The Nenana River is the natural eastern boundary of Denali National Park. Denali Outdoor Center (D.O.C.) offers a variety of river rafting options on over 40 miles of navigable waterway through spectacular scenery. Wildlife sightings are always a possibility during your river adventure as well. D.O.C. has rafting options for all ages and ability levels, from 2 hour Wild-water thrills for the most adventurous to 2 hour Mild-water floats for ages 5 and up or a combination of “Mild to Wild”.
The exciting whitewater of the Canyon Run trip begins ½ mile north of the Denali Park entrance. For the next two hours, and 11 miles, the Nenana River picks up speed and power as it winds through the Nenana River Canyon. Crashing waves and surging hydraulics will be encountered as your raft navigates Class III and IV rapids with names like Razorback, Iceworm, and Royal Flush.
After you charge through the waves in Cable Car Rapid, one of the longer rapids in the canyon, you will float under “windy bridge” high overhead. The walls of the canyon seem to close in as you approach Moody Hole rapid. Dall Sheep often appear up high on river right but you may not be looking for them while you hold on or paddle hard. Your guide will try to point them out when the time is right. When you bust through the final "Narrows" rapid, with its churning hydraulics and wayward currents, the river returns to a more peaceful pace. Now you can relax and look for that allusive wildlife before the takeout on the Healy Spur Road.
The peaceful Scenic Wilderness trip begins at a quiet section of river next to Denali Grizzly Bear Lodge & Campground, at Mile 231 Parks Highway. From there, the river flows for 12 miles through the mountains of the Alaska Range, with the road out of sight for almost the entire two hours. You'll enjoy Class I and II rapids on this stretch, plus one easy Class III rapid, where you're liable to get splashed. On occasion, rafters are lucky enough to see Dall sheep at the base of Mount Fellows on river right, and you might spot a bear or a moose. But the real star of this show is the scenery. Your guide will describe features about the river corridor and the passing scenery, such as Musher's Monument—a natural rock formation on top of Mount Fellows, which looks like a musher and dog team. You'll notice how the river becomes siltier and more powerful when it is joined by the rushing Yanert Fork River, entering from the east and flowing from the Yanert Glacier, only 30 miles away. The scenic journey ends when the Parks Highway crosses the river at Mile 238.
Two Rafting Options
Choose either a “Paddle Raft” for hands on action with a professional guide calling commands, or an “Oar Raft” where passengers hold on and enjoy the ride as their knowledgeable guide navigates the rapids.
Rafting is a great activity for families and groups looking for a shared and affordable outdoor experience. Advance reservations are highly recommended as this is a very popular activity conveniently located near the entrance to Denali National Park. D.O.C. provides free local shuttle service from all area hotels, accommodations, Alaska Railroad Depot and campgrounds.
All guests should remember to dress appropriately in long sleeve layers with polar fleece, other synthetics or wool recommended for insulation. A full, one piece “Drysuit,” (the most protective river apparel available) will be provided along with a Coast Guard approved PFD and river booties. Paddlers will also wear a helmet and be given a paddle. No experience necessary. Minimum age requirement for the Canyon Run trip is 10 for oar-raft trips, and 14 for paddle-raft trips.