Roadtrippin’ 2022: Rafting on the Matanuska River

Roadtrippin’: Nova rafting
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 10:25 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Off the Glenn Highway sits an adventurer’s paradise. Nova Alaska Guides rafting provides the thrill of fast-moving rapids with the majestic views of Lion’s Head and Matanuska Glacier.

Owner Travis Spaulding inherited the business from his father two years ago, but the business has been in the family since 1975. Spaulding’s love of rafting is evident in the way he speaks about the river and the rich history of the area. He not only runs the business but serves as a guide and works alongside the employees he calls “family.”

Before the tours can even begin, guests must put on special gear to protect their bodies from the frigid waters that come from the Matanuska Glacier. It’s not exactly Balenciaga’s 2022 spring collection but since the river is formed from glacier runoff, you’ll be happy to have it.

Once suited up, it’s just a quick 15-minute drive to the river’s access point on bumpy roads the crew refers to as “the first wave.” The views of Matanuska Glacier on the drive to the river are breathtaking.

Once at the river, the Nova guides provide a safety briefing about rafting the Matanuska River. Spaulding keeps the information entertaining, yet informative. The speech isn’t meant to scare anybody but as he says it’s necessary to discuss all the “what if’s” that could happen during class four rapids. Fun is the main agenda of each trip, but the guides say that “it’s really fun, until it’s not.”

In the raft, the journey starts with a slow steady pace, perfect for taking in the breathtaking Alaskan mountain views. But it isn’t long before levels start to pick up and the rafting gets serious. Teamwork becomes crucial. If you don’t listen to your guide carefully, you run the risk of tipping over.

Nova rafting caters their tours to the customer by feeling out experience levels to ensure no one is taking on more than they can handle. For those looking for a bigger thrill, the company also offers overnight trips on higher-class rapids. For ultimate bragging rights, Nova rafting will take serious adventures down Six Mile Creek, which boasts as the hardest rafting river in North America.

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