The Burnt Ranch
Gorge of the Trinity River has long
been shadowed by the infamous first descent. As years have
gone by and gear improved dramatically, Burnt Range Gorge, aka BRG, has
gone from a seldom run cutting edge whitewater adventure to an often
paddled classic section of river often done in playboats. In my opinion
there are often better options in the spring, BRG has flows all summer
long and is a fantastic resource. It's well worth noting the run drops
to more of a class IV at 700cfs, albeit with one portage and
a few IV+ rapids.
This sign (now
gone) probably added to the notoriety of BRG.
Ward enjoys "Afternoon Delight" at summer flows.
Dewey runs some typical Burnt Ranch Gorge class IV.
crux of a run on Burnt Ranch Gorge is navigating "Burnt Ranch Falls".
While none of them are true waterfalls, they all verge on class V at
some water levels, and the third tends to always be in the class V
range. The first in many ways is the most dangerous. While the line is
on the left, at higher flows a considerable amount of water pushes into
a cave on the bottom right. As a swimmer it could be hard to avoid, but
in a kayak there is a large eddy on the right, and it's not too hard to
catch the eddy and ferry across to the left line.
The second falls is run down the right at all but
the highest flows. This is one that gets trickier as flows drop,
because a paddler is forced to run a tricky notch/ledge (for class IV
paddlers) above the final, often retentive hole. As flows increase a
boof opens up to the left of the notch, making it easier to come
through with control.
Nate boofs the
ledge with flows around 1,200cfs.
Salazar gets a great boof at the bottom of #2 at summer flows of 700cfs.
the boof line even works for a raft with spring flows.
One of the best things about Burnt Ranch Gorge is that even
though there are some beautiful, vertical walled gorges, there are
generally portage options too. It's easy to walk the top of Burnt Ranch
Falls 2 on the right, and put in just above a fun slide down the left.
Alex Cousins enjoying his back yard river and taking the left slide on
Ranch Falls #3 is the toughest of the bunch, and has hazards at all
water levels. It used to be easier at low flows, but a recent shift in
the rocks makes the entrance a step above anything else on the run.
In the spring the largest concern is a hole near the bottom,
that feeds into an alcove on the left. Once in the alcove it takes
patience and persistence to fight out, neither of which are easy to
have while getting beat down in a hole or shoved up against a wall.
Aisha Hill charges
into the hole on #3 at 1,200cfs.
Aisha had a lot of right angle, but still got stopped by the
hole and started taking turns between the hole and the alcove. Brett
had decided to follow behind, which might not always be the best choice
Nate cleaning the bottom of #3.
Below the third Burnt Ranch Falls the pace of the river mellows out,
similar to the section above, although there are still a few spicy
rapids down here too.
reality David Ernst's video does the most to show what Burnt Ranch is
all about, because it has nearly every major rapid in the run.
It's worth noting that strangely BRG is toughest around
1,200-1,300cfs. Both lower and higher are easier, somehow that is a
magic flow for pushy water and sticky holes. You'll want to check flows
at the Trinity
River at Cedar Flat. Daniel's
write up at A
Wet State has great detailed