By Janelle Eklund
Nine of us joined together to float the Tatshenshini River on July 20, 2000, starting in Canada and ending in Alaska. Traveling through the Yukon Territory of Canada we took the Haines Jct. hwy to the put-in point, arriving the night before launching. The next day, while rafts were being blown up and geared, three in the group shuttled the van to Haines where we would get dropped off by plane ten days later.
We launched shortly after 3:00pm. Clouds bearing the weight of showers dumped on us off and on all day. It kept us busy changing in and out of rain gear umpteen times. The first upper stretch of the river reminded me of the Gulkana River back in the Copper Basin. But not for long. The landscape changed funneling the river into a canyon. A roller coaster white water ride kept the rowers on their toes without a break for five miles. We had the where with all to scout the canyon first and donned our dry suits before entering the chasm. The only body part that got a little wet was our heads.
We bobbed along passing spruce forests sweeping from river bed to metamorphic rock formed hills. The river cut through narrow chutes where faults were colored in lines of black, grey, and orange. Each told a hidden story of ancient times. Bald eagles swept down cliffs on the wings of wind. The slower stretches let us observe the sites along rivers journey.
We camped at Silver Creek where the mosquitoes made us wear our head nets. At that point the rain was only spitting which made it nice for setting up the tents.
The river was calmer today with a few rapids which gave the float some diversity. Our destination was Sediment Creek and by our calculation not too far down the river. Friends of ours had launched ahead of our group and we planned to camp with them. Our thoughts were centered on a short day. Wrong. What we thought was Sediment Creek didn't look quite right, and our friends weren't there but we tried to find a place to camp anyway. There were some nice places but the lack of eddies and slower water prevented us from stopping. After bumbling along and trying to stop we decided that wasn't Sediment Creek at all. The next drainage turned out to be the right one. Our friends and their cataraft were a welcome sight. A calm side channel allowed us to row above their camp. A high steep bank was the only way to the campsite. For unloading gear we made a human chain which worked well. Everyone automatically picked a chore and went about setting up camp.
Rafting affords the luxury of bringing things like a 25lb fire pan with a grill, and food items like a whole chicken. For dinner the chicken went in a pot of boiling water to get it partially cooked before barbecuing it on the fire pan grill. A delicious and fulfilling dinner came with shared stories of an exhausting day on the dynamic river.
To be continued
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.