River Rafting Trips
NOVA truly offers the full gamut of river experiences. Enjoy the perfect half-day getaway adventure on one of our daily rafting tours, or embark on a true Alaskan adventure on a multi-day camping / rafting adventure flying over mountain tops and up river valleys into the remote riverside location put-ins of these wilderness whitewater classics.
NOVA’s River rafting season is from June 1 – August 20
Find A Tour
Nova Alaska River Trips
- NOVA is an advocate and steward for keeping wild places in Alaska wild. Please follow responsible travel and ‘leave no trace’ ethics when visiting these amazing places.
- NOVA tours operate regardless of most weather conditions, we go rain or shine in Alaska.
- Waterways and weather can sometimes be cold in Alaska. Please, dress appropriately or bring along some warm synthetic layers and socks for your tour comfort. Cotton layers are not preferred in cold environments or when wet.
- All standard river gear required for this tour is provided by NOVA including a pfd (personal floatation device), pair of water shoes, river helmet, and full dry-suit. The dry-suit is only a waterproof shell with no warm insulation, please bring your own warm comfortable layers for underneath the dry-suit. Once you are in the dry-suit restroom breaks are difficult to accommodate, please consider facilities pre-trip.
- NOVA rafting tours need a minimum of 4 people to conduct a trip. Groups of less than 4, may join others with consent to build a group.
- Make it a COMBO: Add a whitewater rafting trip and save $20 per person on both of your tours! This glacier tour is located in the same area of Alaska as our ‘Lionshead’ rafting tour, great for same day combos. **Discounts applied at trip check-in with the balance due
- NOVA’s River rafting season is June 1st through August 20th.
NOVA river rafting trips
All of NOVA’s daily rafting tours are only a few hours long, creating a perfect half-day get away adventure. All of our day rafting trips are offered twice daily and are within a two hour proximity of Anchorage with beautiful scenic highway drives along the way. Escape the crowds of Anchorage, Denali and the Kenai Peninsula with a more local rafting experience. Our river theaters are less developed and less focused on industrial tourism maintaining the natural Alaskan scenery, charm and local character. Get wild on the Class III, IV, and V whitewater of the Lionshead and Sixmile Creek canyons. We truly offer the full gamut of river experiences. The classic NOVA multi-day river trips of the Chickaloon, Talkeetna, and Matanuska are still offered every year. We have 5 day, 3 day, 2 day and single night options for multi-day camping / rafting trips. This is where you live, eat and sleep on the river and around the bonfire. The Chickaloon and Talkeetna rivers are amazing fly-out float-back format style trips. Involving small bush planes for access, this format means only using planes once instead of twice, thus creating more affordable trips saving you cost with less flights. These are our favorite multi-days with consistent whitewater, gorgeous scenery, and easy logistics. These three rivers are as good as a multi-day fly-out trip with whitewater can get. Embark on a true Alaskan adventure flying over mountain tops and up river valleys into the remote riverside location put-ins of these wilderness whitewater classics.
Over the decades, NOVA has run a multitude of unique wilderness multi-day river trips in Alaska. From remote rivers in the Gates of the Arctic refuge and Brooks mountain range to the immense Wrangell St.Elias National Park and its mountain volcanoes. Some of which were even first descents by NOVA in the late 1970’s and 80’s. Most are still rarely rafted sections of wild Alaskan water. South central Alaska is home to many classics with the highest number of roads and airstrips to utilize. Along with the area’s geography with numerous mountain ranges providing snow and glacier water runoffs and gradients required to form great rivers and whitewater. Alaska has 30 mountain ranges with more than 12,000 rivers, and thousands more streams and creeks. According to the United States Geological Survey Geographic, Alaska has about 9,728 officially named rivers, creeks, and streams. Many of these waterways are conducive to navigating by raft and many are still out there waiting to be explored.
Listed here are some of the wilderness multi-day trips NOVA has historically offered in Alaska:
– Kings, Yukon, Charley, Tana, Chitna, Klutina, Tonsina, Gulkana, Tsiana, Lowe, Nelchina, Tazlina, Chistochina, Mulchatna, Chilakadratna, Kennicott, Nizina, Happy, 20 Mile, Kenai, Kobuk, Resurrection, Atigian, Noatak, Kilick, Coville, Porcupine, Susitna, Chulitna, Chandalar, Lake Creek and still offering our local favorites the Matanuska, Sixmile, Chickaloon, Copper and Talkeetna.
Water levels can dramatically change or alter the characteristics and nature of rivers and creeks in Alaska. Natural free flowing waterways are unpredictable and have ever evolving variables compared to dam release controlled waterways. Higher water levels usually results in an increase in difficulty, intensity and risk. Nova has implemented cut-off levels for operating tours as a safety standard for this highly respected section of water. Levels also force tour adjustments like boat sizes, equipment changes, group/load sizes in each boat, and even canceling. Proper weight and power distribution in the rafts is a major key to successful navigation. Guides are authorised to make these decisions based on monitoring usgs water level gauges prior to trips launch and may even deny participants from engaging in the activity. Water levels, weather and other variables can also affect the time duration of a tour like changing the volume and speed of the current. Our office staff will inform all reservations in advance about any forecasted water level changes that may jeopardise or cancel the tour. Full refunds are issued if cancellations occur and/or rescheduling for runnable levels on another upcoming date.
There are inherent risks associated with river travel and outdoor activities that everyone must accept and understand. Variable uneven terrain, sharp rocks, slippery rocks, and changing weather are common. Some safety hazards will always exist and are beyond human control such as water levels and erosion. Rivers and all moving waterways can be dangerous and deadly. Rescue in these environments and features is not only technical and difficult but in some cases not possible at all. Safety standards are in place for these reasons and must be followed. Guides manage risk by interpreting and recognizing hazards that average boaters and guests are unaware of. Many traveling on the mellow sections have a false sense of security because of the friendly inviting nature of the easy river. Whitewater with rapids on the Class system of III, IV or V sections deserve respect. Individuals traveling on rivers, creeks or streams without professional guides should possess the proper knowledge, experience, and equipment.
**All participants on all our tours must follow our guidelines, procedures and sign a waiver. Only parents or legal guardians may sign for youth minors. We do not allow infants on our tours. We do not allow pets on our tours.
We take river safety seriously. NOVA has been involved with multiple organizations hosting SWR (Swift Water Rescue) technician courses for decades and was one of the original SWR representatives in the state. These rescue certificate courses are hosted annually to benefit the boating community of Alaska and commercial guides like ours. Held during memorial day weekend in the rural area of Chickaloon. This classroom of glacial currents on the Matanuska river is a 1.5 hour drive north of Anchorage. Many private boaters and government agencies have taken advantage of these weekend-long courses to learn and become more familiar with moving water and rescue. Hands-on water scenarios and heavy instruction of the latest curriculum on river safety for 3 days. Alaska is a boaters playground and we are local advocates for people having the proper training, basic knowledge and experience to safely enjoy the water. NOVA has been an on-call resource for local authorities and dive/swr rescue teams in the surrounding communities for years. If you are interested in signing up for a SWR course in Chickaloon or elsewhere in the state, we can point you in the right direction. The current certificate provider is ‘The Rescue Company’ llc. Contact our main office for more details about courses offered across Alaska.
If you have a rare or uncommon river trip in mind? NOVA may be able to help facilitate your trip. Please contact the main office to discuss expedition details and options, please inquire months in advance for such an adventure.
I, and several relatives, went on this rafting trip early August 2019 and we all had a blast. The trip was down a beautiful waterway that allowed enough relaxed rafting to enjoy the natural beauty, while being punctuated by exciting rapids. The dry suits made for a comfortable trip and our guide (Scotty) provided quick-witted humor and entertainment during the calmer stretches.
If you are considering this rafting trip, but have not fully committed, I encourage you to “pull the trigger” and sign up – you will not be disappointed! These folks are 100% safety oriented and will ensure a safe yet exciting trip. Take along a waterproof action cam to record the adventure.
Sam L | Trip date: August 2019
We rafted the 6 mile with nova and did the glacier trek. Both were phenomenal. We had Scotty for our rafting trip and he, as well as all of the guides, were very safety conscious. They prepared you for every situation that could happen and we absolutely loved our experience. For our glacier trek, our guide was Coffee. Again, an amazing experience. We did more than we thought we would, including repelling down a 70 foot ice wall! It was so much fun and Coffee made us feel super safe. Nova is an amazing company with only the best guides. I wouldn’t use anyone else in Alaska!
Lauren M. | Trip date: July 2020
This was our 2nd time rafting in Alaska. Both times dry suits were provided and worked well. Three boats went on the trip with 5 patrons and one guide in each. Two of the boats utilized big oars in the back for the guide and the guests paddled occasionally as instructed. The 3rd boat had a group of young men and they did a “paddle trip” without the oars and using just regular paddles. The trip was fun. Not too rough. No one fell out of the boat. It wasn’t as scenic as the Nenana River outside Denali, but a good trip.
Berry TN | Trip date: August 2019
frequently asked questions
CAN I REQUEST A GUIDE?
Yes, We recommend booking a private trip to do what you like, when you like.
CAN TRIPS BE CUSTOMIZED?
Yes, we recommend booking a private trip to do what you like, when you like.
DO WE GO IF IT'S RAINING?
Yes. We go rain or shine, so please dress appropriately for the weather of the day. There are always tradeoffs, the Glacier has more blue color visible on grey rainy days and as for the river, well you are dressed to get wet!
DO YOU NEED EXPERIENCE TO PARTICIPATE?
For ALL whitewater rafting trips, prior rafting experience is highly recommended; you must be able to swim and be comfortable with the prospect of self-rescue.
For Six Mile Creek, prior to rafting there is a fun, mandatory, in-river swim to help you prepare for and demystify river swimming prior to rafting on either the 2-canyon or 3-canyon Six Mile Creek trips.
DO YOU OFFER GROUP TRIPS?
NOVA welcomes groups large or small! Group rafting can be the perfect activity for your corporate event or team building, bachelor/bachelorette or wedding party! NOVA offers many trip throughout the day or the evening, depending on client wishes.
HOW FAR IS IT FROM ANCHORAGE?
Approx. 2-hour drive either South or North of Anchorage, depending on trip.
SIX MILE CREEK IS SOUTH OF ANCHORAGE:
Take the Seward Highway south towards Seward. Enjoy the views of this National Scenic Byway until mile maker 57 and the Hope Road intersection. It is a well-marked junction and the Hope Road only turns one-way.Turn onto the Hope Road, travel about 100 yards and turn into the first driveway (public rest area) on the right. The NOVA crew and vehicles will be there waiting for you.
The drive is about 1 hour 20 minutes from Anchorage, 45 minutes from Girdwood, 60 minutes from Seward, 90 minutes from Soldotna.
ALL OTHER NOVA TRIPS ARE NorthEast OF ANCHORAGE:
Check-in is at our Hicks Creek facility, mile 96 Glenn Highway (38100 West Glenn Hwy for GPS users).Take the Glenn Hwy (Hwy #1) and head north from Anchorage; you’ll be traveling on the Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway all the way to Hicks Creek. About 1 hour out Anchorage you will take the overpass to Palmer and continue on the Glenn Hwy (Hwy #1) east through Palmer then Sutton and Chickaloon; go past the old NOVA office at mile 76 in Chickaloon and drive 20 more minutes up the Hwy to Hicks Creek at mile 96 of the Glenn Hwy. Watch for the NOVA sign on left at Trailhead Rd. after crossing the Hicks Creek Bridge; take that left and follow the NOVA driveway underneath the highway bridge to the main building for check-in. The drive to Hicks Creek should take about 1 hour 50 minutes from Anchorage, 50 minutes from Palmer.
HOW MANY PEOPLE PER TRIP?
Raft trips can vary depending on water flow and size and weight of participants, with an average of 6 people per raft.
IS THERE TRANSPORTATION AVAILABLE?
NO, there is no public transportation out of Anchorage, a rental car is your only option.
WHAT DO THE RIVER CLASSIFICATIONS MEAN?
Created by the American Whitewater Association, the river classification reflects the technical difficulty and skill level required using roman numerals I to VI. To better understand the classification of rivers and decide whether it will be suitable for you, check out the Whitewater Classifications section below, or learn more on the specific trips pages.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO?
There is plenty of Sunshine all Summer long in Alaska, so it depends more on your itinerary. Photographers seem to prefer the evening glacier hikes where the low angle of light is more dramatic. Also the ‘high-water’ of the day on Alaska’s glacier rivers like LionHead is the 7:00 PM run as glacier rivers actually crest at night; great for party runs for groups of 6 or more.