Outside there are clear signs of warmer days ahead, but there is still plenty of snow and the lakes remain quite frozen. Those with a passion for Alaska's scenic water bodies and peaceful streams can find this time of year just a tad frustrating. The days may be warming up, but the raft is still stuck in the garage. Ugh!

Here's a wonderful nugget of information to help us survive the wait until our favorite lakes and streams open up again. In the Mat-Su Valley, tucked in along the Old Glenn Highway, sits a small but breathtakingly beautiful stretch of water called the Eklutna Tailrace. Avid anglers already know this spot as a prime fishing location in summer. Now, more and more paddlers are becoming aware of the fact that Eklutna Tailrace almost never freezes! This is because the nearby power plant on the highway incorporates this water into the facility's cooling system.

The water is a superb gemstone green all year. Because it stays above freezing through the winter, the conditions at Eklutna Tailrace are often perfect for some very impressive hoarfrost formations. Wintering aquatic birds frequent the area as well. It's a true oasis among the Valley's winter landscape. With a convenient parking lot, foot trails throughout the area, and easy access to the water for canoes, kayaks, or rafts, this jewel of a location gives outdoor enthusiasts a chance to scratch that paddle sport itch well ahead of the spring thaw. Just make sure you bring your camera, because you may never see a more elegantly nestled footbridge over such glassy winter reflections.