Packrafting Savage to Sanctuary Rivers, Denali National Park

27 07 2012

I was not excited about the 80% rain I saw in the forecast as I was grabbing my backpack and headed out the door. After a super cold and dreary summer, one more trip in the rain didn’t sound as appealing. Luckily, we scored and had more sun than rain, and the weather held for the most part.

All told, Dylan and I had 15 miles of backpacking up the Savage River valley on over to the Sanctuary River and a 16 mile float out. We did it in about 8.5 hours hiking and 2.5 hours of packrafting. We managed to find nice “social” trails in the first part of our hike, then great moose/game trails all the way up the valley-it made for a really easy hike. The river was running high and fast (yay! no buttdragging!), we were surprised to finish floating it so quickly.

The Savage River valley was littered with moose antlers, and the Sanctuary valley was equally littered with caribou antlers. This moose antler had been chewed on by a bear. Later, we did come across a year-ish old moose kill sight-that bear did an excellent job levelling the tundra and excavating the site. Still was enough of a deterent for us to hike around it…

Dwarf fireweed (and a whole lot of other wildflowers) were out in abundance.

Eventually the trails lead to nice gravel bars to hike up valley on. Dylan crossing over to one.

A very blond, and quite large grizzly that we came across. He sat and watched us for a while, then meandered off. 

Near the head of Savage valley. The pass is to the very right in this image, just right of the triangle peak. We opted to hike up and over the mountain cut off on the ride side of the pic, instead of the pass that was full of questionable snow and shale. We found it to be a pretty good approach. Staying high and right on this mountain made it a pretty easy hike down to the river.

The Sanctuary River.

My raft at the put-in on the Sanctuary River. The sun broke out just as we got there. Skies cleared (mostly) downstream, while a crazy rain and wind storm was on our tails chasing us (but never catching us) down valley to the park road.

Yeah, this really happened two minutes into our float. It was pretty freakin’ sweet!

Then twenty minutes later we came upon this very, very fresh kill. Probably dinner the night before for the wolves that have a den in an area closed of nearby.

Scenery along the way.

Dylan. The river was Class I, with maybe a little easy Class II thrown in. Fun and a little splashy, but nothing to technical. And crazy, beautiful, amazing scenery along the way.

A pretty sweet trip!


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