Alaska Whitewater – Matanuska River, Talkeetna Mountains, Matanuska-Susitna Borough

The Matanuska River has two Rafting Companies,  Nova Alaska and Madwater Rafting, with offices located in Sutton and Chickaloon on The Glenn Highway.


River Rafting Trips


Matanuska-Susitna County, Lions Head section whitewater kayaking, rafting, and paddling information.

CLASS III+     5.2 miles

This section of Matanuska River in Alaska is 5.2 miles long and is according to American Whitewater a class III+ section of whitewater. The scenic beauty of Alaska and the water flowing gracefully down Matanuska River beats anything. Getting your paddling muscles activated and spending some quality time in nature are great reasons to come. For all you camping people there are campgrounds nearby. You might have to settle for a hotel a bit away from the river if you want to stay the night, but do book a room before you come because it is a very popular destination. When you’re paddling down a Talkeetna Mountains river like this one you always get great scenery along the way too. The average Alaska whitewater rafting or kayaking river tends to be a bit harder to master than those in other states, so if you’re visiting here do keep in mind that many of the rivers here are not very forgiving. You might be into whitewater rafting or kayaking or both, doesn’t matter, around here you won’t find a large number of other rivers. This river system has a few good paddling stretches and the Lions Head section is one of them. This stretch has has enough mileage, suitable for an afternoon trip.

Briefly about the general area:
During the summer, highs regularly are in the 60’s at Matanuska River. Once the sun is down it plunges down to the 40’s. Throughout the winter the highs are regularly in the 10’s, and winter nights come with lows in the-10’s to Matanuska River. Matanuska River is pretty dry regularly; most of the rain falls during July while April is the month with the least amount of precipitation.

No need to travel far to stop by interesting stuff like Matanuska Glacier.

Matanuska River, Lions Head road map
Printable road map with the put-in and take-out locations clearly marked.

AW Class: III+
Length: 5.2 miles
Average Gradient: 38 fpm
Putin Location Coordinates:
Latitude: 61.80329
Longitude: -147.6816
Takeout Location Coordinates:
Latitude: 61.79589
Longitude: -147.7994


Matanuska Madwater
Rafting Company


Matanuska River Rafting

  1. WICKED FUN RUN- Launching from the pristine waters of the Chickaloon River, you will enter the mighty Matanuska River for an afternoon of awesome Class II / Class III whitewater rafting. Minimum age 5 yrs old.
  2. LIONS HEAD- This section of the Matanuska River is a splashy Alaskan favorite suitable for all levels. Whether you are in an oar assisted paddle raft or are doing all the paddling under the instruction of a professional river guide, you will have a wet and wild ride. Minimum age 12 yrs. old.

Sutton, Alaska

Available May through September

Depending on tour

Experienced river guides, quality professional dry suits, rubber boots, and USCG-approved life jacket.


Nova Alaska River Rafting and Glacier Hikes


Nova – Alaska River Rafting Adventures


Photo Gallery – Nova Alaska


NOVA is an Alaskan river touring company that has been providing Alaska scenic and whitewater river rafting day trips near Anchorage and wilderness river rafting trips since 1975, glacier hiking tours on the Matanuska Glacier and river rescue training since 1980. Additionally, we are the Alaska dealer for Vanguard Inflatables and their fine line of whitewater rafts and kayaks.

Alaska River Rafting – Day Trips near Anchorage
Our exciting selection of day river rafting trips are based on their special locations and features and not where the ‘captured audiences’ are. These trips have continued to be popular with locals and their visiting friends and relatives since 1975, and our ability and experience to handle small to large groups and their special needs offers an experience everyone will remember. Whether you are focused on thrilling whitewater or a more mellow experience for yourself, friends, family, wedding parties, company parties and team building experiences, NOVA has a trip to suit any interest from class I to V.

Alaska River Rafting – Wilderness Trips
We have developed a series of multi-day, wilderness river rafting trips that will get you into some of the most remote country in Alaska. Or wilderness trips are especially good for spotting wildlife and experiencing Alaska away from the busy tourist areas.

Glacier Hikes
Joins us on the Matanuska Glacier for a day hike that you will never forget. An experienced and professional guide will take you out on the ice to explore the otherworldly landscape of glaciers and inform you of its’ natural wonders.

P.O. Box 1129
Chickaloon, AK 99674