Low water on Eagle River lends itself to gravel bar hiking

Monday, April 22, 2019 - 09:26
  • Scott Sims carries John Kogl across Eagle River during a recent hike. (Frank Baker photo)
  • Paul Forward, Pete Panarese, John Kogl and Scott Sims survey the Eagle River Valley during an April hike. (Frank Baker photo)

The sun was bright and the air warm (and devoid of mosquitoes!) April 14 as we hiked the three miles from the Eagle River Nature to Echo Bend. With relatively dry weather in early April, the trail was in good condition, with very few muddy spots.

Joining me on this outing were Eagle River’s Pete Panarese, Scott Sims and Paul Foreward. Starting later and running the trail was Sims’ friend John Kogl, who easily caught up with us before reaching Echo Bend.

It’s still early spring in the mountains and the glaciers have hardly begun to melt. The water level on the river channels at Echo Bend and beyond were only about 10 inches and my hip-length Neos waders were definitely “overkill.” Others in the group used neoprene waders and socks.

Kogl and Sims had earlier made a wager that Sims couldn’t carry Kogl across the river. Wearing only tennis shoes and certain to get wet, Kogl was surprised when Sims, 20 years his senior, carried him briskly across the channel without difficulty, as well as several other channels later in the hike. Upon completion of these carries, Sims’ beaming smile was reminiscent of that worn by karate instructor Mr. Miyagi in the 1984 movie “The Karate Kid” when his young student, who he called “Daniel Son,” won the karate match.

I’m not sure what was won in the wager. If it wasn’t beer, it was most certainly ego.

Staying off the main Crow Pass trail and proceeding along the gravel bars toward the Perch, at about Mile 5, we noticed quite a few sheep on the cliffs above. A few were resting on a rock only 500 feet above us and seemed to be content soaking up the warm sun.

Hiking in Neos waders, which accommodate one’s entire shoe or boot, is not very comfortable, so I took them on and off several times as we crossed the river’s numerous channels – none of which were more than 10-12 inches deep.

We only hiked about half a mile past the Perch, but it was great to get out with friends and enjoy the stunning beauty of upper Eagle River Valley.

And I’m sure that despite the fact John Kogl lost his bet with Scott Sims about the river crossings, he was happy that throughout the day, he kept his feet dry.

Frank Baker is a freelance writer from Eagle River.

IF YOU GO:

The 23-mile Crow Pass Trail runs between the Eagle River Nature Center and Girdwood. The entire crossing is not recommended in the early spring due to avalanche danger, but the portion of the 12-mile section of trail between the Nature Center and Eagle Glacier follows the river, which is typically low this time of year. For more information about the trail, visit the nature center online at ernc.org. The nature center is located at the end of Eagle River Road, 12 miles from downtown Eagle River.

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