APA Outing: APA-KWG Wrangell Circuit

***Sorry, the application deadline has passed***

APA-KWG Wrangell Circuit:

The American Packrafting Association is pleased to announce that we will be teaming with Kennicott Wilderness Guides to offer a 5-day packraft outing in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in July of 2018. APA, with board members Theresa Lundquist and Sarah Tingey, will host the trip, while KWG will provide a professional guide to lead the group. We will leave the historic town of Kennicott on Tuesday, July 24th and ascend the Root Glacier, from there we will work our way over two ridges and run three rivers, including the melt-off-swollen Nizina river. We will return to McCarthy on Saturday, July 28th.

Kennicott Wilderness Guides is offering this trip at a substantially discounted rate in support of our work here at the APA. They will also be offering equipment rentals at a discounted rate. We are very excited to be working with this well-known and respected company. During the trip we will learn about Leave No Trace principles and how they apply in the alpine region and river corridors of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Applicants will not be considered by skill level and experience alone. We also will be considering candidates for their genuine interest in this trip, their contribution toward creating a diverse group, and how they complement the skills and experience of the leaders and other party members.

Due to overwhelming demand, registration closed briefly on March 22, but has reopened until midnight on Friday, March 30. Applicants will be contacted by Sunday, April 8 to let them know whether they have been accepted on the trip. We hope to offer other equally amazing trips in the future!

Dates: July 24 – 28, 2018

Application Deadline: March 30, 2018

Difficulty: Long intense days, class 2-4 whitewater, bushwhacking, rough terrain

Approximate Trip Costs: $375/person

Duration: 5 days, 4 nights

Leaders: Kennicott Wilderness Guides

Group Size: 10

General Trip description: 

This trip starts in the town of Kennicott and, assuming river conditions are conducive, will end with a van pickup just a few minutes drive from the Kennicott River foot bridge. The trip will cross many different types of terrain including glacier and moraines, bushwhacking, steep ascents and descents, rocky slopes, alpine tundra, and river bar hiking.

As for the paddling, the trip will float down 3 different rivers (or creeks), all with different characteristics. Depending on river level, the trip may involve paddling Class III water, with a lot of variety of Class II+. Each of the different rivers will have its own unique character allowing participants to experience the wide variety that the Wrangells has to offer. There will be sections of tight boulder gardens, shallow braided creek beds, a few pool drop rapids, a tight canyon with pushy walls, and the large powerful hydraulics of the Nizina River.


Route Description:

From Kennecott, we will hike along the old Root Glacier Trail to the base of the Erie Mine, before dropping down the lateral moraine cut bank to access the glacier level. From there, we can expect a few hours of demanding rocky lateral moraine hiking before reaching the white ice. After donning crampons, we will hike a few miles on the white ice, zigzagging through visible crevasse fields (all open and ablated ice, NOT requiring roped travel) before once again crossing a rocky lateral moraine at the base of our ascent.

We will then climb the steep, moderately brushy slope into the alpine and on our way to the pass. This climb is over 2,000 feet with some steep and unstable alpine slopes. From the pass down into McCarthy Creek, expect 2,000 feet of steep but enjoyable terrain.

We then inflate our boats, and have about 5 miles of up to class III whitewater to paddle before pulling out to start our next climb into the alpine. This section of river is littered with boulder gardens and a few noticeable pool-drop rapids. Depending on river levels, we can hike upstream for an optional class IV section of river. It is rare that this section is runnable, but depending on the water levels and group dynamic, there might be options for interested members of the group to run the upper rapids.

There are a few different options of ways over the Nikoali Ridge system to get to the West Fork River. If conditions require, we may run an additional 5 miles of McCarthy Creek to make our ascent into the alpine via a route that is farther downriver. However, our first option is to ascend via an area near Lube Creek.

This climb starts out in extremely steep brush and is certainly a challenge. We climb 3,000 feet from McCarthy Creek to the Nikolai Ridge system before descending 3,600 feet to the river level of the West Fork River. This descent starts out pleasant, but ends with the last 1,500 feet or so of descent through thick brush.

Once at the West Fork, we need to be prepared for 6+ miles of Class II+ to III (III+ if the water levels are super high). The river is mainly a swift-moving river with a few tight pushy corners into steep canyon walls. There are few distinct rapids. Toward the end of the West Fork, there is one really fun Class III to III+ pool drop rapid that is easily portaged. This rapid can be lapped for extra fun! Eventually, the West Fork drains into the Nizina River.

The Nizina is a large glacial river, which is typically swollen from the melting ice in July. Although the river is only rated a Class II, it is full of large and powerful hydraulics with strong eddy fences with unpredictable whirlpools. It is not uncommon to see large trees floating in the river as well. During the middle section of the Nizina River, we can expect to encounter many different braided channels, some with strong currents and others too shallow for packrafts.

After the long braided section, the river becomes a single channel and we enter the powerful upper Nizina Canyon. Again, the main hazards are extremely powerful hydraulics, strong eddy lines, and intermittent whirlpools that can be large enough to capture a larger raft.  There are also a few sections of large and fun wave trains.

Once the Nizina Meets the Kennicott River, we shoulder our inflated boats and hike a mile or so up river, and then ferry across the Kennicott River to the west bank. From there, we need to hike below the high-water line to avoid private property until we arrive at the public access to the road. There will be a bit more bushwhacking to reach the vans. From here, it is only about 10 minutes in the van until we are at the Kennicott River footbridge.

The exact route and campsites that we will use on this trip will vary depending on hiking and river conditions, as well as group abilities and dynamics. As for pace, we will need to keep the group moving (especially the first day) to make sure we can finish the trip in five days. We hope to be able to spend extra time on the river, and if the pace is going well, to run sections multiple times for the fun of it!


Suggested Level of Experience:

This is a true Alaskan big wilderness trip with limited options for emergency extraction. The terrain is big and rugged and only the first two hours of hiking takes place on any kind of trail. All other travel will be off trail and at times quite difficult. We are not requiring prior Alaska Wilderness experience, but it helps.

In order to do this trip, we are asking that folks are in good shape and able to hike with a full pack for 8+ hours through rugged off-trail terrain. Participants should also be comfortable hiking up to 3,500 feet over steep terrain with a full pack in a day, and should feel comfortable descending similar terrain. There will be difficult hours of loose and unstable rocks as well as a few hours of steep and unstable bushwhacking. The climbs and descents will be steep and there will be some moderate exposure. Although we will avoid any death fall exposure, participants should be prepared for times when a fall would result in potential serious injury.

Previous glacier travel experience is not required, nor is previous multi-day packraft backpacking required. However, this is NOT a trip for first time backpackers, no matter how good of packrafters they are.

As for paddling experience, participants should be comfortable “off the couch” Class II boaters as a minimum. Even if participants are not experienced backcountry wilderness packrafters, boat packing and rigging, self-rescue skills, basic paddle strokes, ferrying, catching eddies, and getting in and out of your boats in tight spots is required. While there will be ample opportunities to learn new skills or hone existing skills, boaters with limited experience or boaters who are not comfortable with the above skills should either contact KWG for a prep course ahead of this trip, or should not sign up.

Most of all, a good attitude is required, especially for the bushwhacking and slow moving sections of rocky moraines and the potential butt bouncy boating of the shallow braided sections of the Nizina River.


General Gear List

Packrafting Kit:

  • Packraft (whitwater deck is preferred, but not required)
  • Paddle
  • Helmet (required)*
  • PFD (required)*
  • Drysuit (required)*
  • Neoprene Socks (suggested)*
  • Neoprene gloves or pogies (suggested)*
  • Extra accessories including personal repair kit, dry bags or bow bags, fire kit…etc


Backpacking Kit:

  • Comfortable backpack that you can pack all gear and food (suggested size of 65+ L minimum).
  • Tent/mid
  • Sleeping bag/pad
  • Stove & fuel/mess kit (shared stoves are fine as long as cook groups are worked out and arranged ahead of time)


Personal/hiking kit:

  • All hiking and camping layers from head to toe. Plan on temps ranging from nighttime lows in the 40’s to daytime highs of upwards of 70’s.  As participants should have backpacking experience, everyone is going to have their own systems that work.
  • Lightweight puffy (suggested)
  • Footwear should be more then sneakers if possible. We know that many people backpack in sneakers, and if participants have extensive rugged Alaskan backcontry experience, then it should be ok, but not ideal.  The Wrangells are RUGGED and footwear should reflect that.  There will be times of kicking steps into concrete style dirt, steep side-hilling, lots of scree and rocks, and general rugged terrain.  Full shank mountaineering boots are not suggested, but rather a sturdy, lightweight hiking boot will work great.  Over the ankle hiking crossover sneakers are fine as well.
  • Crampons (required)*
  • Trekking pole (suggested)
  • Rain gear
  • Buff (suggested)
  • Bug net (optional)
  • Personal first aid kit (ok to share with other group members if it is arranged ahead of time)
  • All the usual stuff like camera, sunscreen, lip balm… whatever you normally carry



  • Food will all be provided by participants. It is encouraged to share in meal planning and to develop cook groups.
  • 5 days of food + at least 1 day of emergency food is required
  • Bear resistant food containers (BRFC)(Required by law. Participants refusing to carry BRFC will not be allowed to participate on the trip.  KWG will provide, at no extra cost, Ursacks to anyone who needs them).


*The items with astriks are required.  If you do not have these items, then KWG can rent them for the following amounts:

  • Crampons – $20/person
  • PFD – $20/person
  • Whitewater helmet – $20/person
  • Drysuit – $50/person
  • Neoprene Gloves – $10/person
  • Neoprene Socks – $10/person
  • Ursack BRFC – Free




Contact Us

American Packrafting Association

PO Box 13
Wilson, WY 83014