This refers to the rivers flowing south from the Alaska Range and east of the Tordrillo Mountains, north from the Chugach Mountains and the west out of the Wrangell Mountains. All the watersheds of the Susitna, Matanuska and the Copper Rivers are here.
What It’s Like
The Southcentral rivers tend to have more whitewater than flatwater, so almost every trip is full of shooting-rapids adrenaline—but you’ll also float through some majestic canyons, and near giant glaciers.
The area offers some great fishing—like at Lake Creek or Talachulitna Creek, which have fishing lodges —but in general, the region’s fishing opportunities are not on the scale of the southwestern rivers. Your consolation prize? The white water found on the Talkeetna, the Chickaloon, the Happy, the Nizina or Copper will give you more than just a fishing trip.
Southcentral Alaska Float Trips
Portage Creek is the easiest float near Anchorage, a 1 – 2 hour float down flat water with the option of take outs at mile 4.5 or 6.5. With kids, however, you’ll want to turn it into a half-day adventure, stopping on gravel bars to play and explore. You’re never far from Portage Valley Road, which can provide a sense of comfort. Even though the road does not have a deep wilderness feel, you are surrounded by several-thousand foot mountains which… ...more
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… ...more
Overview The Talachulitna or “Tal” as it is commonly referred to, is located totally within state patented lands. When people talk of floating the Tal it is usually a 5 to 7 day trip, down Talachulitna Creek and then down the Talachulitna River to the Skwentna River. From the start at a headwater lake there are 16 miles of shallow Class I creek and then 32 miles on the Tal with Class I to IV rapids, depending on water levels, and an additional… ...more
Overview 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… ...more
Overview The Nabesna River is a glacially fed Class I and II river that flows north out of the heart of the Wrangell-St Elias Mountains and cuts through a shallow canyon between the Mentasta Mountains and the Nutzotin Mountains of south central Alaska. It joins the Chisana River and, together, they form the mighty Tanana River, which flows through interior Alaska to its confluence with the Yukon. The river has 80 miles to float through, in an… ...more
Overview With the Talkeetna Mountains to the north and the Chugach Mountains to the south, the Matanuska River pours forth from the large Matanuska Glacier in a swift, freezing cold, torrent of Class II to Class IV whitewater for nearly 70 miles before it meets the sea where the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet reaches into the interior. The river runs down the trench formed where the Border Ranges Fault line separates the two mighty mountain ranges,… ...more
Overview The Little Su, as it is known, is a clear stream that flows out of the Talkeetna Mountains and through a constricted, boulder-choked canyon before becoming a mild, meandering river. It is a relatively small stream, warmer than most Alaskan rivers and offers two distinct type trips. One is a Class IV+, 7‑mile section of near continuous whitewater suitable, only for skilled kayakers, and is the upper most section of river that you can… ...more
Overview This interesting combination of rivers and lake is a rarely done circuit that would be a great multi-day wilderness float trip for kayaks and rafts. With good fishing opportunities and only Class III at times, it is mostly a Class II trip and for 80 miles it travels through an amazing landscape. The Nelchina River system is a rocky glacial river with daily water level fluctuations amid a forested valley and with spectacular views of… ...more
Lake Creek is one of south central Alaska’s most famous streams, primarily due to its superior salmon runs. King Salmon use Lake Creek and Chelatna Lake as a spawning site and return in large numbers and trout and grayling follow right behind them. Lake Creek is a clear, swift, and at times, very strong river with two sections of Class III+ and IV rapids and many technical boulder garden rapids to get through. The two hardest sections can be… ...more
Flowing out of the western edge of the Chugach Mountains, the Kenai River runs turquoise blue from Kenai Lake through canyons and whitewater till it spills out onto the low elevation woodlands to where it finally meets the salt water of Cook Inlet near the town of Kenai. For almost 80 miles the river frolics through 3 sets of whitewater and forms 7‑mile long Skilak Lake. A trip of 4 to 5 days is an ideal time to spend on this world-class… ...more
The Copper River and its many tributaries drain one of the greatest regions of mountain, ice, snow and forest in North America. It is a giant river in its lower reaches, often flowing at rates over 200,000 cubic feet per second, while its headwater tributaries flow down steep, rocky gorges and through wide, braided glacial valleys. It is in a region that encompasses subarctic to temperate zones within a latitude range of 60 to 62 degrees. It… ...more
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… ...more