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Several privately owned raft and tour companies operate along the Parks Highway near the entrance to Denali, and they schedule daily rafting, both in the fairly placid areas on the Nenana and through the 10-mile-long Nenana River canyon, which has stretches of Class IV–V rapids—enough to make you think you're on a very wet roller coaster. The Nenana is Alaska's most accessible white water, and if you don't mind getting a little chilly, a river trip is not just a lot of fun, it's also a fantastic way to see a different side of the landscape.
Denali Outdoor Center. This tour operator has a respected reputation among locals for its scenic rafting trips on the Nenana River and splash-filled trips down the Nenana River canyon's rapids where no river experience is necessary. One of the most challenging trips is a two-hour paddle in inflatable kayaks. They are easy to get out of, stable, and self-bailing, but if you're not used to paddling yourself, you're going to have sore arms. The company also teaches white-water kayaking. All gear is provided, including full dry suits, something you'll appreciate in the splash. Budget travelers can rent canoes or kayaks on Otto Lake for $8 an hour. Camping sites ($12 by the lake), rental cabins ($92) with Wi-Fi in the laundry-shower room, and mountain-bike tours and rentals are also available. Plus, there's a free local shuttle from hotels, lodges, the Alaska Railroad depot, the Denali visitor center, and Otto Lake. There are two locations, the Healy office on Otto Lake Road and the Canyon office on Parks Highway. Mi 0.5 Otto Lake Rd. for main office, Mi 238.9, Parks Hwy., Denali National Park, AK, 99755. 907/683–1925 or 888/303–1925. www.denalioutdoorcenter.com.
Denali Raft Adventures. This outfitter launches its rafts several times daily on two- and four-hour scenic and white-water trips on the Nenana River. Gore-Tex dry suits are provided. Guests under the age of 18 must have a release waiver signed by a parent or guardian. Contact the company for copies before the trip. Courtesy pick-up at hotels and the train depot is available within a 7-mile radius of their location. Mile 238.6, Parks Hwy., Denali National Park, AK, 99755. 907/683–2234 or 888/683–2234. www.denaliraft.com.