Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Wells Creeks - 8.22.2020

After hearing from Cam about the aquamarine water, engaging paddling, and hero hiking of Wells Creek, we were itching to check it out. So, after a nice warm-up on the Bull, we headed north for the Denali Highway. At the Nenana crossing we were greeted by the local porter - with attention to detail, enthusiasm for the job, and good people skills he quickly had us ready to put in.

Across the river we waved goodbye to our new friend, repacked our bags, ate grape-sized blueberries, and found the ATV trail to nirvana. A couple miles later and we were above the valley floor and looking down on the unreal blue water of Wells Creek.

In the front of us the huge peaks that make up the headwaters of the Nenana and Yanert rose of into the clouds in the distance.

But we were not as far away as it seemed, and the peaks quickly grew as we followed the cruiser trail towards the alpine.

As the ridge curved north we climbed out of the shrubs and got a better view of the creek.

I'd thought this area could be fun for hunting caribou - we saw little sign and few tracks, but lots of evidence of bears and wolves. Around us the tundra was telling us that fall had arrived.

Where the river bottom changed from an incised V-shape to the classic glacial U we unpacked our packs and inflated our pool toys. The landscape and technicolor tundra reminded me of a fall trip through the Clearwater Mountains to the east fork of the Susitna years ago.

Eventually I finished putzing around and we pushed into the crystalline water. Within minutes we entered the incised micro-valley where the fun immediately started.

The creek was continuous fun. Surprisingly steep and filled with boulders it reminded me of the Little Su near the Gold Mint parking lot. Especially given how continuous the whitewater is, I think that Class 3 is a very fair rating.

Except, of course, for the large 6-foot pour-over that's about 3/4 of the way down the paddle. This drop is larger than any single feature in the 1st or 2nd canyon of Sixmile and is Class 4. Given that my ankle is still a cobweb of healing bone we decided to portage it. Cam and Connor took a cool line down the river left of the drop, but I could see center punching it at the right water level. The drop is marked by a a giant horizon line and a nice eddy as you approach - you won't miss it. 

Below the big drop the boogey water continued down to the confluence with the Nenana. I haven't figured out a good system to keep the lens of my camera free of silt, but at least here's a picture of the blue water straight from Cancun:

Where the beautiful blue of the Wells mixed with the brown mud of the Nenana we ferried back to the car and set up camp on the bank overlooking the river. 

This is one of my all-time favorite day trips. It ranks right up there with Moody Creek. Wells, Moody, and the Bull would make a great weekend of paddling in the Southcentral packrafting Shangri-La.


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  2. awesome to see you are out adventuring again, and babying the ankle. Thanks for sharing your many good trips to be done!! (sarah of the knee scooter!)

    1. Hey Sarah of the Knee Scooter! Thanks for checking in. The knee scooter was great!