There are few completely un-dammed rivers left in the world, especially in the United States. The Nenana river is one of them. Fed from glaciers, it sluices through the mountains, making its way hundreds of miles north to the Bering Sea.
This river offers some excellent whitewater rafting. The narrower section is rated a class III/IV rapids, all named by the guides that run them. Razorback, Royal Flush, Iceworm, Coffee Grinder, etc. You can run the rapids in kayaks or as a raft. It is an adrenaline rush, complete freedom and exhilaration.
Equipment: An inflatable kayak can run the rapids, or you can book to head down in a raft of 7-8 people.
One necessary piece of equipment, which most companies include in the rental, is a dry suit. This device is something that will completely protect you from the water. I was doubtful, but it does the trick. After 5 hours on the river on the front of the boat, being hit by wave after wave as we crashed through the rapids, I removed the suit to find my underclothes completely dry. A miracle! However, the suits do not keep you warm at all... with the wind in the canyons and the cold water, you should dress in warm layers under the dry suit.
Outfitters are many. I recommend Denali Outdoor Center. They were professional, fun, and reasonably priced. They arrange pick-ups from your hotel or campground, and will drop you off afterwards. Dry suit, booties, and guide are all included in the rental price.
Approximate cost for a full day of rafting: $95
Hiking is very popular in Denali National Park during the summer months, yet there are only a few short marked hiking trails, most of these being near the entrance and the campgrounds. However, since much of the terrain is above tree line, cross-country hiking is easy. Usually hikers follow ridge lines or river beds. It's a good idea to wear a bear bell, or at least to make noise as you hike along, to alert bears of your presence. If a bear hears you coming it will often move out of the way. The last thing you want to do is to round a corner or top a rise and startle an unsuspecting grizzly, or even a moose, making them feel threatened.
A list of trails, and an excellent set of guidelines for backcountry travel can be found by clicking the web link below.
There are several rafting companies to choose from that offer tours for the novice to more expertly rafter. You can spot most of them along the Parks Highway in the canyon!
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