Eastern Interior Field Office 222 University Avenue Fairbanks, AK 99709
STARTING YOUR RIVER TRIP: To reach Birch Creek, take the Steese Highway from Fairbanks to milepost 94, where a 0.2-mile gravel road leads down to the Upper Birch Creek Wayside. The wayside includes an outhouse, information kiosk and long-term parking. A short foot trail leads from the parking lot down to the river.
ENDING YOUR RIVER TRIP: Lower Birch Creek Wayside (Steese Highway milepost 140.5) is located about 12 miles past the town of Central. This wayside has an outhouse, parking area and short trail for carrying boats and equipment from the river. Some people continue downstream and take out at the Steese Highway bridge at milepost 147.2 (river mile 126). Downriver of the Lower Birch Creek Wayside, land on either side of Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River is owned and managed by Doyon, Limited.
Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River flows from the windswept ridges and alpine tundra of the Steese National Conservation Area into the broad expanse of the Yukon Flats in central Alaska. The river offers one-week float trips notable not only for scenery and remoteness but for convenience -- floaters can access both ends of the Wild River segment from BLM recreation sites along the Steese Highway.
The Bureau of Land Management manages 110 miles of upper Birch Creek as a wild river under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The river continues through state, private and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge land for a total of 344 miles before emptying into the Yukon River about halfway between Fort Yukon and Beaver.
Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River offers outstanding recreation opportunities for float boat use for those experienced with canoe, kayak, or raft. Float trips usually take about 50 hours of actual water time to travel the 110 river miles between BLM's put-in and take-out waysides, both located on the Steese Highway. A leisurely trip requires 7 to 10 days. The water is predominately Class I, but there are some Class II and Class III areas.
Although visited primarily in summer, Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River offers many winter activities for those wanting a primitive backcountry experience. Snowmobiling along the creek is popular in March and April as the days get longer and temperatures start to rise. For a few days each February, the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse makes portions of Birch Creek busy with dog teams and mushers. Dog mushing, trapping, and cross-country skiing are popular winter activities along the frozen river.
Monitoring River Levels
A new stream gauge has been installed on Birch Creek near the put-in at the Upper Birch Creek Wayside at Milepost 94 Steese Highway. Using GOES satellite telemetry, water stage, water temperature, air temperature, cumulative precipitation and water turbidity are recorded at 15-minute intervals. Current observations are available on the National Weather Service?s Hydrometeorological Automated Data System (HADS) website (https://hads.ncep.noaa.gov/charts/AK.shtml).
To view the data, find station BCTA2 (Birch Creek above Twelvemile Creek) in the list, select a time interval, and press "Decoded Data" to view the tables and graphs of observations. For those interested in floating Birch Creek, look at the River Height (HG) data for current river stage conditions.
Stage of less than 1.0 feet is very low flow, meaning difficult floating, especially for rafts. Stage of 2 feet is moderate flow --good float conditions. Stage of 3 to 3.5 feet or above is considered high water; be prepared for fast current, floating logs, flooded campsites, and potentially dangerous conditions.