Nova’s Six Mile Creek three-canyon tour is not for the faint of heart. // © 2017 Josh Friedman
Feature image (above): The rafting tour takes clients through narrow canyons with Class IV and V rapids. // © 2017 Josh Friedman
Not everyone wants an adrenaline rush on their vacation, but for travelers looking for a destination to unleash their adventurous side, the perfect choice may be the Last Frontier. Among the many outdoorsy activities offered in Alaska, one of the most challenging is whitewater rafting on snowmelt rivers. And with rapids at nearly every turn, Nova Alaska’s three-canyon trip down Six Mile Creek, a 10-mile waterway, is considered the most adventurous option in the entire state.
Located about 1.5 hours south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, Six Mile Creek is the only Class V river that can be navigated commercially in Alaska, so this trip is not for the faint of heart (or kids under 16 years old, though there is a two-canyon Class IV tour that allows participants as young as 12).
Before embarking on this thrilling adventure, rafters are outfitted with proper clothing and equipment. Personal flotation devices and dry suits are provided by Nova, but clients should note that the water is quite cold, so dressing warmly with multiple layers is a good idea.
After a bracing swimming test in the frigid 40-degree snowmelt river — which is hopefully the only time they will be in the river — rafters take off for their three-hour adventure.
The tour includes three canyons of Class IV to Class V rapids on approximately 11 miles of river and often-rough waters. Although there are parts of the course that are calmer and offer the chance for guests to look around and experience the beauty of the Kenai Peninsula from a unique perspective, this is not a relaxing river float.
Every raft holds up to six people and is accompanied by an experienced Nova guide who is not only trained in river safety, but is also knowledgeable about the surrounding landscape. Because of this, they can answer any questions about the area and point out Alaskan wildlife throughout the tour.
I took Nova’s three-canyon tour in June with two friends, and my favorite part was the third canyon. As the section of the trip with the highest class and most difficult rapids, it was fun and exciting. Nothing compares to Class V whitewater, but Nova’s guides made me feel safe while still experiencing the full force of the river.
In addition, they always prepared us for upcoming rapids, referring to them with names such as “Zig-zag,” “Jaws” or “Staircase” based on the shape of the course followed by the river.
Tours run from mid-May through mid-September, starting at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. The price is $105 for two canyons (age 12 or older) and $155 for three canyons (age 16 or older) with a 10 percent discount for groups of 10 or more.