From: Pat Pourchot
Field Inspection of Mulchatna River, July 8-14, 1976
As part of BOR's technical assistance to the National Park Service in evaluating
river-related resources within proposed NPS areas, an interagency field
inspection of the Mulchatna River was made. The headwater lake, Turquoise Lake,
and the first 14 miles of the river are currently proposed for inclusion in the
Lake Clark National Park; the upper 95 miles to the Chilikadrotna confluence are
included in the NPS Lake Clark "Area of Ecological Concern," although most of
the upper Mulchatna is classified as lands where state selections are pending.
Most of the middle and lower Mulchatna is included in state patented lands or
where state selections have been tentatively approved for patent.
Participating in the inspection were:
Rich Gordon - NPS, Alaska Task Force (Anchorage)
Bob Baker - BLM, Anchorage District Office
Richard Russell - ADF&G, King Salmon
Pat Pourchot - BOR, Anchorage
Two 12-foot Avon Redshank rafts were used for the river inspection.
Morning clear, sunny. After light shower in afternoon, again clear in evening
with very light breeze. Seven-twenty p.m. air 67F; river water 56F. Although I
had originally intended to float from Turquoise Lake, on an earlier over flight
we had found the 22 miles of water above the Bonanza Hills to be too shallow and
rocky to descend without undue time, energy, and raft patching expenditure. The
rapids in the narrow canyon through the Bonanza Hills looked rocky and tight,
but runnable by raft.
NOTE: These reports may not
contain important information about: 1) safety, 2) land management and ownership, 3) fishing and other
regulations and 4) possible errors >
However, there is no suitable put-in in this area. Therefore, for float-plane
access there remained a small lake located about 1/2 mile north of the river
about seven miles below the Bonanza Hills Canyon or two lakes with outlets
entering the Mulchatna about 13 miles below the first lake or about 42 miles
below Turquoise Lake.
Because the uppermost lake would mean a 1/2 mile long brushy portage, because
the 13 miles of river below this lake looked slow, meandering and uninteresting,
and because we were some-what constrained by time, I decided to put-in on the
unnamed lake in section 29 of T. 9 N., R. 31 W., and float down the 1/2 mile
long outlet to the Mulchatna. However, as Rick Gordon, Bob Baker and I flew in
that morning, 'we observed two moose feeding in the lake-one standing leg deep
in the middle. Al-though a single-engine float plane might be able to land
there, our OAS goose could not. We therefore landed in the larger adjacent lake
in Section 28 near its outlet.
After dropping us off the pilot went back down the Mulchatna to pick up the rest
of the party, which had just floated the Chilikadrotna (where I had just been),
take them to Iliamna, pick up Rich Russell and bring him back to our put-in.
While we were waiting for Rich we inflated rafts and lined and dragged them down
the first 300 yards of the small outlet stream. The stream was 4-8' wide and
several inches deep with small rocks. We cleared several logs out of the channel
and were able to bring both rafts down to "navigable" water in about 45 minutes.
Rich arrived at 1:30 p.m., and after lunch, we started down the outlet stream @
2:15 p.m. After going through several connected marsh ponds, another small
stream joins the outlet stream and becomes a very nice intimate creek, a lot
like a small Swanson River - five yards wide, 18" deep, very slow moving, with
alder, grass banks. With steady, moderate paddling we descended the 2 1/2 mile
stream in about 1 1/2 hours, arriving at the Mulchatna at 3:45 p.m.
The outlet stream was an excellent place to see wildlife and we slipped around
corners twice to see cow moose standing in the middle of the creek -luckily they
moved. The other raft also saw a cow and calf moose. Along outlet we saw pintail
and three young, female mallard and young, flycatcher, lesser yellowlegs, snipe,
loon, red-poll, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, thrushes, robin, peewee and
Just above the Mulchatna, Rich G. and I hiked up a small knoll and looked
around-beautiful views of surrounding lowlands. Forest broken by many grassy
marshes and by recent fire around our put-in lake.
We camped across from the outlet stream confluence about 4:30 pm. Rich R. saw
porcupine, two beaver, and red squirrel, and caribou tracks on gravel bar while
fishing around camp. Fishing very slow with only one grayling caught in over
hour of fishing -saw two king salmon roll in Mulchatna. In outlet stream we saw
small pike, grayling, round whitefish.
Mulchatna in front of camp 20 yards wide, 2-4' deep, three mph current,
visibility 3-3 1/2' deep, jade green coloration.
Bugs thick at camp. Open spruce forest back from river with large moss-lichen
hummocks and Labrador tea and dwarf birch. Very few poplar along river, mostly
white spruce, alder, and willow and tall grasses. Larger spruce along river 36",
46", and 49" circumference at breast height. Spruce back from river much small
(4-8" diameter), could be black spruce.
Three white wall tents pitched along western edge of put-in lake -looked like
Beautiful day. Sunny, light breeze. Seven-twenty a.m., air 60°F, water 49° 3:45
p.m., air 74°, water 56°, 9:15 pm., air 63°, and water 57°
Left camp 9:30 a.m., arrived lunch 12:30 p.m., and took hike, arrived new camp
5:20 p.m. Traveled about 10 miles in about 3 1/2-4 hours on water; easy to
From lunch stop at northern most point from first camp we hiked up adjacent hill
to about 2000-foot level (from 1150 at river). Trip about one hour up, 1/2 hour
at top, 45 minutes down, roundtrip 2 1/2 miles. After skirting a small low lying
marshy area near river and a short section of woods at base of hill, all easy
alpine tundra hiking. Beautiful view from top-could see put-in lake, Half-cabin
Lake, Mulchatna river up to Bonanza Hills, south end of Whitefish Lake and
Alaska Range to northeast. On top, found couple of grassy, soft patches on ridge
tops - probably old raptor nests.
River slow, meandering, peaceful. Easy Class I. 20-25 yards wide, average 4'
deep with many deeper holes over 6'. Visibility around 3 1/2 feet. Overnight
rose 2" but looks like recently dropped about one foot. Two-three mph current.
Bottom gravelly and silty.
Saw female harlequin, merganser traveling together, 10 adult and 17 young
white-fronted geese, red-throated loon, and mink. We got very close to young cow
moose along river; also observed two different pair osprey and active nests in
spruce treetops adjacent river. Also saw rough-legged hawk, red-tailed hawk.
Bear tracks and lots of beaver sign around new camp.
Smaller birds observed included northern shrike, yellowlegs, myrtle warbler,
spotted sandpiper, ruby-crowned kinglet, red-poll, and water thrush (see
attached bird list by Rich Gordon).
Rich R. had no luck fishing at new camp with flies.
Still mostly white spruce and alder along river. Occasional open black
spruce-tundra. On hike saw Kenai paper birch and aspen on hillside. On hike lots
of prickly rose, cloudberries, bearberries, Labrador tea, dwarf birch, harebell,
Campsites plentiful on bars at bends but dried silt rather than sand on top of
gravel. Spaded up-with canoe paddle makes good bed.
Bugs again thick at camp although moderate on river.
Sunny, beautiful day -high in 70's; 8:20 a.m., air 57°F, - water 53°; 7:15 p.m.,
air 70°, water 62°.
Left camp 10:00 a.m., arrived new camp 5:30 pm. Traveled 17 miles in about five
hours on water; easy to moderate paddling.
First eight miles from camp slow, meandering, glassy water, 2 mph current, deep
5-6' and over. Then one mile of Class I rapids beginning as river is flanked by
small bluffs in section 13 T. 8 N., R. 33 W. Constricted channel with glacial
erratic and bedrock ledges -easily navigated. One mile into the rapids the river
swings southward after a large bend in Section 13, cuts through a ridge with a
2-3' drop in the river. Bedrock is exposed here in several small rocky ledge
drops stretching across most of the river. On the west side is one large chute
obstructed on one side by a huge boulder. The only real passage is through one
side of the chute-Class III Both rafts got through the one fairly small, safe
slot on edge of huge haystack below boulder obstruction. One raft took on
several gallons of water.
Below this major rapid is another mile of swifter, Class I whitewater with
easily avoided rocks in channel. Below whitewater, river somewhat swifter than
before but otherwise very similar to above. At new camp 25-30 yards wide, 3-4'
deep, 3-4 mph current. Through and below rapids bottom quite different with
baseball sized rocks and more gravel as opposed to silts.
Several nice views of hills to north and west today. Rapids area with 50' bluffs
and ridges lining river, very scenic.
In rapids section some birch,, couple balsam poplar. Below. bluff area more
willow along banks but still mostly alder, spruce. Also wild iris, Siberian
asters, Jacobs ladder, wild geranium, dwarf fireweed, shrubby cinquefoil.
In rapids area saw rare race of white great horned owls, Wapacuthu horned owls.
Also today saw cliff swallows, loon, mergansers, three beaver. Heard two moose
in brush. Saw otter, wolf, bear, and moose tracks along river.
Four king salmon seen. One 15" grayling' caught at new camp after hour of
fishing. Bugs bad at camp. Lots of campsites on bars, but bars 1 to 2 miles
Rain during night. Partly cloudy all day, light upriver wind, high near 70".
Nine p.m., air 61°F, water 60°.
Left camp 9:30 a.m., arrived new camp 5:30 p.m., about two miles above
Chilikadrotna. Traveled 21 miles in roughly 5 1/2 hours on water, easy to
River consisted of long 2-3 mph pools broken by shorter 3-4 mph riffles. Pools
5-6 + feet deep, riffles 1-3" deep. Thirty yards wide, fewer gravel bars. Bottom
and bars mostly baseball to softball sized rocks. Visibility 3-4 feet. Big
Bonanza Creek confluence just a slough with no noticeable current.
Saw couple birch along river, more willow than previously, still mostly alder
and spruce (black and white). Lots of marshy, grassy areas adjacent river.
Campsites not plentiful but no problem.
In morning saw pair of red-tailed (or Harlan) hawks and nest with at least one
young - nest in top boughs of trees, not on tip-top like osprey. Just downstream
saw another similar nest though inactive. Saw lone osprey, single red-tailed and
possibly nest, young mottled bald eagle. At new camp another red-tailed hawk and
active nest. Also red-throated loons and widgeon. Bull moose came out on river
bar at new camp. Saw mink along river, lots of beaver lodges. Saw several chum
salmon, also whitefish, grayling in back channel. At new camp Rich R. caught
three rainbow trout, 15", 11", and 18". Fifteen incher had young bird, & sculpin
in stomach (which in turn had a smaller sculpin in its stomach which, in turn,
had a stone fly in it).
Bugs bad before breeze came up in evening. Some views of mountains to west from
river. Wolf, bear, moose, lynx tracks on bars.
In Big Bonanza Creek area saw white pole, small willow shelter probably Native
Rained hard all night. Partly sunny, moderate upriver wind in afternoon. Seven
fifteen p.m. air 55°, water 57°. Left camp 9:30 a.m., arrived new camp 4:30 p.m.
traveled nine miles in about 2 1/2 hours on water, mostly floating.
Just as we reached Chilikadrotna confluence, Barry and Lona Santana reached
Mulchatna from the Chilikadrotna. They had left Twin Lakes two days before, and
despite a couple separate incidents with faulty rowing frame and a sweeper,
which left Barry with shorter front teeth and a bump on his nose, had had good
time. They reported catching lake trout in lower Twin Lake and seeing several
caribou along river. They flew in with Dennis Harms from Iliamna and will fly
out at Koktuli River confluence.
About four miles below Chilikadrotna we climbed small hill 1/2 mile north of
river - elevation 1170. Very scenic, round, tundra-covered knob with great views
up and down Mulchatna. At the top we saw and stalked a large bull moose with
velvet antlers to within good camera range. Also saw cow and calf at old camp in
morning and another moose just below Chilikadrotna.
First big poplar below Chilikadrotna. Fishing again slow -Rich R. fished 1 1/2
hours with flies in evening and caught one 11" rainbow trout. Saw two bald
eagles and one juvenile.
Mulchatna below Chilikadrotna much different character: swifter (5-6 mph), twice
as big, more braided, many more log pile-ups, snags, and sweepers (no problem
avoiding because of river size).
Rain last night. Overcast most of day, clearing in evening, light to moderate
upriver wind, in 50's.
Left camp 9:30 a.m. arrived take-out camp at 3:30 p.m. Traveled 18 miles in
about four hours of light to no paddling.
Saw nesting pair of osprey and nesting pair of bald eagles. Two porcupines came
down bank across from take-out camp in evening. Beaver active in slough next to
take-out camp after we went to bed. Bear crossed slough during night. (On a trip
down Chilikadrotna August 20 we saw beaver and bull caribou here).
Fishing again very slow with only one 15" grayling caught. (On later
Chilikadrotna trip fishing in this section of Mulchatna much better with large
rainbow (18"), Dolly varden (18-2l"), grayling, and spawning red salmon caught.)
Saw barrel stove and some tent frame poles along river. Also flagging on bar
adjacent long straight stretch of river about 10 miles above take-out apparently
used as floatplane landing area. (We found cut later used by Dennis Harms in
super cub -but that a few sweepers over channel made landings by larger planes
unsafe according to Glen VanValin, Lake Clark). Also saw Native allotment tag on
tree during day.
Take-out camp on gravel bar on upstream north side of long slightly curved
stretch of river in Section 34, R. 4 N., R., 38 W., flanked all along the south
bank by a large ridge/bluff. It's l/2 north of lake marked elevation 690
and two miles north of 2979 mountain marked "Overlook."
Beautiful, sunny morning. Glen Van Valin from Lake Clark picked Rich R. and I up
with his Cessna 185 on floats around 10:00 a.m., and flew us to Iliamna. No
trouble getting off river with fairly light load (one raft, tent, backpack).
Rich flew back to King Salmon and I called OAS to check on aircraft, which was
to meet us at Iliamna. Meanwhile Glen ferried Bob and Rich G. and gear to Port
Allsworth in two trips. After some airplane arrangement snafus, I chartered up
to Port Allsworth and Glen flew the three of us back to Anchorage, arriving at
about 5:00 p.m. A couple days later we were able -to fly the gear back on an
empty NPS charter flight.
Over the course of five full days on the Mulchatna we traveled 25 miles (plus 2
1/2 miles down lake outlet stream) averaging about four-hours per day on water
with easy paddling. With the exception of one 10-yard, Class III drop in the
river, all easy Class I water. Very nice float trip.
Wildlife observation, especially birds (including raptors) were excellent.
Fishing was poor to fair, although fishing during a later trip in August was
fair to good. (See attached fish, mammal, and bird observation lists).
Scenery was not outstanding but varied and pleasing with many views of adjacent
hills and ridges from river. Several easy hikes from river with tremendous views
from hilltops. Throughout the trip we saw very little evidence of man and had a
true wilderness feeling.
Because we were limited by time, we took-out at the uppermost suitable landing
site. For a longer trip one could go 15 miles further to the edge of the hills
near Keefer Creek or 55 miles to the Koktuli River or 100 miles to the Nushagak
River or 195 miles to Dillingham where the Nushagak enters Bristol Bay (tidal
influence goes much higher up Nushagak than Dillingham).
Complete river log
Mulchatna River [123
Other information resources
List of rivers for which information is available on this website
Alagnak River | Alatna River
| American Creek
| Andreafsky River | Aniakchak River | Awuna River | Beaver Creek | Black River | Bremner River | Canning River | Charley River |
Chilikadrotna River | Chitina River | Colville River | Copper River | Delta River | Fortymile River | Gulkana River | Huslia River | Ivishak River | John River | Kakhonak River | Kanektok River | Karluk River | Kasegaluk Lagoon | King Salmon River | Kobuk River |
Koyukuk River North Fork | Little Susitna River | Mulchatna River | Nigu Etivluk rivers | Noatak River | Nowitna River | Nuyakuk River | Porcupine River | Saganirktok River | Salmon River (Kobuk) | Selawik River | Sheenjek River | Squirrel River | Talachulitna River | Tlikakila River | Togiak River | Unalakleet River |
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