Overnighter on the Chatanika River

Outdoor_Fool

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My son and I took off Saturday afternoon for a 1-nighter on a local river, the Chatanika, east of Fairbanks. We loaded the cataraft, grabbed some groceries and made the 50-mile drive to our put-in. The trip was mostly uneventful on the beautiful river. Unfortunately, I neglected to take any pictures until we were well into the trip. As it is near the height of mosquito season, I was too busy waving them off my head to have time for much else than guiding the boat down river. My son Riley was hunkered down in his rain gear and his head buried in his arms to keep them away. We cruised along with the constant companionship of 100 - 200 of our least favorite friends clouded around us. Our dog, Willow was being mauled incessantly.

At around 1030 that night, the temps had dropped a bit giving us, and other creatures in the area, some respite from the mosquitos. As we were moseying along, we were a little surprised to see a cow moose and her weeks-old calf enter the river from the willows on the north bank. She and the calf were crossing the river about 70 yards below us. As soon as she became aware of us approaching her, her hackles went up and she was pissed. She started to growl at us pretty loudly but did not move off the river. Luckily, we had some small eddies on either side of us so I parked the cataraft, and waited. The calf was a bit freaked out, and started back where they had come, but the cow remained unmoved. She growled a few more times but slowly calmed down. After ~5 minutes, she eventually finished the crossing with the calf at her heels. Whew!

I pulled out from the eddy and had gone 40 - 50 yards downstream when I saw another cow and calf crossing the river from the south side. She saw us and stopped.

Chat_cow2&calf-2.jpg


Her hackles are up. The river is only 20 - 25 yards wide at this point so I didn't want to risk trying to swing by her.

Chat_cow2&calf-3.jpg


Like the first cow, she stood there. Usually they walk or run off so I assumed she was ready to kick some butt, if necessary. We stayed back 50-60 yards. I was so happy to have a nice eddy to pull off into.

Chat_cow2&calf-4.jpg


Riley and I parked the boat and went over to check out a side channel as an option to avoid her but the channel was blocked with downed trees. We would have to wait.
And wait.

Chat_cow2&calf-5.jpg


After about 25 minutes, she finally relented and walked back into the trees she had come from. We gave her a few more minutes and jumped into the boat to begin again.

We had gone about 60 yards past the 2nd cow when I saw this.

Chat_cow3&calf.jpg


Chat_cow3&calf-3.jpg


What the? There was a gravel bar to pull over to so we did. This cow was upset. She growled at us a couple times but quickly calmed down so I walked down a few yards to take some pictures, then returned to the boat. After a couple minutes, she walked onto the bank and her calf followed. They stayed on the shore of the river but I felt that we had a real good chance to float by her without upsetting her much. This worked out as planned.

But as luck would have it, a cow with twins was just downstream of her. She wanted no part of us and quickly moved into the trees. We floated past her and continued on. A couple hundred yards further downstream we saw another cow and a solo calf but she was having none of it and took off downstream. We saw her a couple more times with her calf desperately trying to keep up. They eventually disappeared into the forest.

At this point, it was after 11 pm. Riley was burned out on the mosquitoes and just wanted to finish the float and go home. We had ~3 more hours of floating to the takeout, then shuttling the vehicles, loading the boat and gear, and an hour drive home which would put us at home at 4-5 in the morning. I overruled him and we pulled over to camp at this point.

Chatboat&obstacle.jpg


It would take us at least a half hour to unload the boat, pull the boat around the log, and reload so camp was established.

Chat_evening_camp-2.jpg


We had some Mac 'n Cheese for dinner along with some hot chocolate and quickly fell asleep at 130 am. Willow had a nice bed alongside me.

The next morning I left the tent around 9 am to a beautiful and hot sun. There were a few mosquitoes around but not many. I let Riley sleep as I moved the boat below the log. He woke up, we packed and headed downriver.

Chat_morning_raft.jpg


Chat_RC&Willow-2.jpg


The mosquitoes were just annoying enough to keep Riley in his rain jacket. Willow was barely being harassed by them.

Eventually, Riley took the helm and guided us to our takeout.

Chat_RC_oaring.jpg


Some more river scenes...

Chat_Willow_relaxed.jpg


Chat_river_scene-2.jpg


There's a few cabins along the way but most are not so visible.

Chat_river_scene-3.jpg


Not the most scenic takeout in Alaska but real convenient. It's great that Riley is driving now. No more hitchhiking (usually).

Chat_takeout-2.jpg
 
Last edited:

scatman

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Beautiful country! Kind of makes me want to take a trip to the far north. :) Glad the moose didn't cause you any trouble.
 

Rockskipper

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The only baby moose I've ever seen was over by Harding Lake - really cool photos!

@scatman be careful - that north country gets under your skin. Best to stay away because it's too far and you keep thinking about it. Wish I was there right now.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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The only baby moose I've ever seen was over by Harding Lake - really cool photos!

IIRC, we ended up seeing 9 cows and 10 calves that evening all within about a 2-mile stretch of the river. The area in the photos was practically swarming with them.

@scatman be careful - that north country gets under your skin. Best to stay away because it's too far and you keep thinking about it. Wish I was there right now.

Yes it does.
 

scatman

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The only baby moose I've ever seen was over by Harding Lake - really cool photos!

@scatman be careful - that north country gets under your skin. Best to stay away because it's too far and you keep thinking about it. Wish I was there right now.

You and me both! @Outdoor_Fool has got it made. After I graduated from college (back in the Bronze Age), I spent almost a month in the Juneau area with a girl that I went to school with. I fell in love with the place, and upon my return to Utah, I applied for a couple of positions in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks. But alas, :( I wasn't chosen for any of the openings, and the rest they say is history. I plan on doing some backpacking in Alaska once I retire and believe it or not, I'm eligible in one more month :thumbsup:, though I'll most likely continue to work until my daughter graduates from college.
 

Rockskipper

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You and me both! @Outdoor_Fool has got it made. After I graduated from college (back in the Bronze Age), I spent almost a month in the Juneau area with a girl that I went to school with. I fell in love with the place, and upon my return to Utah, I applied for a couple of positions in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks. But alas, :( I wasn't chosen for any of the openings, and the rest they say is history. I plan on doing some backpacking in Alaska once I retire and believe it or not, I'm eligible in one more month :thumbsup:, though I'll most likely continue to work until my daughter graduates from college.

Don't wait, you never know what might happen. You could win the lottery (you do go up to the Malad gas station all the time and buy tickets, right?) and end up on a yacht in the Caribbean or some such nonsense. Be careful, time is of the essence, my Scatster friend. DON'T WAIT. One month? Just time to prepare. I'm sure @Outdoor_Fool would let you move in with him for awhile :lol:, and applications are now open for the road lottery - I actually won once:


This guy has some great trip reports from up there:

 

Miya

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Dec 31, 2017
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Glad you didn't get hit by an protective mamma moose!

Thanks for sharing! Gosh they are so massive, I can't wait to see one someday! :)
 
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