The Matanuska River, AK

Written by Jerrica

I'm 1 month late getting this one up, but our 4th of July was a memorable one on the Matanuska River in Alaska.  This was our first time back on the whitewater after our Sixmile Creek experience from June.  

This section of the Matanuska is called Lion's Head, a class III+ to IV section that starts at Caribou Creek and ends near the entrance for the Matanuska Glacier... about 5 miles.  This river is glacier water so we geared up in a our dry suits and headed out on Walter the Raft (our 14' NRS Outlaw).

This river was just what I needed after Sixmile.  I admit feeling defeated and nervous to hit the whitewater again, but as soon as we were in the rapids I felt in my element again on the oars.  Kevin isn't much for cheering in the rapids, but I think he knew I needed the boost and he was whooping and hollering for me the whole way.  I was really grateful for this kind gesture from Kev.

The water is glacial-gray, which made the rapids difficult to read.  Sometimes I didn't see a rapid until we were just about in it, which made for a few surprises.

Lion's Head is a big hole that could easily flip a raft or at least keep you there for a minute.  As I was pushing the oars through the hole my right oar was pulled back by the recirculating water and it yanked me down with it. I was sucked out of the boat, bobbed around under the boat for a couple of seconds, then got popped out of the rapid downstream of the raft.  The water was obviously cold and shocking... thank goodness for dry suits.  Luckily Kevin and the raft didn't get stuck in the hole too long and they moved out of the rapid shortly after me.  Kev hopped on the oars and got to me pretty quickly.  Falling in the rapid wasn't scary at all; it just made for a better ride.

We made some friends at the put in - 5 locals who were in a paddle raft.  They gave us some helpful tips before we took off and they helped us out with a shuttle in the end.  I got a chance to talk to the 2 gals from the group during the car ride back to the van and they are pretty awesome.  I love meeting cool people on the river... or anywhere for that matter.