CHICKALOON, Alaska — In Chickaloon, the river courses from the heart of the Matanuska and Powell glaciers. Rafting on this wild river is a way to experience the natural wonders of the valley – and on this day, to get an unexpected and close-up audience with local wildlife.
Before rafters get out on the water they meet up with Nova River Runners guide Ira Vasgaard. He says his customers want an adventure.
"People want to see wildlife," Vasgaard says. "They want to see excitement, and see why there is a culture that goes down the rivers where other people can't go."
Guides know to prepare customers for anything they might encounter out on the water – including dry suits. The water is 38 degrees. Everyone pays close attention during the safety demonstration.
Rafters learn their stroke in the shallow braided Caribou Creek's muddy water before they meet with the gray silt of the Matanuska River. The current sweeps past the menacing looking Talkeetna Mountains and at the toe of the glacier, the tour goes from calm sightseeing to an animal encounter when rafters spot a moose and twin calves in the water.