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Talkeetna, AK 99676
Get hands-on and up close as you learn about local plants, animals, trappers, and Alaska natives, with the wilderness as your classroom. Mahay's Jet Boat Adventures makes it possible with their jet boat adventures on the Susitna and Talkeetna Rivers. For most visitors, this exploration will be their deepest immersion into the Alaskan wild—something you just can't get from a flightseeing tour, a cruise, or a car.
The 10-mile Wilderness Jet Boat Adventure is Mahay's most popular tour—at two hours, it won't chew up the whole day, and you'll stay engaged and entertained the entire time. The tour travels up and down the "Su" on a high-tech, glass-domed jet boat that can navigate rivers in only inches of water. A 10-minute ride downriver provides an excellent view of the Alaska Range and McKinley (visible through the clouds about 30% of the time). Then it's back upriver through this otherwise impenetrable wilderness. Look up and spot a giant nest, home to bald eagles. Marvel at the huge trees lying on the riverbank, freshly felled by beavers—tours may pull up to the bank and collect wood chip souvenirs. Some adventures spot black or grizzly bears roaming the shoreline.
Your guide pulls ashore and leads you into the woods on a ¼-mile exploration along a forest trail, pointing out local plants and wildflowers used by native Alaskans. Step back in time as you discover the painstakingly reconstructed replica of an Alaska native dwelling. Seeing this lean-to, made without modern tools and in its natural setting, is an experience that's hard to find in a museum. Step inside an authentic, restored trapper's cabin, complete with a chair carved and upholstered (in bear fur) by Steve Mahay himself back in 1972, when he lived in the Bush. In addition, explore a trapper's fur and food cache, and an emergency bivouac shelter.
To increase your chances of seeing beavers, eagles, moose, and bears, opt for the 3½-hour, 50-mile Three Rivers Tour. This jet boat tour includes all of the 10-mile adventure highlights, plus the chance to pan for gold, learn about a historic townsite, and enjoy hot beverages and pastries around an open campfire while listening to stories about Bush life.
If you prefer to add a little whitewater to your wilderness experience, go for the four-hour, 135-mile Devil's Canyon Adventure. After heading down the Su to see McKinley and up for the on-shore exploration, you'll continue on to the Talkeetna River. The boat stops to watch anglers at work on Clear Creek, to spot beavers, bald eagles, and other wildlife, and then for a hearty, deli-style lunch ashore. Back on the water, hold on as you jet through a quarter mile of Class III-IV rapids, then sit back as the boat slips between the towering, sheer rock walls of a narrow canyon—sometimes only 10 feet wide. This tour suits those with an adventurous spirit, but it's doable by most. You'll enjoy a more personalized experience, with a longer trip on a smaller boat (12-14 passengers).
Details: No experience necessary. No minimum age requirement, but small children may get restless on the longer tours. On the Devil's Canyon Adventure, be prepared to get up and down riverbanks without the assistance of docks or stairs.
By Car: From the junction of the Glenn Hwy and Talkeetna Spur Rd, drive 14 miles towards Talkeetna and Mahay’s Riverboat Services will be on your right.
By Train: Talkeetna railroad depot is located at Mile 13.5 Talkeetna Spur Rd. Contact Mahay's for transfer options from depot to tour departure point.