While the North Fork of Eagle River is only 40 minutes from Anchorage, it has as much beauty and some of the hazards of much bigger, more remote Alaska rivers. Class I and only 7 miles long, this float is still fairly-committing, especially during low water when the entire trip from the mile 7.4 put in to the take out can take 4-5 hours on the water. The river isn't braided so you're in one channel the entire float, but there are a lot of bends so the actual floating distance is closer to 8 miles. Even with normal water conditions, once you enter the river, it’s a good 3-4 hours before you’ll reach the pull out.
This river makes an ideal full-day trip with kids. Don’t try to cram it into half a day though, or you’ll be on the boat the entire time. You want to break it up with kids so you're not in the boat more than a couple hours per half day, allowing the ability to spend an equal amount of time playing on the gravel bars.
There’s plenty of excitement and chllenge for what’s essentially a flat river, including some easy-to-avoid sweepers and many partially submerged logs. It’s a full-on, cold water Alaska rafting experience only an hour from Anchorage. Compared to Portage, it’s more secluded and a lot further from the road. It's also somewhat less traveled. Even on sunny holiday weekends you're not likely to see many boats.
What to know
- Typically low water early in the season (through Memorial Day weekend).
- When the water’s low, it can take an hour or two just to get from the put-in to the main fork. If this is the case, you’ll have to get out of the boat 5-10 times and line your boat for a good part of the first stretch.
- From the confluence with the South Fork to the take out it’s 2 to 2.5 hrs of floating in headwinds.
- When the water’s low, there are plenty of places to pull out. When the water’s high, this is not a river with a gravel bar around every bend.
- Great scenery! The valley is enveloped by 4000-ft peaks only a couple miles from the river. There are stretches where you can see 12-15 miles upriver all the way to Eagle Glacier and the snowy peaks at the head of the valley.
- You'll start to see houses a couple miles from the pullout.
- Taking two cars is easiest. Drop off a car at the take out, and if you can fit all the people and rafts in the other car, continue on up to the put in. Otherwise, you'll have to drop all the gear at the put in, and do a 20-30 minute ferry back to the take out. Park at mile 10.6 of Eagle River Rd. not at the bridge.
- There are 2 imposible-to-miss signs telling about takeout. Well-designed put in and take out. And after that, the bridge, so there’s no way to miss it.
- A local float with a remote feel. You won’t see a road; only houses beginning a couple miles from the bridge and 1 powerline that crosses the river.
- Plan on a 7-8 hour day from the time you leave town to getting back.
Canoe, Kayak, Raft