After lunch at Haley Creek on the Copper River, Alaska, float trip in 1998, we embarked with care and paddled hard to the opposite shore to bypass a powerful whirlpool below the creek delta. I’ve experienced this hydraulic in a jet boat, it is an adrenalin packed adventure where the boat goes through a tunnel of whirling water, in the center of the whirlpool all you can see is water. An experience to definitely avoid in a heavily loaded raft. Continuing our float in the misty rain we observed Bald Eagles soaring overhead, spotted bears in the mountainside tundra, and immersed ourselves in the spectacular wilderness landscape. Access to shore at the mouth of the Uranatina River, our destination for the first night camp was blocked by debris and shallow braided channels. Disappointed that we were unable to explore this region, we pulled ashore a large sand bar on the river delta for the night. Kitchen consisted of several folding tables, propane stove, coolers, and overhead tarps as rain shelter. Everyone sought out smooth sandy areas to pitch small tents a distance away from the kitchen and food as a precaution from bears, we were careful to follow the principles of “leave no trace” for the campsite.
The scenery on the first day was nothing less than spectacular, glaciers adorned the mountain tops, waterfalls everywhere, driftwood, rocky outcroppings, and vegetation made the landscape an artists paradise. Finding time to sketch or draw on a trip of this kind was impossible, so I used my camera to record subject matter to use for future paintings. At each camp we unloaded the rafts and hauled the gear to a kitchen location where everyone took turns setting up, cooking, and cleaning up after the meal. We each individually set up our own tents. Heavy lifting, constant activity, and the impact of working outdoors all day wore me out, I slept very sound the first night on the spectacular Copper River.
Gail Niebrugge, Alaska artist