4'. It is non-stop action for the next mile until another unpassable footbridge is encountered. Portage that and within 200 yards pass through the first culvert marking the end of the middle segment. The middle segment is sustained Class III, perhaps even Class IV-.

The lower segment is busy Class III for the first several miles but the action gets serious in the final mile, on par with the challenges of the middle segment, approaching Class IV. If you are not on your game you could make a real mess in the steep drops and corners before the Hiland Road culvert. A good eddy on river left just downstream of the culvert marks the end of the lower segment. The creek continues dropping steeply down to the mainstem Eagle River, but there are several big waterfalls ahead. Here be dragons...

More information about the South Fork can be found in the Old Trip Reports at the Yahoo site (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alaskapackrafting). The water level in the South Fork seems to mirror Ship Creek (http://aprfc.arh.noaa.gov/ahps2/hydrogr ... ,1,1,1,1,1), with flows in Ship Creek above 5' indicating sufficient water in the South Fork.

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

South Fork of Eagle River, September 10, 2007

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Tue Sep 11, 2007 1:26 pm

The South Fork is at a great level right now, and looks to stay that way for a while. JT Lindholm and I ran it on September 10th and found it to be pretty wild. Some of the drops that we had previously considered the hardest were somewhat washed out while other unremarkable drops became quite remarkable. At the current level it approaches Class IV,and because of the continuity of the run, with non-stop action, you should be a Class IV boater to consider the segments below the first driveway bridge at current level.
St George Webii.jpg
St George Webii.jpg (1.24 KiB) Viewed 17227 times
Southfork Web.jpg
Southfork Web.jpg (1.24 KiB) Viewed 17234 times

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

South Fork Status Report

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Mon Jun 09, 2008 7:47 pm

Although both Ship Creek and Eagle River are running at good levels, the South Fork of Eagle River is still quite low and not currently runnable as of June 9th, 2008. Cold temperatures have minimized the glacial melt so that Eagle Lake is well-below full with little outflow. In fact, Symphony Lake was still mostly iced over as of June 7th.

I've had lots of inquiries and I will post on this forum as soon as the South Fork is runnable. There is still uncleared wood in the river that I am working on removing, and hopefully will complete before the water comes up.

pamtodd
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2007 9:43 am

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by pamtodd » Fri Jun 20, 2008 4:46 pm

Any better yet?
June 20, 2008?

RyanMiller
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:50 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by RyanMiller » Sat Jun 21, 2008 10:07 pm

My folks live just below the first driveway bridge. I was up there fri. I suspect its better but could come up a bit more in regards to Brads write up. Merely my observation as i've not run it yet.
ahh, nice marmot

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Mon Jun 23, 2008 8:54 am

I think it looks good now (June 23rd). Be warned that there is some wood still in the river. The worst is a 6 tree jam in the segment between the road bridges.

Anybody want to go?

Brad Meiklejohn

pamtodd
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2007 9:43 am

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by pamtodd » Mon Jun 23, 2008 4:29 pm

I'm interested. I can go either thursday afternoon or saturday. I live on Hiland road around mile 6. My phone number is 622-2289.

pacaraft

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by pacaraft » Wed Jun 25, 2008 9:23 pm

Hey Brad,

I would love to run SF. When is a good time for you? What is the time comittment for the trip? I ran Glacier today from the hand tram to the bridge no wood and a great -3 flush.
We met at Chikaloon rescue three course.

John Evingson

bergbryce
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:56 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bergbryce » Mon Aug 18, 2008 8:15 am

My partners and I all agree that 5.03 (for Ship Ck) is a tad low for floating South Fork, at least the upper section.
Despite what appeared like low water, we gave it a go anyways.

Low water rocks! (for taking breaks)
Image

This was still a pretty good time and I can only imagine what it would be like with some more water in it.

Pictures of bruised butt forthcoming... ;)

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:36 am

As of September 19th, the South Fork of Eagle River still is quite low, despite the rains. Whereas an earlier post of mine suggested that the South Fork is boatable when the Ship Creek guage is above 5.0 feet, that correlation appears not to hold true. The main distinction between the drainages is the presence of the lakes at the head of the South Fork valley, which act as reservoirs. If the reservoirs are full as a result of glacial meltwater, the flow in the South Fork rises. Now that we are getting snow in the high country, the glaciers are not melting and the lake is not putting out enough water to reduce the butt bruising.

I'll keep an eye on it and let folks know when this fun run is doable.

South Fork Dan

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by South Fork Dan » Sun Dec 28, 2008 6:08 pm

Brad,

I live on South Fork. If we wanted to put a gauge at the bridge, just before the Park entrance, my family could post daily updates thru the summer. My property is the house on the left just before you cross the bridge. We have the little pond with the kayaks in it.

Danny Crow

bergbryce
Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:56 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bergbryce » Thu May 14, 2009 11:20 am

This would be very cool.
How is the creek looking?
Has anyone looked at it or even floated it yet??

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Thu May 14, 2009 2:32 pm

As of today, May 14th 2009 the Southfork is too low. With not much snow remaining to melt we'll have to rely on rain to bring the Southfork up to runnable levels. Echo Bend is good right now. Ship Creek is a bit too burly. Willow is at a good level.

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Wed Jun 10, 2009 8:21 pm

As of June 10th 2009, the South Fork of Eagle River is running at a nice level. Creek cleaning has removed several nasty sweepers and strainers, and as of today the upper two-thirds of the run is passable from approximately 1 mile below the lakes downstream to the road bridge near the South Fork trailhead. I have not scouted or cleaned the lower third of the run between the two road bridges, so paddle that section at your own risk. I know there is at least one river-wide sweeper in that section, and probably more.

Because of the abundance of dead spruce lining this creek, the wood situation changes all the time, thanks in part to residents who consider the river an easy tree-removal system. Cut the tree so that it lands in the creek and washes downstream, and voila, no more dead spruce on your property!

Having read some of the recent candid posts about near-death packrafting experiences, a fatal packrafting accident is somewhere in our future. While the South Fork is generally Class III, the potential for encountering sweepers and strainers warrants that this creek be treated with caution.

ChugachPeaks

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by ChugachPeaks » Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:20 pm

We ran the upper and middle sections today- put in was about a mile below the lakes. Water in the upper section was runable but thin. Had a lot of butt-wiggling and scooting to do to get over rock gardens. Middle section was fun and completely free of problematic wood. A few trees in the river but nothing you'd get stuck in. Just go around or bounce off them. Middle section had a good amount of flow but still got stuck a few times on rocks that are normally submerged in higher water. Have fun!

Paddling Regression
Posts: 40
Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 1:30 pm
Location: In AK

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Paddling Regression » Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:26 pm

Anyone know what kind of minimum flow to look for on the main Eagle River gauge to get an idea of the South Fork? I know Ship has been mentioned, but that correlation doesn't always hold true.
"If it ain't high, it ain't quality"

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Wed Jul 22, 2009 8:45 am

I live on Hiland Road right next to the South Fork and still have not figured out a correlation to any of the the surrounding creeks. The South Fork comes up in really big rains and really warm weather when the headwater glaciers are melting, but otherwise tends to be too low for decent boating, as it is right now.

Paddling Regression
Posts: 40
Joined: Thu May 28, 2009 1:30 pm
Location: In AK

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Paddling Regression » Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:54 pm

I can understand not having a correlation based on surrounding creeks, but there has to be some correlation with the main. What was the eagle river gauge reading the last few times you paddled the south fork? That might get us started in figuring something out. If you don't know the flow, how about the dates you paddled it? Historical gauge data is rather easy to come by now days...
"If it ain't high, it ain't quality"

Doug
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:54 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Doug » Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:49 pm

So the Ship Creek gauge reads 4.76 today, Brad. According to what you have experienced that is too low to run the upper section?

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Sun Aug 09, 2009 7:39 pm

Yep, the South Fork is too bony. Since I live right next to it, I will try to post when it is running at good levels.

Doug
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:54 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Doug » Fri Aug 14, 2009 6:09 pm

Brad is this rain bringing the South Fork up Friday evening?

I am probably not up to the mid or lower sections you describe but might it be worth my walking up to Symphony Lake on Saturday 8/15 to try to run that section.

In a solo canoe I have run Six Mile 1st & 2nd Canyons at about 9.2 but . . . in a PR I do not know how far I want to push having just purchased the boat this past Monday.

The Ship Creek gauge is reading an estimated 5.07 http://aprfc.arh.noaa.gov/ahps2/hydrogr ... ,1,1,1,1,1

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Fri Aug 14, 2009 6:41 pm

The Southfork is not high enough to be boatable as of Friday August 14th 2009. Perhaps after a few more days of rain.

Doug
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:54 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Doug » Sat Aug 29, 2009 9:40 pm

Now Now, Brad?

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Sat Aug 29, 2009 10:33 pm

Nope.

eastcoastice
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:47 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by eastcoastice » Thu Jul 08, 2010 7:08 am

I floated the South Fork last night, from the bridge just below Hanging Valley to the bridge at South Creek Road. Water levels were sufficient for a fun and awesome run! A little scraping here and there, but nothing other than expected for some SoFo style butt-boating. A couple of things to be aware of:
- There are actually 3 bridges that you need to portage. 1 below Harp Road (the red bridge), another is made of some logs laid over the river on a screaming left hand turn, and the other is a foot bridge near the take out. Most of the bridges are easy to avoid as they have good eddies. The log foot bridge can be dicey if you dont get out, as there is a nice boulder garden drop in the middle of it.
- The most difficult rapids start well below the foot bridge. There is a great 4' ledge drop/pour over with a nice boil at the bottom, very fun!
- There were no river wide sweepers, but a little bit of wood on the banks and strainers in mid river. They were all avoidable with good paddling skills.
- I actually pinned my raft which required a Z-drag.

A video and TR can be found here:
http://eastcoastice.blogspot.com/2010/0 ... style.html

Enjoy and be safe!

lostinak
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun May 09, 2010 3:20 pm
Location: Eagle River, AK
Contact:

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by lostinak » Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:31 pm

concur, interesting run; next time i'll bring a chainsaw...

pd4
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:13 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by pd4 » Sat Jul 10, 2010 6:30 pm

I ran the middle segment today and had a blast. It gets quite rowdy below the red driveway bridge. I wanted to do it again but I felt like I may be pushing my luck. A couple of those drops are no joke. If anyone wants to get out and do it this week after work let me know. Any night but tuesday works for me. I wouldn't mind checking the lower segment out as well.

Patrick

eastcoastice
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:47 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by eastcoastice » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:40 am

I floated the entire section of the SoFo from the upper bridge to the take out at Hiland Road. The lower section from S. Creek to Hiland has a minor bit of wood, but it is navigable. It is a much steeper drop/mile than the middle segment. The rapids are continuous, with difficult micro-eddy's. The last 1/4 mile is the trickiest, with a technical "s-turn", followed by a low but negotiable sweeper, followed by a boulder garden drop - that if you enter sideways, you'll be upside down through the culvert. There is a nice eddy on river left about 50' past the culvert. There are no portages required, just the occasional technical paddling and boat dumping due to taking on water. Overall, an awesome technical creek run!

Doug
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:54 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Doug » Sun Jul 25, 2010 9:34 pm

Four of us ran South Fork Saturday afternoon, July 24. Ship Creek gauge read 500 cfs if that means anything.

Lots of photos at http://www.meetup.com/AnchorageAdventur ... /14197615/

There was more wood than we had guessed might be there based on earlier posts but only 1 dead black spruce sticking 2/3 of the way across the river from right to left gave us more thrill than we had expected.

threebowls

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by threebowls » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:31 pm

Ran the South Fork on July 27th, 2010. The water level is good and should be for at least 24 hours for anyone looking to do some local buttboating. There was some wood in the river but we were able to boat around all of it (but keep on your toes). We also portaged the usual bridges. Lastly, we took out at the first culvert so I cannot speak about the river between the culverts (or beyond).
Happy Boating!

hre814

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by hre814 » Thu Jul 29, 2010 3:51 pm

beginning packrafter here, have been out a bit with it. had some questions on the south fork of ER.

how far up do you put in? I have hiked back that ways many times, so i am familiar with the land

are there many tricky/dicey parts?

take out near the road/parking lot?

thanks for any advice!

hre814

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by hre814 » Thu Jul 29, 2010 4:17 pm

just realized there was more than one page on this thread.

i was just looking at the upper river, takeout at the road near the state park parking lot

thanks

Doug
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:54 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Doug » Sat Jul 31, 2010 8:49 pm

We ran the upper South Fork Friday night and OH WOW was that fun. We put in about as close to Eagle Lake as possible and ran drop after twisty, turny, often brushy, always sharp bouldery drop for about 2+ miles back to the foot bridge. Since we put on the creek at 8 PM there was not time before ~10:45 PM sunset to run the middle section as well.

Much of the same gang of paddlers had run the middle section, some once and some 2x this past week. We concurred that the Upper is even more 'just plain fun' than the middle which is steeper and a bit more technical. This is not, in our collective opinion, class II as reported in earlier postings on this section. We call it fast, twisty class III.

All in all a good time . . . well, except that we got holes in 3 of the 7 boats and one dry suit.

Ended it all with a pitcher of suds at Pizza Man.

For the photos and more comments click here: http://www.meetup.com/AnchorageAdventur ... /14247642/ :lol:

Akjohn

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Akjohn » Sun Aug 01, 2010 1:19 pm

Popular creek right now it seems...

Myself and four other packrafters ran the upper and middle sections Saturday. Three of us continued on and ran the lower section.

I found the creek to be a lot of fun, especially the middle and lower sections. The only dicey part is right before the culvert on the lower section. If the middle section is pushing your comfort zone you could still run the lower and take out as soon as you can clearly see the road on your right. This will leave you a very short walk to the bridge, but you could skip the crazy switchback drops with overhanging brush before the culvert. Of course you could just run it, but be prepared to make some quick moves!

bkjamin
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 7:56 am
Location: Chugiak, AK

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bkjamin » Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:58 pm

Put in just above first bridge and floated down with Danny Tuesday night. 8/3/10 Fun little Float

northforkriver
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:17 am

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by northforkriver » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:21 am

Does anyone have any recent info on how the South Fork is running? Is there any way to tell if it's do-able via the gauges?

-Thomas

pd4
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:13 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by pd4 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:14 pm

Go by the Ship Creek flow. In my experience if it is less than 5ft then it can get pretty boney. I have ran it a little under 5 but much more fun when it is running higher.

Patrick

lbrwhat
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2011 7:12 am

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by lbrwhat » Sun Aug 07, 2011 8:23 am

Sounds about right. I ran it last night at 4.9 by the Ship creek gage and wanted a few more inches on the middle section. Lots of starts and stops as it was. There is currently a log blocking almost all flow not far above the log walkover bridge. Not too hazardous, but it's blocking a nice looking chute.

John N
Posts: 134
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:48 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by John N » Tue Aug 09, 2011 12:20 pm

Does anyone know what the tree situation is like on the middle and lower sections? I heard there was a sweeper before the crazy lower take-out, is it still there?

Would be a fun run right now with ship at 5.3.

John N
Posts: 134
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:48 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by John N » Sat Aug 13, 2011 12:46 pm

With the help of my chainsaw and machete the lower section of the South Fork is now runnable. There is a small sweeper between the second and third bridges on the middle section that can be easily portaged.

Ship Creek gauge read 5.3 when we paddled it. End of video shows the hairpin turns before the culvert.

I will probably skip the middle section if I run this again.


Gitzoak
Posts: 13
Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:32 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Gitzoak » Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:29 pm

We ran the South Fork of ER on Saturday and had a blast. Lots of twists and turns make the SoFo feel like a Le Mans track with the pedal down. The Amazing and durable Alpacka rafts are the perfect boat for this type of narrow obstacle filled water. I almost swam when high centered on a boulder, but thankfully my sprayskirt held firm under pouring water and was able to pivot around. Thank you John N for clearing out some of the wood, and Ben King for knowing where the hazards are. The Ship Creek gauge was at 5.15.

John N
Posts: 134
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:48 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by John N » Wed May 30, 2012 3:14 pm

Hey Brad- Ship's at 5.3, how's the South Fork looking? Any new wood visible?

I'd like to run it this weekend if it's good. I could drop off those new Alpacka poles for you :)

pamtodd
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2007 9:43 am

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by pamtodd » Thu May 31, 2012 7:30 am

It is looking pretty low to me John. I boated it last year with you and Patrick if you recall.

John N
Posts: 134
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:48 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by John N » Thu May 31, 2012 9:08 am

Of course I remember, how's your Vanagon doing?

I figured this was a little early, but with Ship running high I was being hopeful. Let me know if it comes up and if you want to run it again.

pamtodd
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2007 9:43 am

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by pamtodd » Wed Jun 13, 2012 7:43 pm

South Fork looks to be really pumping right now with all of this rain!

Russp17
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Oct 27, 2010 1:46 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Russp17 » Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:35 pm

Ran the upper and middle section of south fork today, USGS on ship creek had the river at 6.1. The upper has the perfect amount of water. Lots of continous class III water. The middle was also fun, no real wood in the river.

Bedstvie
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:30 am

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Bedstvie » Tue Jun 26, 2012 3:58 pm

A Cautionary Tale

A couple of my friends and I bought packrafts recently, and are trying to learn. Learning is good. Learning is fun. We learned a very hard lesson on Sunday, though, under the harsh, cold tutelage of Eagle River. We learned about heeding warnings, when it is prudent to scout a section, and we learned about checking water levels and what those levels mean relative to our low skill level. Let me tell you about it:

First, the water conditions per NOAA: 5.53 ft. and 2.66 kcfs at the time we got in the water. High water, according to Tim Johnson's "Alaska Whitewater", is anything above 1,700 cfs. Mistake number one: not checking water conditions beforehand. We put in at the Eagle River Loop bridge, and were immediately thrilled to be in moving water with some action, as our most ambitious float to date was the city section of Campbell Creek. Another boater at the put-in told us to, at the very least, scout the rapids, which we fully intended to do. I asked him how long it would take to get from the bridge to the portage spot, and he said 30 minutes. At ten minutes on the water, we came to the "Canoes get out!" sign, and assumed that this was a smaller, more minor section, and that there would be more signage that would tell us where Campground is, and that since the sign specified canoes, it did not apply to us. We foolishly pressed on. Mistake number two: not heeding signs and scouting an obviously dangerous section. We got tossed right above Campground Rapids. We floated into the rapids pretty quickly. My friend Sean got out before the rapids, and my friend Topher shot the rapids without a boat. I hit a log jam, my foot got stuck, but I managed to stand up. I was standing there for a while, getting tired and cold, with no obvious way to free myself. I decided to try to pull my foot out of place so I could slither it out from between the logs. I pulled and pulled, but breaking your own ankle isn't quite as easy as it sounds, I guess. Eventually I twisted my foot just so, and got free of the logs. I shimmied out on a log that was pointed at the bank that I wanted to go to, sat there for a second to compose myself, then jumped in and swam for my life to shore.

Fortunately, a friendly lady camper was standing there filming the rapids at precisely the time when we three fools came floating through. She quit filming and called emergency services. Everybody was out of the water by the time the fire department arrived. We got a well-deserved lecture on scouting water, and generally refraining from being idiots.

My boat was stuck on a log in the middle of the river by a stern grab line, with no apparent way to get it out. Tied to my boat was a dry bag containing my wallet, keys, and phone. We tried a bunch of things...throwing a rope to it, throwing rocks at it, dislodging the log...nothing worked. Eventually a large floating log came down the river and smashed the stationary log out of place, freeing my boat. We sprinted along the river bank, hoping to catch the boat near the shore, but it stayed pretty much in the dead center of the river for as long as we could see it. It bobbed, upside-down, around the bend and out of sight.

We decided to go down river to see if we could find it. It wasn't anywhere that was accessible to us, so we gave up, hoping for the best. Topher had apparently talked to somebody named Ed at the campground while we were standing there confused, wet, and defeated, trying to figure out how to retrieve my boat. Ed had also lost a boat in the river, and happened to be searching for it. He had an airplane at his disposal, and searched for it that way. He found my rig, found a phone number in my wallet, and called it. That number belonged to somebody with whom I had gone to basic training, but lived in Georgia. Ed recognized the name because he happened to have gone to high school in Chugiak with this friend. I got my wallet back yesterday, and am getting my boat today. Topher's boat is spinning around in an eddy in Knik Arm right now, though Ed tells me that he has some friends who are Blackhawk pilots on Ft. Richardson, and they're going to retrieve it today during a training run.

At the end of the day, we were all pretty lucky to be alive. We learned some very important lessons, that are very difficult to learn from a book, and gained a kind of respect for the river that we will never forget.
Attachments
Stuckpacka.jpg
Stuckpacka.jpg (177.42 KiB) Viewed 13034 times

bradmeiklejohn
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 3:16 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by bradmeiklejohn » Wed Jun 27, 2012 8:40 am

The South Fork has been running high the last week and two of us ran two sections of it on 6/26/12. The upper section above the trail foot bridge is outstanding splashy fun at these levels. This is my favorite section because it is so fun to paddle above treeline. I would recommend this stretch for anyone except novice boaters.

The first mile below the trail foot bridge is also good, although more wood starts to appear in the creek as you enter the trees. Some clean-up of creek side wood improve this section, in particular a spiky tree that juts out from an island that splits the current. You can go either way around this island, and at higher flows it is easier and safer to go river left around the small island.

Downstream of the second bridge (a red driveway bridge that can be ducked by putting your face on your deck) the creek gets crazier and more wood appears. At these higher flows pulling over river left to portage the first foot bridge is fast and a bit tough. You need to nail a very small eddy and grab onto the creekside willows. Restarting below this footbridge is not easy and in another hundred yards you encounter a large dead tree river in the middle of the river that can be passed river right but you have to really be on your toes. This tree needs to be removed as most of the water is flowing into and it is a major hazard. Unfortunately, this tree is about 30 yards upstream of the biggest drop, the first in a series of three drops that are pretty rowdy. If you make it through these three, look for a large eddy river left just upstream of a hard left turn. Pull over and scout this next section. On 6/26/12 there were two snags projecting from the right bank and another log sticking out from the left bank at this corner.

Another rowdy section lies ahead before you get to the second foot bridge. You have to hit a small eddy river right immediately upstream of this foot bridge, which must be portaged. If you miss this eddy you will get stuffed under this bridge. There is good flow under the bridge, so you probably won't die, but it is not advisable to miss the eddy. Paddle hard to get out on the right above this bridge, and grap for grasses and willows.

Just below the second footbridge the creek splits. Normally the run is on the right but on 6/26/12 there was a sweeper in the right channel and the left channel was clear. We pulled out at the first culvert.

Southfork is a dirty little creek. New wood is constantly showing up, and the corners are so blind and the current so fast at high levels that you don't have much time to react. The creek is not Class IV but probably more like Class III+, but I would not take a Class III boater on the lower two sections. The run between the two culverts is most Class III, but the craziest stretch of the whole creek is just above the second culvert and new wood is always an issue. Scout and run with extreme caution.

John N
Posts: 134
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:48 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by John N » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:46 am

Thanks for the info Brad. Mark and I were going to head that way today, but we decided to bail after hearing the wood update. Sounds like it could use some more chainsaw work when water levels drop.

I am still heading south today. I'll drop your poles off at Pam's.

Hiland Hillbilly
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2012 6:57 pm

Re: South Fork of Eagle River

Post by Hiland Hillbilly » Wed Jun 27, 2012 7:12 pm

Must've ran the river a couple hours after you Brad. Was a fun run, but you are right to warn folks of the wood. The tree above the three drops is a gonna be trouble if it drops into the top drop of the three drops it will cause problems. Was reminded by someone that one of the other rivers in Alaska has a Triple Drop so we are lableling this Backstreet Alley. The run after the big left side eddy above the tight turns and drops with wood we are calling Twist & Shout. The island that you describe as an old right side run, but now a left side run is called Right Side Swirly and Left Side Swirly. When we ran it at lower water we cleared out Left Side Swirly. I'm glad because three trees clogged up Right Side Swirly over the weekend. My kids said you guys came out at our house. Don't hesitate to let them know who you are when crossing the property. Would love to hit the river with you and JT sometime. Am running it Thursday night.

Post Reply