Exploring the Gulkana Wild and Scenic River
The Gulkana is one of the most popular sportfishing rivers in Alaska, providing rich habitat for rainbow trout, arctic grayling, king salmon, red salmon, whitefish, longnose suckers, and lamprey. A poplular river for fisherman and boaters in the summer, this river has also played an important role in the lives of the Ahtna, providing access to subsistence resoucres throughout history and pre-history. During winter months the frozen Gulkana River was historically used as an important travel route from the Copper River to the Tangle Lakes and what is now known as the Denali Highway area.
The Gulkana River Watershed drains approximately 2,140 square miles of Southcentral Alaska. The river begins in the Alaska Range near Summit Lake and flows south into the Copper River, eventually draining into Prince William Sound. Several hundred lakes and ponds are scattered throughout the spruce-dominated forest of the Gulkana River Watershed, providing abundant nesting areas for trumpeter swans and waterfowl.
The most popular Gulkana River float trip begins at BLM's Paxson Lake Campground boat launch located at mp 175 of the Richardson Highway. This 47 river mile float meanders 20 river miles before reaching the Class III - IV Canyon Rapids. Take-out signs mark the portage on the left side of the river. Only experienced whitewater boaters should attempt to navigate the remote Canyon Rapids! This river trip ends at BLM's Sourdough Creek Campground at mp 147.5 of the Richardson Highway. Floaters should plan a minimum of 3 days to complete their journey. For detailed float information, please refer to the BLM Gulkana River Floater's Guide and other resources provided on this website.