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Alaska waterways

Sheenjek River

Sheenjek River
Date: July 5, 1973

Subject: Sheenjek-Koness Wild and Scenic River Study

A wild and scenic river study of the Sheenjek_Koness Rivers in compliance with the ANCEA bill took place during June 13-26. Three 17-foot canoes with six people were involved in the river examination. The float party involved the following personnel:

Name Representing
Mike Wright BOR, Anchorage
Bob Stevens U.S.B.S.F.& W., Anchorage
Roger Bolstad, BLM, Fairbanks
Caroll Rombarg Alaska Water Lab, Fairbanks
June Weinstock  ACS, Fairbanks
Barbara Winkley ACS, Anchorage

The party left Fort Yukon by turbo beaver aircraft at 10:00 a.m., June 13, 1973 and landed on Last Lake adjacent the Sheenjek at 11:30 a.m. The first day was spent at Last Lake (uppermost lake in the

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
Sheenjek Valley). Camp was set up on a small knoll at the south end of Last Lake. Mountains flanking the upper valley are high and rugged. Topography indicated extensive past glaciations with truncated spurs, smooth ridge tops, lateral hanging valleys and benches at edges of the valley floor. The floor of the main river lies above 2,200 feet and the higher mountain peaks reaches 5,000 feet in the southern part and over 7,000 feet nearer the upper headwaters. An old cache was found in sparse stands a short distance from last lake along the east shoreline. One timber wolf was observed near our campsite. No caribou were observed on the entire trip but signs from past spring use was abundant.

Sheep trails could be observed on mountains adjacent last lake although no Dall sheep were observed on the entire downriver trip. An occasional grizzly track was observed but again, no grizzly observations were recorded. Moose sign was observed on the upper reaches of the Sheenjek but browse reflected light use with the exception of some open valley bottomlands where heavy browse use was recorded. Grayling averaging approximately 4-7 inches were abundant at last lake outlet. A list of recorded birds is attached in the appendix of this report. Mosquitoes were abundant throughout the entire trip with the exception of wind blown gravel bars.

June 14, the party left Last Lake (9:30 a.m.) via a small narrow outlet channel for approximately mile reaching an unnamed lake covered with aufeis ice, formed by freezing of successive stream overflows during winter. Canoes were dragged over the surface ice for approximately 1.5 miles reaching an open water channel, which flowed into the Sheenjek. Open water streams channels before reaching the Sheenjek were clear running and numerous 4-7 inch grayling were abundant. The Sheenjek itself was dirty carrying deposits of sediment from upstream glaciers melting and runoff. Approximately 15 miles below Last Lake, camp was set up for the evening. Animals observed included one red fox, nine baldpates, one bald eagle, one marsh hawk, gulls (probably mews), bank swallows, scaups and ptarmigan. River travel averaged approximately 4 miles per hour. A small lake back of our campsite contained numerous small grayling.

June 15, downriver travel started at 10:00 a.m. Class I water was encountered till the party reached an unnamed 3,500-foot mountain adjacent the Sheenjek approximately 5 miles below Lobo Lake. Class II water was recorded for approximately 200 yards near this mountain. Since the river was high, most boulders were under water and negotiation of the rapids was easy. During low water, however, care should be exercised through this stretch of river. Two immature golden eagles were observed near the 3,500-foot mountain. One cliff nest was observed but no active nesting was noted. Evening camp was set up near Table Mountain where a small fresh water creek entered the Sheenjek. Grizzly tracks were present and heavy willow browsing was observed at this campsite (moose). Arctic terns, Mew gulls, scaup, shoveler, buffleheads, baldpates, yellow legs and various passerines were observed. Lobo Lake was not visited during the days travel. One red fox walked within 20 yards of camp that evening. From Last Lake to this campsite magnificent scenery (foot hills of Brooks Range) was encountered. Old Woman Creek, which entered the Sheenjek from the west bank approximately one mile below Lobo Lake, was running muddy and a poor camp location.

June 21, 1973. Camp departure 8:15 a.m. Floated 7.5 hours that day and totaled about 30 river miles. Three cabins located near the Thluichohnjik Creek were not located due to river channel changes and working from 1:250,000 scale maps (1 inch scale maps not available). Some man cut logs were noted on the west bank near cabin map location. We passed Outlook Point (last good land mark using 1:250,000 maps) and camped that evening approximately 12 miles below Outlook Point. The river was now large with numerous sweepers. Fresh water tributaries were not abundant but excellent gravel bars for campsites were available. Fishing was poor due to murky water. Views from the river were confined to about 200 feet back from the bank. Two butoes and one moose were observed. Beaver bank houses increased as dense poplar stands and mud banks increased. Waterfowl numbers increased as well as passerines. Prevailing winds to this point from Last Lake were southerly and winds made for difficult downstream travel.

June 22, 1973. Camp departure 8:15 a.m. Floated 7 hours for total river travel of 28 miles (4 miles per hour average) and camped approximately 5 miles below Shuman Lake (Fort Yukon Dl map). We encountered difficulty locating ourselves on the 1 scale maps after coming off the 1:250,000 Christian Quad. We later found out our average of 4 miles per hour quite accurate. Numerous river channel changes had occurred on the FY Dl map (1956 vintage). We found two trappers cabin on the Sheenjek near Gailey Lake. The cabins were will supplied with trapping equipment and in good repair.

June 23, 1973. Camp departure 8:15 a.m. We floated for 7 hours (actual float time) and logged 28 miles river travel. Strong southerly winds make portions of the river difficult paddling. We camped that evening about 0.5 mile upstream from where the Sheenjek leaves the FY Dl Quad.

June 24, 1973. Departed camp 8:15 a.m. Reached the confluence of the Porcupine River at 9:30 a.m., which was running dirty. We stopped for lunch at Joe Carrol Cabin (FY C-2 Quad). A one pike approximately 15 pound was caught. This was the only northern pike caught on the float study. Other tributary streams were fished without success. Below Carrols cabin, we traveled the Black River Slough (3 miles shorter than north channel). We camped 1.5 miles above Seventeen Mile Slough.

June 25, 1973. Camp departure 8:15 a.m. Reached Hospital Lake (Fort Yukon) 12:30 p.m. portage from Porcupine to Hospital Lake was willow and alder thickets so we hiked to Fort Yukon and obtained a riverboat and towed canoes to Fort Yukon.

A bird list and general information can be obtained in the PDF Sheenjek River File by clicking on it below.


Complete river log

PDF icon Sheenjek River [1658 kb]

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