Once a center of coal mining activity, Chickaloon is now a popular staging area for a variety of outdoor adventures ranging from sport fishing and glacier trekking to whitewater rafting and ice climbing.
Chickaloon is located at Mile 76 of the Glenn Highway and is surrounded by the Talkeetna and Chugach mountains and flanked by the mighty Matanuska River, making it a great starting point for outdoor adventures.
Originally the area was a center of trade by Athabascan Indians who brought copper, sheep and goats from the north to swap for salmon, beluga whale and fur seals from tribes from the south. In 1898 an Army exploration party located a vein of high-quality coal near the Chickaloon River. The isolated Chickaloon deposits were not mined until the winter of 1913-1914, when Jack Dalton used the frozen Matanuska River to haul a shipment of test coal from the area. The next year the U.S. Navy sponsored a coal mining effort in the drainage and Chickaloon grew quickly. By 1925, the Navy halted coal mining and in 1958 the area was opened to homesteaders.
Things to do
Travelers and outdoor enthusiasts pass through Chickaloon on their way to places like King Mountain State Recreation Site, a popular camping and fishing destination on the banks of the Matanuska River within a mile of town. Farther west is Matanuska Glacier, a 24-mile-long river of ice where outfitters take visitors for treks across the frozen surface or rig them up with crampons and ice axes for an afternoon of ice climbing.
Perhaps the most popular activity in Chickaloon is whitewater rafting on Matanuska River. Guides lead parties of rafters down the river’s famous Lion Head, a stretch of Class III-IV whitewater that often includes a stop to explore the foot of Matanuska Glacier. Chickaloon is the staging area for a number of adventures, from easy, scenic river floats to heart-pounding whitewater trips. Several companies also provide guided glacier hikes; fishing is plentiful in the many nearby rivers and lakes.