Copper River Float Begins at Chitina

Searching through my archives; journals, photos, files, and maps, seeking subject matter for aa new painting I found photos from a very interesting float trip in 1998 on the Copper River, Alaska, and thought I’d share this experience with you on my blog.  The goal was worthy, a bit heady, and offered a chance to explore a significant place in history of the region.  I had the pleasure of being invited as guest artist on this trip that began one rainy summer day near the bridge over the Copper River at Chitina.  Three rafts and thirteen people assembled enough gear for a week, everything was packed into rubber dry bags, or plastic coolers, and lashed securely in place on each inflated boat.  The method for propelling these floating crafts were paddles, we took turns paddling, two on each side.  The first project was to inflate each raft with a pump, we brought manual foot pumps as part of our survival equipment along with patch kits, duct tape and glue.

Pictured is my husband, Bob, packing his small personal dry bag next to our loaded raft.  With up to six people in each boat there wasn’t much room to move around, seating was either on top of the gear or on the inflated sides.  Everyone was required to wear a white water life vest, and no one planned to fall into this very cold, swift, glacier fed river that was muddy with silt at this time of the year.

This trip had a purpose, the participants had professional knowledge of this river, the history, hydrology, geology, and represented the Bureau of Land Management, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the city of Cordova, Ahtna, Copper Basin Search and Rescue, Trails and Recreation Access in Alaska (TRAAK), and were tasked with looking at and discussing the proposed Rails to Trails project on the former Copper River and Northwestern Railroad corridor along the east bank of the Copper River.  The idea to utilize the historic rail bed as a hiking trail was an unrealized dream of many people.  We were going to evaluate the pros and cons of such a ventrue.  We launched our heavily laden flotilla by mid morning and were on our way down a beautiful wild river full of spawning salmon in the midst of some of the most spectacular scenery in Alaska.  I was elated!

More tomorrow,

Gail Niebrugge, Alaska artist

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