The Chickaloon River runs strong and fast out of the Talkeetna Mountains of central Alaska on its way to merge with the larger Matanuska River which runs into Knik Arm of Cook Inlet. There is a 33-mile section of river that is Class II and III+ and could become a bit more with high water flows. This is not a trip for beginners! It is a superb weekend trip for groups with good rafting gear and good read and run skills, as the main stretch of rapids is pretty continuous at times with some drops hard to see. Scouting is common. The river is glacial fed and is fairly short with no access to the upper creek like sections. Helicopters are often used to get to the put in and NOVA River Runners does commercial raft trips there.
The town of Chickaloon is found along the Glenn Highway, 80 miles north of Anchorage and is where to start your trip. Ki
Take out is at the point where the river meets the Glenn Highway at the mile 77.7 bridge near the town of Chickaloon. Or you could float past the bridge to the Matanuska River and travel a short distance to the King Mountain Wayside at mile 76.1 on the Glenn. This would be a fun section of bigger stronger water to finish your trip with. If you don't stop at King's Mountain Wayside you have committed to run a 12-mile section of the Mat with one big rapid, known as Nova Bend, where there are some big holes and waves to miss. Below this is another take out at the King's River Bridge at mile 66.5
30-Mile Strip to Rapid: 10 miles
This is a hunting camp that is used in the spring for bear hunting and later for caribou, but if no one is there it is a good place to camp and spend an extra day hiking into the mountains. The Chickaloon Glacier is only 12 miles upstream of this point. Below this are a 10-mile section of braids to negotiate with and good camping options.
Rapids to Glenn Highway: 23 miles
The rapids are more or less continuous class II-III from here until the take out. There are three rapids that have names and are of note. The first is Hotel Rocks, about 2 miles past the beginning of the whitewater, identified by the huge landslide above it on left side of the river. Scout from the right side all the way down as the meat of the drop can't be seen from the initial stance, and there are several sieves that tend to collect wood and you will want to inspect them. The second distinct rapid is the place called The Narrows, where the river pinches between large walls and two large boulders guard the exit. Stay left if you can. Scouting these rapids is a good idea, primarily to make sure there is no logjam danger. The third drop of note is a large, river-wide, pour over two miles from the take out where the river takes a sharp bend below Sawmill Creek. Scout from the right, or find the tongue on the left at the entrance.
There are several old mining cabins along here and a rough track in the woods along the river’s right side.
Glenn Highway down Matanuska River: 2 to 12 miles
Should you choose to float onto the Matanuska you have the option of taking out rather quickly on the river’s right side at the King's Mountain Wayside and it is a good option. The Matanuska will have a much stronger current and bigger waves so be ready for this change in character. If you go the 12 miles to the King's River Bridge you will get to run the Nova Bend rapid where there are many big holes to miss and bigger standing waves to square up for. It is above King's River but below the State Campground and lies just below the point where you can first see the road paralleling the river. Pull over and scout on the right. There is an easy far left channel during high water, which misses the rapid. After this, the river braids and follows the highway to where you can take out at the bridge at mile 66.5.
If you choose to fly from Wasilla, the vehicle shuttle takes 45 minutes one way.
Talkeetna Mountains A-3