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McCallum Creek

McCallum Creek is a rowdy ribbon of Class III whitewater draining steep, glaciated country near Rainbow Ridge along the Richardson Highway. The gradient averages approximately 170 feet/mile and is a very challenging, rock strewn creek, which is likely dangerous at higher water levels. The basin is fed by snowmelt, rainfall, and a couple glaciers in the headwaters, so the water level may vary considerably depending on the time of year and weather conditions.

When the water level is favorable, this is a "golden" trip since it begins and ends at the same location and does not require a car shuttle. Park in the gravel pit at milepost 206.5 and look for a narrow gravel road/ATV trail that leaves the highway just north of the gravel pit, or bushwhack from the gravel pit towards the creek and you will intersect this road. The gravel road parallels an unnamed creek and eventually turns into a game trail as it ascends a 4400 foot pass that leads towards upper McCallum Creek. Stay to the right as you descend toward the creek, the final pitch is steep and it is possible to get "cliffed-out", but there are tongues of brush that provide a safe path to the valley floor. It's about a 3 mile hike over the pass to McCallum Creek.


Drop your packraft in the creek and hold on - McCallum Creek is fast flowing and requires a lot of back paddling and digging in deep with your paddle as obstacles approach rapidly. Be on the alert for wildlife along the creek, such as bears, because there is very little time to react and eddy out. After about 3.5 miles, McCallum drains into Phelan Creek which takes you right back to your starting point. 

McCallum Creek is un-gauged, but conveniently, the creek crosses the Richardson Highway so you can check on the water level before hiking into the upper basin. There is also a 2nd bridge on an AT&T access road that intersects the creek about a mile above the Richardson Highway. The water level at the bridge in the above image made for a fun float with enough water to prevent being beat up by too many rocks.

The 5 mile float on Phelan Creek requires some navigation, and luck, because this glacial river is very braided with many shallow channels. Try to stay to river left as much as possible to remain in the relatively deeper channels. The views of Rainbow Ridge are stunning from Phelan Creek. This trip is about 12 miles round trip and can easily be done in a day, but it's about a 3 hour drive from Fairbanks, so it may be wise to camp in the area to avoid a long day of driving.

Here is some video footage from McCallum Creek. Have fun!

Packrafting McCallum Creek, Alaska