If you haven’t perused them yet; days one
I woke up early knowing we had a long day ahead of
for four days, saying we would camp a third night at Salt Springs
Reservoir, then paddle the five miles out in the morning if need be. We
that day three would be easy read and run rapids, then Fantasy Falls,
the Island Drop and the Final Slide, and the lake. We all knew that we
were dreaming because there was a committing gorge directly below our
campsite, known as the Rifleman's Gorge. Wake up call came quick while
running our first rapid of the
day, what appeared to be an innocuous class II drop from the scout,
which turned out to be a class IV boulder garden.
to drive left and end up in the
to Kevin Smith for sharing
The line on the first rapid seemed relatively
start center or
right and try and drive left to avoid a pocket on the right. Never one
to stand around this early in the morning I decided to probe it, came
nowhere near getting as left as I wanted and ending up going through a
large but soft hole near the right wall.
Smith with an early morning boof.
Down in the gorge we were able to read and run one more rapid, and gave
a quick one person scout to two long boulder gardens that led to the
exit of the Rifleman's gorge. Mellower boogie water led us quickly
downstream to another class IV
lead into a walled out gorge. Playing it safe we opted to send one to
scout and were glad to have done so. Below us lay the rarely run,
highly marginal, and completely walled out "good to go" third gorge.
scouting the loast rapid in the
The North Fork Mokelumne really has more than
gorges, and on day
two we had accidentally portaged one that is run
fairly often, but also portaged fairly often too. The third
gorge, nicknamed the "Good to Go" gorge is rarely run and is a bit of a
gamble with a narrow, undercut twenty footer starting things off. This
gorge actually looks much better at low flows, the undercut is out of
play and the holes don't look nearly as bad. Still V-V+
three lies just around the
corner from this drop. I'd suggest
portaging on river right just below this drop if you notice it in time.
It's worth noting the log is gone as of 2010 too.
tempting lead in to gorge three,
we portaged up and over on the
left the first time, and on the right since then.
on the right. Either side
works fine. Ryan and
Just after the portage was a sweet mini gorge we
Chris. Eventually amongst boulder gardens and too many drops to
remember we portaged a waterfall with a very unfriendly log in the
landing. It looked good to go, but if you missed the line the
consequence was more than we wanted to deal with, knowing we had a lot
further to go.
Jonas Grunwald runs the aformentioned falls in 2010.
Knight running said drop in
2008, medium flows
Another gigantic horizon line reared up only too
and we got out
to scout a very questionable drop. In the name of making time and
safety we decided to portage right away, going up and over on the left.
To put the picture and flows in perspective, the initial drop in this
one was twenty-five to thirty feet high. While no major forks or
tributaries enter the North Fork Mokelumne this high up, a constant
inflow of small side streams had the water levels up to 1000cfs by day
three. It might have gone…maybe…the only un-run
rapid on Fantasy Falls.
Maps Market for "The Untouchables".
down to green arrow.
No one was voicing it, but by now we were
the middle of a
portage fest, all known major drops still downstream, and a five mile
paddle out to top it off. We took a nice long lunch break after
portaging, and decided that the run was going to turn back into read
and run goodness when we put back on.
Below The Untouchables is a great campsite on river left, a standard
spot to camp on a three day trip.
Sure enough once back on the water the river
into top notch
boulder gardens. Or perhaps I should say boulder garden, because from
our portage down it was really a mile long boulder garden all the way
down to the top of Fantasy Falls. There were no pools but plenty of
eddies all the way down. Besides fantastic whitewater, the scenery is
Tate dropping Fantasy
Amazing that a mile long boulder garden leads into this.
A clean thirty footer in one of the most beautiful
settings I have ever
seen, Fantasy Falls is aptly named. All the portages fad into memory
as you line up this beautiful drop.
enjoying the plunge on a chilly
Falls has a large recovery
pool that ends in yet another
perfect waterfall. Chris on the equally clean fifteen footer.
Grins plastered on our faces, we headed
knowing we must be getting close to the lake and the last two major
rapids. Eventually we arrived at the island slide around 6:00 in the
afternoon and flows were coming up fast. Chris gave Island Drop a good
look, I didn’t think it looked nice at all, and we all ended
up portaging down the middle and seal launching in. I demonstrated some
poor slide running technique after seal launching and managed to land
myself in the bottom hole completely sideways and got taken…
from the right channel hole all the way into the large not so friendly
hole in the left channel, eventually working my way out on the far left
wall. I think this was my longest distance hole surf ever, all told a
fifty to sixty foot long surf between the two holes. Chris and Kevin
had some motivation to style the bottom right slide and did so with no
views upstream from the
The Island Slide entrance rapid at lower flows. Surprisingly complex.
Jonas Grunwald about to get a face full of the big Island Slide pillow.
Knight, some bottom inbetween
More read and run rapids with a portage or two
and to our
relief we were finally at the notorious final slide. This slide is
responsible for two of the most classic whitewater quotes ever; Brette
Valle’s “So mellow, just go down the middle and
punch the hole at the bottom” and Daniel
DeLaVergne’s “F—kin’ easy,
California class three”. Dustin Knapp said that years ago,
lake people had spray painted "Show me your tits" on a rock at the
bottom of this slide, and thus this rapid carries a name that is
Like all things in life, this slide is a lot
person than in
video. We also managed to arrive at 7:00 pm, pretty much peak runoff
for the day. Chris and I both knew we had to run it. For such a large
drop this slide has incredibly little consequence, a large pool at the
bottom and is only a few hundred yards above the lake. Traditionally
the bottom hole is absurdly sticky and loves to make some of the best
kayakers in the world swim. With our late arrival and high flows the
bottom hole didn’t look too bad, but oh boy was the entrance
scouting up show me your tits.
I took my normal role for the trip and opted to
also opted not
to scout too long, because the slide wasn’t going anywhere
and I wanted to keep motivation up. Heading into the rapid I never
really gained the momentum I wanted, and at the very top where I
expected water to be pillowing off the wall, it wasn’t. I
leaned into the “pillow” only to find myself upside
down after leaning into the lack of pillow. I quickly rolled up while
going over the first big drop in the slide, went through the
“thing” completely sideways but managed to keep her
upright and ran the rest of the slide backwards, subbing out deep and
long at the bottom, resurfaced upside down and rolled up, clear from
the hole and quickly heading to the island in the middle.
styled down through the entrance, disappeared
through the thing,
resurfaced upside down and ran the rest of the slide upside down,
taking a big melt at the bottom and rolling up with a big smile.
the top, medium aka swimmers flow, the author gives it a go.
Don't worry it's bigger than it looks...Nate Garcia.
getting into the meat of it.
The sun disappeared over the horizon as we pulled
below the final slide. On the lake we pushed through a light headwind,
and led by Chris’s machine like pace we reached our car an
hour and a half later. Fantasy Falls lives up to its legend as one of
the best runs in
California. This three day trip is full of scenery, rapids, big drops
and its fair share of portages. Everything about Fantasy Falls is world
class, I know I’ll be back for it again.
Fantasy Falls. It’s also in Good
2 the Last Drop
An old rule of thumb known by many is that low at the put-in is the
correct flow for Fantasy Falls. This has changed, and you do not want
it boney at the put-in. Every year Fantasy Falls is run with more and
more water. What was high five years ago is now medium, and
today’s high is yesterdays flood level. Now the first mile
not only goes, but if you have decent mank tolerance it’s
For reference last year a group put in at the top orange mark, and
three days later took out at the lower orange mark. They found it to be
high, still fun and all the normal drops were run.
put-in about 3” below the
bottom orange mark.
days later it was down another
3” for a total of
6” below the bottom orange mark.
We thought flows were perfect for our first time
were able to
run the first two miles that turn into pure mank at lower flows, but
didn’t have too much water in the gorges downstream. Kevin
hiked in to recover a broken paddle, the same day as the above picture,
and said the first mile looked horrible at lower flows.
Ben Stookesberry's TR and Video from '08
Springs on Google Maps.
down to green arrow.