This is an easy float (Class I & II) on the largest tributary of the Holitna River. Like the Holitna this is a world class fishing destination. The river begins at the large Whitefish Lake and passes through a lot of windy, slow turns moving on its long trip down to meet the Holitna River and eventually to the Kuskokwim River. It is a remote, rarely traveled river, and it is very unlikely that you will see any other people. The upper river starts above tree line in the tundra, then lower down travels through mixed white and black spruce and poplar forest. It’s a 5 to 10 day float along 165 miles of the Hoholitna and another 20 miles of the Holitna River to the village of Sleetmute, making for a trip of about 180 miles.
The put in for the Hoholitna involves getting from Anchorage to Aniak, or Bethel by commercial airline and then chartering a floatplane to Whitefish Lake.
The take out involves floating all the way to the Holitina River and on to the Kuskokwim River where you can pull over at Sleetmute for a flight back to Aniak or Bethel for your connection back to Anchorage.
Whitefish Lake to Hook Creek Confluence: 45 miles
From the huge Whitefish Lake, the river has little gradient and flows through a few small lakes in the lake system of this region. This section of river is above the tree zone and has wide tundra benches adjacent to the meandering river. There are numerous oxbows and dead end sloughs. The river runs due west in it's meandering fashion as it departs the Alaska Range Mountains and the Lake Clark National Preserve. Just over the hill to the south are the drainages of the Mulchatna River and this area has been a corridor of travel from the Kusko to the Bristol Bay watershed for millennium. Mountains up to 2500 feet form the river corridor on both the north and south sides. For over 40 miles the river twists and turns with just enough current to make good time. Eventually the river leaves the tundra benches and enters the Taiga forest that forms a thick shoreline. Hook Creek is a large tributary that enters from the north (right) at about GPS N 60 degrees and 58 minutes by W 156 degrees and 05 minutes.
Hook Creek Confluence to Holitna River Confluence: 120 miles
It is here that the river begins a southwesterly swing around the mountain that forms the north valley side. The river is larger and the meanders are even bigger. After about 10 miles the South Fork of the Hoholitna is encountered, entering from the left and it is here that the river begins to turn to the north. More meanders and dead end sloughs are present along here as mile after mile of Class I river take you further away from the mountains and into the Kuskokwim lowlands.
Holitna River Confluence to Sleetmute: 20 miles
This stretch of river sees a lot of motorboat traffic as one fishing lodge is found upstream and locals from Sleetmute maintain a few fish camps along here. The river is large and flowing at 3 mph and once you are on the Kuskokwim get over to the right side of the river as Sleetmute comes fairly quickly.
Aniak Air Guides has provided outfitting and guides for floats in Western Alaska since 1995. Their packages include all gear except your sleeping bag and food. Each trip begins with a flight over the river you plan to float to gain you bearings, and a mid-trip flyover to check in with your group as you float the river. A guide can be booked for an additional fee.