Bureau of Land Management National Park Service U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service U.S. Forest Service

Birch Creek, Alaska

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Managing Agency:

Bureau of Land Management, Fairbanks District Office


Designated Reach:

December 2, 1980. The main stem from the south side of Steese Highway in T7N, R10E, Fairbanks Meridian, downstream to the south side of Steese Highway in T19N, R16E.


Classification/Mileage:

Wild — 126.0 miles; Total — 126.0 miles.

Birch Creek

Birch Creek

Birch Creek, Ikheenjik River, flows from the windswept ridges and alpine tundra of the Steese National Conservation Area into the broad expanse of the Yukon Flats in central Alaska. The river offers one-week float trips notable not only for scenery and remoteness but for convenience—floaters can access both ends of the wild river segment from BLM recreation sites along the Steese Highway. Although visited primarily in summer, Birch Creek offers many winter activities for fans of primitive backcountry experiences.

After leaving the designated area, the river continues through state and private lands and the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge for a total of 344 miles before emptying into the Yukon River about halfway between Fort Yukon and Beaver.

Birch Creek was designated as part of the Alaska National Lands Conservation Act in 1980. The outstandingly remarkable values were not identified at the time of designation, but as part of the Eastern Interior Resource Management Plan completed in 2016.


Outstandingly Remarkable Values

Recreational

Birch Creek is recognized regionally and nationally as an accessible, freshwater and whitewater wild river providing a multi-day primitive floating and camping experience which is considered unique. The river provides an exceptional semi-primitive experience for floaters. In only a very few places in the state is such a primitive segment of river accessible by road. The rivers presentation of diverse geological values is unique within the region that includes a stretch of whitewater caused by bedrock outcrops and the changes in river character from headwater to mature stream. This creek is a good example of the typical diversity of vegetation types and seasonal variations that enhance the river experience.

While canoeing is the most popular recreational activity, hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, primitive camping, photography, rock hounding, and nature study are all reasons to visit. Popular winter activities along the frozen river include snowmobiling, dog mushing, trapping, and cross-country skiing. For a few days each February, the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race between Fairbanks and Whitehorse attracts dog mushers and on-lookers.

Scenic

The changes in topography from a headwater stream to a more mature river with meander bends and braided systems add diversity to a relatively short river segment. The eight-mile stretch of intermittent extruding bedrock with interspersed rapids creates visual contrast with the surrounding vegetation, gravel bars, and water. The range of foreground hills, middle distant mountains, broad flats, and foreground hills as one floats down the river creates a mosaic of backdrops for floaters. The small number of historical cabins that blend with the landscape and are mostly hidden from view add some variety and points of interest to the area. The variety of vegetation types and the seasonal colors are an exemplary example for interior Alaska.

Fisheries

Birch Creek provides critical habitat for many fish species, making it one of the most diverse watersheds in the region. This diversity makes fisheries an outstanding remarkable value for Birch Creek.