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Alaska Cruise River Rafting Tips

Adventurous cruise visitors to Alaska will find plenty of canoe and kayak excursions but only one river rafting excursion.

The 3.5-hour rafting trip, usually called the Mendenhall Glacier Float Trip by operators, is available at the Juneau cruise port. Excursion operators usually pick up passengers at the Mount Roberts Tram by the docks and drive them to Mendenhall Lake.

From there, rafters paddle to the Mendenhall Glacier for views and photo opportunities and then onto five miles of Mendenhall River for some modest excitement.

This trip has a lot of Mendenhalls.

River rapids have a rating system ranging from Class I, which has the mildest rapids, to Class VI, which has the most difficult. In order, they are easy, novice, intermediate, advanced, expert and extreme.

The Mendenhall rapids are Class II and III, which offer a mildly rocky ride for families and inexperienced rafters. As one operator says, this trip is “suitable for all ages and no prior experience necessary, just good health and an adventurous spirit”.

Rafts have space for eight to 12 people and include an experienced guide.


Children 12 and under must have a parent and must weigh at least 50 pounds to fit into a lifejacket. As someone who has rafted in rivers up to Class V, I don’t recommend families bring very young children on rapids.

Participants will have rain gear in addition to lifejackets. The rain gear is protection from both rainy days as well as the inevitable splashing water from the rapids.

A common price for adults on this cruise excursion is around $150, and a common price for children is between $100 and $125.

The excursion is usually available from the beginning of May until the end of September.

The Skagway port also has a rafting option, but it is a brief “float” in combination with a hike that doesn’t include rapids.

Otherwise, cruise visitors to Alaska who want a rafting experience will have to find it by going inland before or after their cruise.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

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February 20, 2019

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