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Floating the Delta River

May 25, 2013

Before I begin my story this is what one blogger reported about his trip on the Delta.  “The first day was mellow, the second a little more interesting, and the third day was fourteen-hours of nerve frying terror.”

The Delta River float from Round Lake is twenty nine miles long, with twenty two miles of clear pristine water, and seven mile of ugly glacier water, so dark and dirty you forget why you are there. Fishing is why I was there.


  1. An environmental wonderland - Delta RiverAn environmental wonderland - Delta River

    People who have read about Alaska say, “It sounds like there’s a moose behind every tree, caribou wandering the city streets, and a fish on every cast.” Well, that day it felt like “the fish on every cast” was true, and it was perfect. We had twelve miles and two days of this to-die-for fishing. We slowly floated down this enchanting river, seeing eagles and dozens of ravens overhead, river banks full of various flowers, cooking over a campfire, laughing, bragging about the biggest, or the most fish, and just loving the beauty of Alaska.

    On the morning of the third day, we put the fishing gear away and wrapped a tarp around our supplies, and then I put on my life jacket. This would be the end of our crystal-clear water and good fishing. Our map showed that Eureka Creek, which is a glacier-fed creek, entered about a quarter mile past where we were camping. It was sad to see these two rivers merging, one clear, and the other dark and silt-filled from the glaciers. With the dirty water also came sandbars and many small channels, creating slower-moving water. It was to be about seven more miles before we hit Phelan Creek, where we planned to pull out. We expected to be home by our daughter’s bedtime.

    This part of the trip wasn’t that much fun—not a nice tranquil float like the day before. We had to keep watching for the best channel because some were so shallow the bottom of the boat would drag.

    I was positioned in the front of the boat to be the spotter for the best channel, shallow areas, and sweepers of trees or rocks. Suddenly, the river quickly dropped, and ahead was a huge whirlpool. In a flash, our boat was like a champagne cork popped into the air. When we hit the edge of the whirlpool, the boat was airborne at least ten feet in the air, with me hanging onto the side.

    Hub had told me in the past that if the boat ever tips over, I should hold onto the side and not let go, no matter what. As the boat flew out of the water, I grabbed the side as I had been told. When the boat came back down from its flight, it was on top of my head with the tarp holding me down and my life jacket pushing me up. The water was so dark, I couldn’t see which way was up or down. I felt along the boat, but instead of going across it, I guess I was going the length.

    I knew what was happening, and it just seemed to be a simple job of either getting the tarp off or diving below it. There was no way I was going to dump my life jacket, but I knew it was the main problem at the moment. It wouldn’t allow me to dive below the tarp and yet was also keeping me safe from being swept away. I was quite surprised I wasn’t freezing or gasping and choking on water. I wasn’t scared to death. I was just really pissed off that I couldn’t see the sky. I didn’t mind the black water or the cold, and I remember thinking, “This is a horrid way to die, not seeing the sky.” It was interesting to me that our little boat had become so long, and I was totally amazed at how long I could hold my breath. Then my thought turned to my daughter, and I focused on her pretty little face, with a huge smile showing four new teeth. Suddenly, I felt a big hand grab my life jacket and start yanking me through the water. I was a little terrified by this sudden rush of power and afraid to see who or what was pulling me through the water. My first thought was “This must be God yanking me up, and I must be dead.”

    Then Hub threw me on the top of the upside-down boat and told me to hang on. There was nothing to hang on to, only the wet, smooth, and slippery fiberglass. I was shaking so hard from the icy water, and my fingers weren’t working. “If I go back in, I’ll never make it.” I managed to say, “But don’t worry, that’s okay. It’s not too bad in there.”

    He started yelling at me, “Hold on, don’t let go. You can do it, just don’t let go. Goddammit Donna, I couldn’t find you. I told you, always stay with the boat. When I swam back to the boat, you weren’t there. The only thing I could see was something orange. God damn you, hold on! You can’t let go!” Hub kept yelling as he tried to pull us to shallow water.

    As we got our footing and walked towards a sandbar, our boat hit a huge rock in the fast current and was swept away. It was resting against a rock in the deeper water. Oops, the only thing we had was a boat floating down river with no paddles, a man with one boot, and a woman who was so cold, she kept going back into the glacial water to feel warmer, and almost no hope of any help.

    When we got ashore, Hub explained what took him so long to get back to me. When the boat had flipped over, he had started to swim for shore, but his boots had filled with water and were slowing him down. Finally, he kicked one off. Then he looked around and couldn’t see me alongside the boat, so he swam back to the boat, but all he could see was something orange. He grabbed it and pulled it up. Luckily, it was my orange life jacket and me.

    Stay tuned for more Delta float adventure, and soon you will be able to read it all in “THE WILD SIDE OF ALASKA”

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