- Class I-IV
- River Length
- 60 miles
- 1/2 day-2 days
- May to September
The Nenana River is the most popular whitewater river in the state of Alaska. Located at the eastern edge of 6 million acre Denali National Park and Preserve, the Nenana River parallels the Parks Highway for the majority of its length. Originating in the Nenana Range, a spur of the majestic Alaska Range, the Nenana River drains the mighty Susitna and Yanert Glaciers. The Nenana River’s waters run cold and brown with sediment, consisting of half snowmelt and half glacial melt.
The Nenana River features several sections of whitewater that are easily accessed from the Parks Highway. The difficulty of the whitewater on the Nenana ranges by section from scenic and calm to advanced intermediate and technical. Two popular sections known as the Gorge and McKinley Village Runs feature continuous whitewater with fast and powerful flows, haystack sized waves, large hydraulics and scattered holes. An alternative put-in at a tributary of the Nenana, the Yanert Fork, can add a bit of excitement to trips with access via scenic helicopter ride.
The Nenana River flows through a mix of thick pine forest and open river valley, allowing for views into majestic Denali National Park, home to Mt. McKinley (20,320 feet), the highest mountain in North America. Waterfalls spill from canyon walls along the Nenana within its tighter river canyons. Wildlife viewing along the Nenana River is excellent, with frequent sightings of Dall Sheep, Bear, Moose, Barren-Ground Caribou, Wolf and Eagles.
Access to the Nenana River is quite easy as the Parks Highway follows the river for most of its boatable length. Put-ins and take-outs are numerous along the way. Most trips on the Nenana originate in the small town of Healey, located 11 miles south of the entrance to Denali National Park.
Shorter trips possible