Fun on the South Fork of the Chena

Tom and I hiked into Nugget Creek cabin in the Chena River State Recreation for a very fun pack rafting and hiking day trip. The South Fork of the Chena River is a fairly shallow and slow stream that winds its way though an almost complete cross section of the forest types available in the Interior.

We started at Mile 36.4 mile of Chena Hotsprings Road, and followed the Mist Creek trail for about 1/4 of a mile, before having to cross the Chena River. After attempting to simply ford across, we inflated our rafts and floated across, then packed them back up and continued up the trail.

Mist Creek Trail can be quite hard to follow at times.

For those of you who are burl obsessed, there where many, many burls along the way.

After about 6 miles we ended up at Nugget Creek cabin. The cabin is mainly visited in the winter and according to the log book, we where the first visitors since the melt.

After a quick bite to eat we inflated our rafts and headed out. The cabin is very nice in the winter, but is a mosquito trap in the summer, and while reading the log book we soon had more bugs inside than out.

And we are off!

The float was quite fun, and lasted about 6 hours. The only downsides to the float was the large number of sweepers that crossed the river completely and the short sections of shallow water. On the upside these appear to keep normal river traffic completely out.

One of the highlights of the float was the beautiful cliffs that abut the river.

Other river sights included some silty river banks, some of which where quite huge.

In the last couple of miles before hitting the main part of the Chena River the water slowed down a lot and things started to get pretty boring.

Once we hit the Chena, things sped back up, and we made it to our takeout in short order. Tom headed off on his bike to pickup the car and I packed up the rafts.

All in all, quite a marvelous trip! Very recommended as a nice mellow pack raft trip, though possibly better as a overnight as its a bit long as a day trip with 3 hours hiking and 6 hours of floating. One would hate to get out so late that one missed Mia’s!

Tags: ,

8 Responses to “Fun on the South Fork of the Chena”

  1. Ed Plumb says:

    Hi Jay – this was a trip I had thought about doing before…thanks for posting details. Now I know its a doable hike/float. Maybe I can squeeze it in before summer is over. Great blog! Thanks…

    Ed Plumb..

  2. spruceboy says:

    I am glad you found the post useful – your blog has inspired several trips, so I am glad I could return the favour! Thanks!

  3. Anonymous says:

    We are getting ready to hike to the cabin this coming month and would like to know more about the Chena river crossing. What was your experience when trying to cross the river via foot? Is it moderately possible? Thanks for the post and nice pics by the way?

    Press on…

  4. spruceboy says:

    Its possible to cross it without a boat if the water level is not very high and you are fairly tall – when we did it I walked most of the way across but bailed out in the last 10 feet or so, where it got a bit deep – I am 6ft and it was over my waist.

    The national weather service runs a stream gauge on the chena – you can find it online

    Currently I expect it is not crossable on foot, but once the water drops down it could be.

    You can also get to the cabin without a river crossing by starting at the next bridge and following the ridge over to the trail. The DNRs nugget creek cabin map should get you started – you can find it here.

    To be honest, if you are not planning on floating out this cabin is a bit disappointing in the summer – Upper Angel Creek cabin or possibly Stiles Creek cabin (bit muddy in the first mile and lots of hunters during moose season) are better summer hikes.

    Anyway, best of luck, hope you have fun.

    Oh – bring a good map – the trail is fairly hard to follow in a couple of sections.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ed told me about this trip and your blog.
    My friend Andy and I did the trip Sep 10.
    I waded 1/2 way across but then decided to boat it to avoid being soaked as the far bank was deeper. Someone has left a raft at the river that could be used by someone with no boat.

    The trail in we followed about 1/2 mi to a slough then lost before going up the hill. We went all the way up the hill and on the ridge top for about 2 hours before finding the trail again when it interesected an older and much more worn trappers trail. We followed that trail to the cabin, but the entire hike took us 4 hours.

    Then it was a 6 hour trip to the finish near Rosebud camp ground. Several air boats were up the river due to hunting season and has cut through most of the jams.
    We never had to get out of our boats to get through.
    It was my first experience rafting in the dark (we finished at 11pm). I am sure glad I had my bright 2Watt headlamp and that we marked our finish with a reflective vest!!!. Your right, two days might be better, or leave much before noon!!!

  6. spruceboy says:

    Jim – I am glad you enjoyed the trip. The air boats explain the cut trees – we noticed a few older sweepers that had been cut out.

  7. […] Ms Marsh, and I did a repeat of a trip Tom and I did last year – a hike, float. bike loop that visits Nugget Creek Cabin in the Chena River State Receration […]

  8. spruceboy says:

    Just a follow up – I did this trip again this year ( see here for more details ) and DNR has put additional markers on the trail, so it is much, much easier to follow. DNR is also working on a new trail into the cabin that will start just after 1st bridge.. not sure what time frame they are talking about but the new trail will not require crossing the Chena and so will be a major improvement.

Leave a Reply