The Holitna River is an easy flowing river in southwest Alaska, running through a vast wilderness area. Flowing north along the base of the Kuskokwim Mountains and out of the Taylor Mountains, the Holitna is the largest river system in the lower Kuskokwim River basin and offers a great family and friends trip in a true wilderness setting with a chance to meet local natives at the village of Kashegelok in the river’s headwater area. From the start, at where the Kogrukluk River and Shotgun Creek join, there is a 200-mile stretch of Class I flat water that will take 8 to 10 days of floating. It is a major fishing destination with all 5 species of Salmon, Arctic Char, Northern Pike and Sheefish known to frequent he waters.
To get to the Holitna one must take a commercial flight to Dillingham where a chartered floatplane can be arranged to take you to the river at the confluence of Kugrukluk River and Shotgun Creek.
Take out involves floating all the way to the much larger Kuskokwim River and quickly crossing to the right shore and floating to the village of Sleetmute where there may be a scheduled flight to Dillingham or you may have to charter a flight to Dillingham and then connect with commercial airlines to Anchorage.
Put In to Sleetmute: 200 miles
The entire length of the river is a gentle Class I and II float with the primary obstacles being sweepers and logjams that form due to the eroding banks of Taiga forest. All along the way is spruce poplar and birch forest. Only a few miles from the start of the trip is the small village of Kashegelok that is friendly as well as remote. From this point downstream you are in a very remote wilderness setting with Kazik Hill a prominent feature on the river’s left. The river is an endless stretch of meanders with sloughs. There is a small fishing lodge located on a lake adjacent to the river about 40 miles upstream of Sleetmute.
About 20 miles above the Kuskokwim is the confluence with the Hoholitna River, which enters from river right. This is another popular fishing river. When the river makes a giant oxbow turn to the east then north and back to the west, watch for a large wooded island that is found just a few miles from the Kuskokwim River confluence. Once on the Kuskokwim River, you will need to get over to the right side as you drift down to where the village of Sleetmute is found. From here you will be able to arrange a flight back to Bethel for a commercial flight to Anchorage.
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.
Taylor Mountains D-5
Sleetmute A-4, A-5, B-3, C-3