I’ve wanted to visit Katmai forever and this year I was finally able to make it happen. I also wanted to do some packrafting while I was there and after a bunch of research- American Creek made the cut.
Orlan, Mike, and I flew into Hammersly Lake with Cecile (C-Air out of King Salmon) as our bush pilot. It should be noted that it is possible to fly from Anchorage directly to Kulik Lodge with Katmai Air. Seats are reserved for guests of the lodge but occasionally they have a couple openings. It would be worth your time to check on availability. Once at Kulik, you could then hike the 8 miles to American Creek. Most of the hiking is above treeline and looks pretty good. You may even be able to float the small tributary there but be careful, there is a waterfall in the vicinity.
We began our float in early July, before the salmon run, so we didn’t have to contend with a multitude of bears. In fact, we only saw two. We took another packrafters advice though and brought a bear-fence anyway. The alders were thick near camp spots on the lower river and the fence made sleeping a heck of a lot easier.
When entering the 1st canyon, you will notice a football-sized blotch of red lichen on the face of a small cliff, river-right. This is the indication you are within a quarter mile of the tricky, class III+ rapid. It needs to be scouted. A steep but easy portage can be found on river-right.
The spectacular lower canyon is a great place to fish. Every cast reveals a pink polka-dotted Char. We opted to catch and release so the next folks will have the same fun we had.
The high water this year produced a series of logjams that appear around blind corners. When the river begins to braid be very careful. The volume of water being forced through these strainers would pin you. We had to portage 4 times.
Check out the video of our trip here!
After encountering the major tributary flowing from the west, be sure to find a camp within 1 mile. After that, there is nothing but swamp until the take-out. At the pick-up spot, be sure to plan a night on top of the obvious hill, it’s a special place.
Plan on bringing a headlamp. I didn’t and wished I had one. In Katmai you are at a low enough latitude to have some pretty dark nights.
I recommend Cecile (C-Air) highly. He’s a one-man operation with a Cessna 185. He flew the three of us with all our packraft gear into Hammersly Lake and out of Coville Lake for $950- if you shop around you will find that this is one hell of a deal.
Brad Meiklejohn has some great advice for those who want to float American Creek. Read it HERE.