Delta Wild and Scenic River
The Delta River watershed is in the Alaska Range in Southcentral Alaska and provides year-round recreational opportunities within its 150,000 acres of land, 160 miles of streams, and 21 lakes. The Tangle River connects several of the Tangle Lakes and then drains into the Delta River, which joins the Tanana River, before flowing into the mighty Yukon River.
Season and Climate
River-running season generally begins in early to mid-June, depending on ice breakup and precipitation. Average annual precipitation measured at Paxson is 11 inches of rain and 120 inches of snow. July is commonly the wettest month. During the summer, temperatures range from 35 °F to 70 °F, with occasional highs in the 80s. By mid-September the shorter daylight and colder temperatures bring the river recreation season to an end.
History and Prehistory
Native people may have lived in this area as long ago as the end of the last ice age (about 10,000 years ago). Approximately 226,660 acres in the Tangle Lakes area are designated as the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District. This area has hundreds of archaeological sites that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
NOTE: Collection or disturbance of any historic or prehistoric remains is against the law.
Vegetation ranges from arctic tundra to spruce-poplar forests. Grasses, sedges and forbs grow on the highest, most exposed slopes and above the brush line. Willows grow on moist lowland sites and in the many brushy draws draining the side slopes.
Dwarf birch occupies drier sites with well-drained soils. Alder grows on steep slopes of hillsides and canyon walls. Forests of white and black spruce grow in small pockets along the river, and on some hillsides below an elevation of 3,200 feet. You will find open spruce-poplar forests on lowland sites along the river and on some mid-slope hillsides.
Understory plants are varied and abundant. Fireweed, bistort, rose, mountain avens, burnet, and shrubby cinquefoil are just some of the many plants in the area. In August, many people travel to Tangle Lakes to pick blueberries. Other harvestable berries in the Delta River area include crowberry, alpine bearberry, cranberry and red currant.
Wildlife provides opportunities for hunting, trapping, photography and viewing. Hunters seek moose, caribou, bear, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, waterfowl and snowshoe hare. Trappers harvest beaver, fox, wolf, marten, lynx, wolverine, otter, muskrat and mink.
Of the 110 species of birds identified in this area, most are summer residents (May to September). Nesting bald eagles can be observed from Tangle Lakes to the lower Delta River during the summers.
Wildlife viewing is best in the early morning.
Tangle Lakes and the Delta River contain grayling, round whitefish, lake trout, burbot and longnose suckers. Most fishing is for grayling, but good lake trout fishing is available in late winter and early spring.
Salmon are not found in the Delta River due to the 15-foot-high falls and the heavy silt load entering from Eureka Creek.
You can purchase an Alaska fishing license and view sport fishing regulations online at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website or buy in person from license agents throughout the state, including stores in Glennallen, Delta Junction and Tok.
Lower Tangle Lakes and Upper Delta River trip: Put-in is at Tangle Lakes Campground (MP 21 Denali Highway) and take out is north of Phelan Creek (MP 212 Righardson Highway). If continuing on to Lower Delta River past MP 212 of the Richardson highway there is no designated take-out point but the Richardson Highway parallels the river in many places.
No fee for Delta Wild and Scenic River use. Camping at Tangle Lakes Campground is $15 per night drive in, and $6 per night walk in.