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The branches of the Nizina River meander through public and private land alike. If you’re exploring Wrangell St. Elias guideless, we strongly recommend booking round trip transportation with Wrangell Mountain Air in McCarthy ($410 per person). Arrange for drop off at Nizina Glacier and pick up near Tractor Creek.
Kennicott Wilderness Guides, based in McCarthy, rents out full kits ($100 per person per day), but if you’d rather secure your own, make sure you have a full drysuit, helmet, personal floatation device, and throw bag to stay safe in the glacial rapids. KWG also recommends a whistle, gloves, and neoprene hat and socks, and they offer 2-day packrafting courses for maximum preparation.
From the Nizina Glacier drop off, paddle 1 mile to Nizina Lake’s northeast terminus and set up camp near the rocky beach, permit-free. The following day, dodge and duck lake icebergs as you cross to the mouth of the Nizina River. Continue winding southeast to conclude your 13-mile day on Squaw Island. Finish on a strong note with 27 miles—keep your eyes peeled for shoreside grizzlies—to meet Wrangell Mountain Air at your agree-upon location.