The last frontier home of grizzly bears, moose, caribou and dall sheep
"The highlight of our trip!"
"What an exciting way to experience Denali! Beautiful scenery and refreshing whitewater! Our guide was professional, safe and fun. I would highly recommend this to anyone traveling up to Denali. It was the highlight of our trip!"
The Denali Experience
Denali National Park is world famous for the mountain that gave the Park its name – Denali.
With a summit elevation of 20,320 feet above sea level, it is the tallest mountain in North America. Measured from base to summit, Denali has more topographical relief than any other mountain on the planet, over 17,000 feet.
Resulting from the titanic tectonic collision occurring as the Pacific Ocean plate subducts and grinds its way beneath the North American continent, Denali dwarfs the mountains surrounding it, reigning as the crown jewel of the Alaska Range. With numerous active glaciers pouring off its flanks, Denali is still locked in the last ice age. Containing over six million acres, Denali National Park was set aside to preserve not only the mountain and pristine surrounding lands, but its tremendous wildlife and game populations as well.
Famous mountaineer, wildlife and National Geographic “cover-shot” photographer Galen Rowell described Denali National Park as the finest location in North America for large-mammal wildlife viewing.
For most of the summer Denali has continuous daylight. Most of the “Park Road” is above timberline. And because traffic on the Park road is limited, wildlife are easily spotted close to and sometimes on the road itself. For a family of four—Mom Dad and 2 kids under 15—a day on the Park’s shuttle bus system is an affordable way to get in touch with incredible wilderness and wildlife viewing—for under $100.00.
In June of 1980, when I was just shy of my sixteenth birthday, and on the last day of school (Chugiak High School), my beloved Mother picked me up in our trusty, green 1975 Ford F-150—”Booger” and along with her mother drove me north to what was then called Mt. McKinley National Park—to join an expedition to climb Denali. We walked in from Wonder Lake, supported by Berle Mercer’s packhorses. We crossed McKinley Bar, trekked up and over McGonagall pass, crossed the Muldrow Glacier and then made our way up the Traleika Glacier to make a first attempt on a new route up to Karsten’s Ridge below the Coxcomb. We set over 3,000 feet of fixed rope and didn’t even get close to the crux of the route. Led by Jeff Babcock, this expedition was not successful in summiting. It was however, the greatest adventure a fifteen-year old high school kid could have and I have been in love with the Denali Park area ever since…. The draw of this majestic peak has no equal in North America.
Although we’ve been in the rafting business at Denali for 32 seasons, we readily admit that the main reason people visit Denali National Park is to journey back in time, watching for wildlife and seeing North America as it existed just after the retreat of Pleistocene ice sheets about 12,000 years ago.
I write this to put rafting at Denali in the proper perspective….
As awesome as it is to raft the Nenana, and it is straight up awesome—with door-busting whitewater rapids very similar in size and type to those in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, it is the magnetic force of the Mountain itself that brings our rafting guests to the Nenana’s riparian shores.
An Excellent Pairing: Explore Denali National Park and Raft the Nenana River
Exploring Denali National Park combined with rafting the Nenana River, is a set of adventures that will make it to the top of any “must-do” travel list. An excellent pairing….
The North face of Denali is known as the Wickersham wall—named after Territorial Judge James Wickersham. This “wall of shadows” is the vertical shear plane of the Denali Fault system. This fault system exhibits similar movement to the San Andreas system—a “strike-slip” fault. The Denali Fault is not only bigger than the San Andreas, it also has a huge vertical movement component as well.
This gigantic rip in the earth’s crust is visible from space and easily discernible on topographic maps. The 22-mile section of the Nenana River where we operate our half-day raft trips crosses the Hines Creek strand of the Denali Fault, and in about 500 yards the river completely changes character as it begins cutting through the pre-Cambrian basement rocks of the Alaska Range.
The crossing of the Denali Fault by the Nenana River, just downstream of its confluence with Riley Creek is essentially the dividing line between our Class II-III Upper Nenana Scenic “Wilderness Run” and the Class IV whitewater of our runs through the Nenana Gorge. Our River Office at Milepost 238 of the Parks Highway lies a half mile downstream from the Hines Creek strand of the Denali Fault system.
Many Rafting Options Available: From Peacefully Calm to Class IV Whitewater
We have several rafting options available for visitors to the Denali Park area. With over 30 miles of road-accessible river to choose from, the Nenana has peacefully calm, non-whitewater sections as well as large volume Class IV whitewater.
Trips can vary in length from 2 hour/11-mile whitewater thrillers through the Nenana Gorge to multi-day helicopter supported trips which launch within sight of the Nenana’s source glaciers on Mt. Deborah.
For visitors desiring small groups and wilderness settings, we suggest taking an overnight trip, camping along the river as you go. On our overnight trips you can choose from several options. For visitors looking for the exotic, a 2-day/1-night helicopter supported raft trip putting in on the Yanert Fork of the Nenana is a must. For those on smaller budgets, we can still camp on the river, but can hold down costs by accessing the main fork of the Nenana by road.
For visitors on day-trip schedules, we have several half day and full day trips to choose from, with 3 launch times per day. The “check-in” times on those launches are at:
- 8 AM (0800hrs)
- 2 PM(1400hrs)
- 6 PM (1800hrs)
And within each of those launch times we launch two separate trips:
- A class II Class III beginning level raft trip (suitable for children 5-years and older): “The Upper Nenana Scenic Wilderness”
- A Class IV whitewater run through “The Nenana Gorge”
Each of these raft trips run approximately 11 miles of river and require about 3-4 hours total time from check-in time to tour completion.
Regardless of the time you have available at Denali National Park, we’ll provide you with an enjoyable raft trip that meets your schedule as well as your budget.
We look forward to having you as our guests.
Visit Alaska and join Nenana Raft Adventures for raft trips and land tours exploring Alaska’s spectacular wilderness areas. From mild to wild, we run some of the most beautiful rivers in the world.
The Talkeetna River, Sixmile Creek and the Nenana River are our favorites. From challenging Class V Alaska whitewater rafting to scenic wilderness trips through national forests, we offer a range of trip options catering to all ages and ability levels.
Our raft trips range in length from two hours to two weeks. We offer a variety of multi-day expeditions on the Tana, Chulitna, Talkeetna and Copper Rivers. On these trips you’ll spend days on the river paddling, hiking and exploring with your guides and your nights in camp with peace, solitude and delicious meals. For guests travelling on tighter schedules we offer several half day and full day raft trips in the Anchorage and Denali National Park areas.
Choose from peaceful paddles, whitewater introductions or heart-stopping Class V descents. Exploring Alaska by raft utilizes a low impact means of travel through Alaska’s vast wilderness and riparian areas. Rafting maximizes your opportunities to experience Alaska while ensuring that we leave a light footprint.
With magnificent scenery and abundant meals, a raft trip is more than whitewater. It’s an opportunity for self-discovery. The chance to make new friendships and renew old ones. What you’ll discover is that friendships made around our campfires will last you a lifetime.
See you on the river!
Upper Nenana Scenic Raft
Nenana Gorge Whitewater
Experience the thrill of rafting Denali
Check out these other Alaska Adventures with our Affiliate Companies:
Chugach Outdoor Center
Alaska Sea Kayakers