Posts Tagged ‘brushkana’

A lazy float on the Brushkana

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

On a rainy overcast Sunday afternoon Tom, Marsh, and I headed down to the Brushkana Creek off of the Denali Highway to camp out and in the morning hopefully go for a pack rafting day trip. The Alpacka forums had a post about the Brushkana Creek, and it seemed it might have the ideal combination of fairly low volume interesting whitewater that would be fun to practice on. In the ideal world there would be a lowish volume class III in my backyard here in Fairbanks to splash around in, but alas, life is not perfect.

Our basic plan was to cache our bikes along one of the many ATV trails that lead from the Denali Highway to the Nenana and camp at the Brushkana Creek campground. In the morning we would float the Brushkana down to the Nenana, hike back to the road, cache our gear, and bike back to the campground.

The drive down to Cantwell from Fairbanks was uneventful and 3 hours or so later we arrived at BLM’s Brushkana Creek campground and setup tents just as the daylight left. After a quick supper and several beers we hit the sack – oh the joys of car camping!

After a nice and quite night we woke to a fairly nice day, and breakfast and were off! Tom had not adjusted well to the whole car camping idea and ate his cereal out of a bag, super lightweight style. He did take me up of my offer of the cold frappachino though.

The Brushkana was quite fun right off the bat with a small rapids right next to the campground. The first 45 minutes or so was constant class II fun – lots of dodging rocks and a few smallish drops. The river guides I found online suggested it was class II+. It seemed very similar to Windy Creek in difficulty which most folks seem to think is class II, so the “+” bit was lost on me. Perhaps at higher water levels it might be harder. There are no stream gauges in the direct vicinity, but the gauge at Healy on the Nenana said a little over 9ft. A bit more water would have smoothed out some of the shallower spots but all in all it was quite fun.

The bouncing and splashing continued pretty much no stop until near where the creek joined the Monohan.

The creek was an wonderful confidence builder, as the water is not very deep and there was a constant barrage of things to maneuver around.

Its hard to tell from these photos but there is quite a nice game trail along the bank. Its possible to walk back up stream to re-float any of the particularly interesting sections.

The colors where quite beautiful.

We appeared to be on the tail end of moose hunting season, and as a result did no see much wildlife of any sort.

In the last mile or so before Brushkana hits the Monohan the river slows down a lot.

Once we hit the Monohan we it became a classic boreal forest float, complete with sweepers.

After bobbing around for a while the Monohan joined the Nenana and our nice clear water was replaced by silty gray water. The current was a bit faster on the Nenana but we could have used a bit more water as it was quite shallow in sections. The Nenana was quite beautiful and if we had more time it would have been nice to extend the float on it.

Just before our take out we surprised a small flock of swans which flew right over head. Except for an owl this was our sole wild life sighting.

We reached our take out after floating around 3 and a half hours. Tom was very happy to put his new floating jacket’s snack storage system though its paces. We found a very well used ATV trail and headed back to where we cached our bikes.

The walk back to the road was surprisingly pleasant, and wonderful hiking. In berry season it appeared this area has wonderful blue berries, as I saw a huge number of blueberry bushes. Alas, it was well past the ideal berry picking time, and they were too soft.

After a quick mile or so hike we were back at the road, cached our packs, hopped on our bikes, and zipped back to the campground and the truck. The total distance was round 14 miles, 5 or so of which were on the road, with a round trip time of 5 to 6 hours including the bike shuttle, making for a excellent half day float. If we where to do it again I think I would
have walked up stream of the Denali Highway a ways and then put in to extent the fun bits. All in all a highly recommended float, with lots of bouncy rock dodging but nothing super hard. If one was super lazy one could just do the rapids right near the campground and have quite a bit of fun, as the trails along the bank seemed to be very good walking.

This is the last float of the year for me, I think. Now, if only it would snow more I could start skiing!