Raft mild water to wild water on the Nenana River in Alaska’s Denali National Park

denali white water rafting
Raft the Nenana River in Alaska's Denali National Park

In business since 1974, Denali Raft Adventures provides five different Denali white water rafting experiences on Alaska’s Nenana River: the Canyon Whitewater Run, the McKinley Scenic Run, the Healy Express Run, a scenic one-half day trip, and a full day trip. The outfitter furnishes paddlers with Gore-Tex drysuits, latex socks, neoprene boots, and Coast Guard approved lifejackets. All runs are made in 16-to-18-foot rafts.

Canyon Whitewater Run (whitewater)

Paddle 11 miles on the Nenana River. This is mostly Class III whitewater with one Class IV rapid with colorful names like “Cable Car”, “Coffee Grinder”, and “Ice Worm”. You have your choice of Oar Rafts or Paddle Rafts, although there must be at least five participants to paddle. This trip is recommended for age 12 and older.

McKinley Scenic Run (mild water)

An 11-mile paddle on Class I and II rapids with one Class III. Along the shoreline, you’ll have the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife including moose, sheep, caribou and bear. This is perhaps the most scenic portion of the Nenana River. Recommended for ages 5 and older.

Healy Express Run (mild to whitewater)

This Denali white water rafting trip is a combination of the McKinley and Canyon sections of the Nenana River. It starts near the Denali National Park entrance and terminates 22 miles later in Healy. The trip lasts about five and a half hours. It includes Class I, II, III and IV rapids with colorful names. Some think of this as the most beautiful portion of the Nenana River. It is an experience in the rugged Alaskan wilderness and the real thing when it comes to Alaska white water rafting. Recommended for ages 12 and older.

Denali White Water Rafting One-Half Day Scenic Trip

This is the outfitters mildest river trip. Paddle 24 miles of Class I and II rapids on a scenic section of the Nenana River. Wildlife viewing for moose, caribou, and bear is always a possibility. A picnic lunch is served on the trip. A good trip for families white water rafting Alaska.

Full Day Trip (Class I to IV rapids)

This 36-mile trip combines the McKinley and Canyon trips with an additional two hours of rafting and a lunch break. Much of trip follows the boundaries of Denali National Park. See an Alaska familiar to early settlers. Experience Class I, II, III rapids and one Class IV on the Glacier-fed Nenana River. The post-lunch ride through Nenana River Gorge is the highlight of the trip and an unforgettable experience white water rafting Alaska. Expect to spend nine and a half hours on the river. Recommended for ages 12 and older.

What About Gear for Paddling the Icy Nenana

Denali Raft Adventures provides paddlers with Gore-Tex drysuits with latex gaskets at the neck and wrist. These dry suits are worn over your personal insulating layers. You have furnished a pair of latex socks and a pair of neoprene booties that are worn over the socks. A life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard is also provided.

Classifying River Rapids

River difficulty is rated on a scale from Class I (the easiest) to Class VI (the most difficult).

  • CLASS I: Still and gently moving water
  • CLASS II: Whitewater for the informed novice. Currents, small waves, and obstacles.
  • CLASS III: Whitewater for the intermediate boater. Medium-sized waves, fast current, and obstacles that need to be maneuvered around.
  • CLASS IV: For the expert boater. Large waves, very fast current and difficult maneuvers.
  • CLASS V: Difficult even for expert boaters. Involves scouting, long rapids, extreme turbulence, and perfect boat control.
  • CLASS VI: Not navigable, or the most extreme of river running stunts.

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