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Alaska waterways

King Salmon River

From: David Dapkus
Subject: Field Inspection of the King Salmon River August 3 - 9, 1978

A field inspection of the King Salmon River was conducted August 3 to August 9, 1978 by an interagency team as part of a HCRS study of the river area. This study is part of HCRS's technical assistance to the Fish and Wildlife Service in evaluating river related resources within proposed National Wildlife Refuge/Range areas. The headwater creek's that form the King Salmon River are located entirely within the existing Katmai National Monument. King Salmon River starts at the confluence of Takayofo and Contact Creeks, which join on the boundary of the existing National Monument. The land surrounding the King Salmon River from this point downstream lie within "d-2" lands proposed for designation as Becharof Wildlife Refuge (35 miles+), and on State selection lands (25 miles+), the state selection lands are within a village withdrawal area. Participating in the inspection were the following people:

Robert Leedy, Fish & Wildlife Service, Anchorage
Mary Evans, Fish & Wildlife Service, Anchorage
Tom Schoder, Bureau of Land Management, State Office
John Merrick, Bureau of Land Management, Anchorage District Office
Sandy Rabinowitch, Div. of Parks, State of Alaska
Howard Wagner, National Park Service, Anchorage
David Dapkus, HCRS, Anchorage

Two 13-foot Avon Adventurer rafts were used for the river inspection.

August 3

The entire team left Anchorage at 10:30a.m. via Wien Airlines for King Salmon. After arriving in King Salmon we walked to the nearby Peninsula Airways office and confirmed our put in and take out times. Spent three hours in King Salmon before takeoff at 3:00 p.m. We loaded the Peninsula Airways goose with all the equipment and people, then took off for a lake listed as number 592 that outlets into Contact Creek. It took 25 minutes of flying to reach lake 592. This lake was about 3/4 of mile long and 1/2 mile wide, but extremely shallow. The pilot made a good landing and a take-off in this very shallow lake. We inflated the rafts, loaded up the gear, and paddled across the lake and started out on the small outlet to Contact Creek. This outlet was about eight feet wide and two feet deep. We paddled down it only about three hundred yards to camp on the tundra. We saw many fingerlings in the creek; some of the crew went fishing but caught nothing. The entire day had been sunny and warm.

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 > READ MORE

August 4

We awoke to low cover fog, but no rain. This fog burned off by 11:00 a.m., leaving the remainder of the day sunny and warm. This unnamed creek from lake 592 was about eight feet wide and 1"-2' deep with little or no current. The creek was lined with tundra for about 1/2 the distance followed by dense (10 foot high) willow brush for the remaining distance. It was about 1 1/2 mile to Contact Creek. Contact Creek was about 20 feet wide, inches to four feet deep, and two to four mph. There were no rapids, but there were many sweepers. Contact Creek was clear with the creek bottom consisting of fist size rocks. Willow brush lined the creek. Beyond the 50' wide band of brush was open tundra. The creeks and the river rated Class I whitewater on the International White-water Scale.

The scenery was outstanding. Both creeks flow through a wide basin surrounded on the sides by the snow capped tall mountain peaks that make up Katmai. Dominant vegetation was tundra with thick brushy willow stands along the creeks. Fair to good opportunities exist in this area for hiking to the nearby ridges and mountains. Good campsites on small gravel bars for parties of four to eight people were abundant. Wood was also abundant.

We observed nine grizzly bears in one day between lake 592 and the confluence of Contact and Takayofo Creek's, a distance of about four miles. Eight were in the river or within 15 feet of it. We had one long wait just up stream from two grizzlies fishing for salmon. They finally left, allowing us to move on. We observed two bald eagles, one was immature. King, red, and dog salmon were extremely plentiful in all three creeks. We camped on a large gravel bar about a 1/4 mile up Takayofo Creek from its confluence with Contact Creek. This was on the right or south side of Takayofo Creek where an unnamed tributary came in from the south.

August 5

Low fog cover for the second day, again burned off by noon with the afternoon sunny and hot. There was no noticeable difference in size between Takayofo Creek and the King Salmon River. Contact Creek was small and contributed little water, Takayofo Creek carried most of the water to the river. Only by noting on a map would one know that the two creeks formed the river. Takayofo Creek and the river were silty, the remaining creeks were clear. Riverbed was mixed sand and gravel. The River was 100 feet wide, two feet deep, with a current of three to four miles per hour. There were a few sweepers. It was all Class I except for a 100 yard long Class III rapid about two miles above Gertrude Creek.

The scenery below the two creeks was pleasant, but not outstanding. Snowcapped peaks could be seen in the background; low, rocky mountains and high ridges with large rock outcroppings across the crest were visible in the foreground. We camped on a gravel bar at Granite Creek. Good campsites on gravel-bars along the river were numerous, however there was little firewood. There were no opportunities for decent backpacking or hiking in this area once one is outside the existing monument. We observed four grizzlies and two bald eagles, one was immature. We also observed Canada geese, Arctic terns, one owl (small and unidentified), and many gulls. Red and chum salmon were often seen, they were usually very red. Arctic grayling, rainbow and Dolly Varden trout were in tributaries to the river.

August 6

This day was hot and sunny with no morning fog. The river continued to be murky and its tributaries clear. It was braided and shallow-inches to five feet deep, but usually two feet deep. The river varied from 75 feet to 150 feet wide, while flowing at 2 to 3 mph. Recreation opportunities remained the same, primarily hunting, wildlife observation, floating, and fishing.

The scenery was coastal flatland. The area was definitely wilderness, but it was also definitely flat with mountains appearing extremely small on the eastern horizon. We observed three grizzly bears, usually on gravel bars where they were fishing for salmon. We saw three caribou in similar areas. A confrontation also developed between a grizzly, a caribou, and a flock of Canada geese, which we watched with great glee for at least 20 minutes. The bear finally went one direction and the caribou another, while the geese remained on the gravel bar. We saw at least 200 Canada geese and lesser Canada geese along with gulls, Arctic terns, and one bald eagle. Although the fish (grayling, Dolly Varden, and salmon) were in the river, our efforts in catching some were fruitless.

We had a strong upstream wind against us all afternoon. It stopped about 8 p.m. The mosquitoes appeared as the wind disappeared, so we disappeared into our tents.

August 7

Continued clear, sunny and warm day, however we experienced up to 30 mph tailwinds in the morning and a cross wind in the afternoon. I suspect the current was only one mph and without a tailwind it would take much longer to float the river. We camped on one of the numerous fine sandbars about ten miles from the river's mouth at a big unnamed tributary. Campsites continued to be plentiful. Firewood was limited but we found more than we did the first few days.

The riverbed and banks consisted of gravel, small rocks, and some sand. The river was 150 feet wide, 3 feet deep with some 8-foot deep pools, and had a 1 mph current. It continued to be silty with clearwater tributaries.

We saw two cabins, one in use this year as noted by a 1978 calendar. Scenery was unchanged from the previous day.

We observed an occasional spawned out salmon in the river. We also observed about 100 Canada geese along with gulls, Arctic terns, ravens, and one bald eagle. We also saw a sow grizzly bear and two cubs. They were located just below the second cabin (cabin marked on the map).

August 8

It was a cloudy day, but warm and no rain or wind, a welcomed relief. It was an easy paddle of ten to twelve miles from camp on the winding King Salmon River to the Egegik River. We crossed the Egegik River to the village of Egegik in the afternoon. The King Salmon River braided into several channels and had a current of zero to one mph. It was roughly 200 feet wide, two feet deep, and silty with a sand bottom. The tide affects the lower four miles of the King Salmon River. We caught both the King Salmon and the Egegik river at low tide and followed the main meandering channel through the mud flats of both rivers to the village of Egegik, which lies on the south bank of the Egegik River. This channel flowed along the east side of the King Salmon River and went directly across the Egegik River to its south side.

Several low, mixed rock and dirt bluffs stood out along the lower King Salmon river. These bluffs were 50 to 100 feet high. Good campsites on gravel and sandbars continued plentiful. We observed many Canada geese, gulls, and Arctic terns. Also saw several bank beaver lodges but no beaver. A few spawned out red salmon were still in the King Salmon River.

We arrived at Egegik about 1:30 p.m., and walked into the Peninsula agents office near one of the canneries. We were a day early but the agent called King Salmon and Peninsula picked us up at 3:00 p.m. in a single engine Otter and took us back to King Salmon. We arrived there at 3:30 p.m. We spent the night at the KingCo Motel in King Salmon.

August 9

We left King Salmon via Wien at 12:25 p.m., arrived Anchorage International 1:10 p.m.


We traversed the 60-mile long King Salmon River and about five miles of its tributaries in 4 1/2 easy days. An open canoe would probably be the most enjoyable craft to float the river. The river had one Class III rapid with the remainder being Class I. The values of the river area are the scenery around the headwater tributary streams, and the fish and wildlife, most notably the abundant grizzly bears.

Access is by commercial flight to King Salmon then charter into the headwaters area of the river. Gravel bars large enough for a Super Cub and perhaps a Cessna 185 are located along the upper river. However these should be checked out with the charter company first. It has been reported that small airplanes can land at a lake that forms the headwaters of Gertrude Creek.

Complete river log

PDF icon King Salmon River [668 kb]

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