Six Mile Creek is, perhaps, Alaska's most accessible technical whitewater run, well suited to kayak or paddle raft, mostly Class IV and one class V canyon. Flowing in the rugged Chugach Mountains of the Kenai Peninsula, within Chugach National Forest, this stream has a reputation of booming whitewater and fast gorge style rapids. A small volume stream, it has 3 distinct canyons, with each one more difficult than the previous. At most water levels the difficulty rating places the Upper and Middle Canyons as Class IV- and Class IV+, while the third canyon should be considered a Class V at all levels. The Upper Canyon is actually part of the East Fork of the Six Mile and it is not until the confluence with Canyon Creek is reached that Six Mile Creek is recognized. All three canyons make up a run of about 15 miles and is easily done in a half day trip. It is a highly technical river with sheer walls, sharp rocks and few eddies which makes scouting problematic for anyone unfamiliar with the river. There are commercial trips available that descend all 3 canyons in paddle rafts with paddlers well equipped with helmets, dry suits and high floatation PFDs, and guides who know the river well.
There are several points of access yielding the ability to run just the Upper, the Upper and Middle, just the Lower, or all three canyons. From Anchorage take the Seward Highway beyond Turnagain Pass to mile 62.5 where the highway crosses the East Fork and continue another 2.4 miles to a gravel turnout where you can park and access the river. To access the Middle Canyon and to exit the Upper Canyon run, turn right on the Hope Cut-off and go less than a half mile to just past the Hope Cut-off Wayside and before the Department of Transportation's Silvertip Station, where a gravel road leads down to the river. This road joins the stream just below the confluence with Canyon Creek, and a short bit further another road to the right takes you down near enough to the water that a put in/takeout is possible. This begins the stretch through the Middle canyon.
The take out below the Middle Canyon is reached by going 4 miles further on the Hope Cut-off to where a turnoff and a trail leads to the river. To take out below the Lower canyon, continue on the Hope Cut-off to mile 7.2 where a dirt road on the right leads down a quarter of a mile to the river where the normal take out for the full run is found. A short distance further is the Sunrise KOA campground where you could take out with a fee! One could continue another several miles to tidewater but an arduous portage is required to get back to the road.
The Upper Canyon
To scout the Upper Canyon drive 1.5 miles further than the put in where you can park on the narrow shoulder at a left turn. A short hike down from the road leads to an overlook above the Upper Canyon. From the put in spot, the East Fork runs past riffles and winding turns for 1.5 miles. Then, at an abrupt left turn, Gulch Creek enters from the right and signals the entrance to the canyon. Stay left to avoid Seventeen Ender Hole and continue left and central through the narrow canyon. At a spot where the canyon briefly widens, there is a ledge drop with a central rock. Take the drop on the left side. A mile beyond this the river flattens and winds past the brushy banks to where Canyon Creek enters from the left. The take out for this section is a gravel road on river left opposite a large avalanche slope. This slope creates snow dams in the early season
The Middle Canyon
From the Canyon Creek confluence the river doubles in volume and just below it is the start of the Middle Canyon run. Once entering the sheer walled canyon you will find a series of 5 ledge drops that can be scouted from the left. All but the fourth drop are best run down the right side. The 4th drop needs to be run to the left of a large central rock. There are eddies on both sides of the river after the drops and if you have had trouble through here, don't try the third canyon. There is only a half-mile between the Middle and Lower Canyons and there is no place to take out should you push on past the Middle takeout until after the Lower Canyon.
The Lower Canyon
The Lower Canyon is about 2 miles in length and is hemmed in, tightly, by canyon walls. The first big rapid is called Staircase. Scout this one and if it is low water, portage it to avoid the keeper hole that forms at the ledge drop. After this the river drops continuously through holes, sharp rock outcrops, and breaking waves. There is Suckhole and Merry-go-round, Jaws and Junkyard Dog. The take out is on river left a half-mile beyond Junkyard Dog. At Suckhole go extreme right; at Merry-go-round there is a rock island mid stream to go to the left of. Jaws is a sharp toothed rocky run of a half-mile with the entrance on river right. Junkyard Dog starts with a ledge drop through the bedrock slots, then weaves for 50 yards of holes and waves ending at a wall of rock that pinches the river into a right slot. The take out is a half-mile beyond.
- Check with locals or with Nova rafting company about water levels and plan accordingly.
- There have been times when logjams will span the width of the river and portaging over or under logs may be required.