When we first visited Denali National Park in 2008, Donnette and I hiked two trails in Savage River Canyon. One trail ascended the side of a mountain near the mouth of the canyon and gave a nice westward view showing Park Road as it crossed over Savage River. In that view, seen in the photo below taken that day, the “braided” nature of the river before it flows left to right under Park Road and into the canyon is clearly seen. (I recommend you read this description of the Toklat River for a clear and concise explanation of the braided river phenomenon.)
The other trail we hiked in 2008 ran on both sides of the narrow, rapidly flowing Savage River inside the canyon. The photo below, taken during that hike, is a view of the river looking back toward the trailhead near Park Road. The footbridge connects the trails on both sides of the river at the point where a single, much steeper portion of the trail begins.
When our daughter Elizabeth told us she had booked two nights at Savage River Campground for our visit to Alaska last month, we wondered what the river would look like from the campground. Would we see a wide, braided river or would we see a rapidly flowing stream in a narrow channel?
As it turned out, the campground, located about three miles south-southeast of the above scene, was so densely populated with trees that we could not see Savage River at all. To find the river, we followed a trail leading southward out of the campground. As we descended the trail, the trees gradually thinned out, and we first saw a wide valley open up, with distant views of snow-covered peaks in the Alaska Range. The 5600-ft-high peak in the background is unnamed, as far as I know.
The trail eventually ended at the bank of Savage River shown in the next image. It was braided and shallow, but much narrower than seen in the first photo in the post. The direction of flow of the water was ill-defined, with water moving in different directions around small bars in the river.
An approximate scale of the above image may be obtained from the fact that the bush on the left is roughly three feet high and three feet wide, and the brownish mountains are about three miles from the camera. The snowy mountains in the background containing the headwaters of the Savage river are about ten miles from the camera. The background peak on the right side of this image is the same peak shown in the previous image and is about six miles away.
The locations from which these photos were taken are shown on the map below. Zoom in for more detail.