Looking upstream at the Fresno River where Crooks Creek comes in.
We're expecting quite a bit of flat water and a downstream horizon is a pleasant surprise at the confluence.
On the Fresno River we make quick
progress through fairly continuous boulder gardens. Green rolling hills
abound, it's a good time of year to be here. We pass a house early on,
but soon it rather feels like the middle of nowhere with the occasional
old cabin or random equipment. The character is fun III-IV, very nice
to read and run. I find it rather reminiscent of the North Fork Kaweah,
but not quite as hard and somewhat less brushy.
A sign over the door says something House #3.
Five miles into the run the green hills give way to granite, and a bedrock rapid.
We skirt some barb wire to scout the rapid, which is just one drop through a decent sized hole.
Gavin Reiser skips through the hole.
river returns to boulder gardens and we make quick time again, passing
a few houses. At the end of a long pool we have a horizon line and hop
out to take a look. This one looks possible from the top, but we shake
our heads once we're out and see the whole thing. The rapid has three
problems. First, the lip isn't clean and it looks like a little more
flow would help. Second is that the sliding falls lands in a pothole,
and it would be hard to avoid hitting the wall and getting stuck in it.
Further inspection reveals another problem.
The ramp looks a little jumbly, and some water is actually flowing through it. Time to walk.
Looking at the same rapid from the lip. It's an easy portage, and here the river character changes, we're now in a gorge.
The gorge has an interesting nature, blind and intimidating horizons prove to be class IV rapids.
Mostly class IV. This boulder chocked in the middle of the river makes
for a unique experience. We're happy that it goes better than it looks.
With the scouting that's required the
gorge is taking a while, and it's longer than expected. We've been in
it for about a mile and it's all been grade IV except for the boulder
choke. Coming around a corner into the final straightaway we encounter
a nasty rapid. If we had to, we could probably run it. However the
rapid is really just a series of barely covered siphons. A swim or even
flipping in the wrong spot could result in disaster. There might be a
portage possible at river level, but we can't tell from the top and
will be committed to it if we down climb to check it out. It's a high
risk, low reward situation and I'd rather do a little legwork and avoid
the danger. We attain back upstream and climb the hill for what feels
like an eternity but is only ten minutes.
Swim in the first hole and go under the rocks at the bottom of the frame.
Just covered enough to probably be runnable. Unless you sub out and vanish into the rock pile.
Climbing out is steep enough to get our hearts pounding.
Ten minutes up and there is a charming view upstream.
Some nice rapids in the gorge we came through.
Above the gorge we follow an old flume and end up on a quad track,
which takes us to the end of the gorge. Thirty minutes of portaging and
we're back on the water.
It's getting late in the day, we still have four miles to cover in the
next two hours. Time to get moving, hopefully the gorges are over now
that it's open.
The river has resumed it's open boulder garden character, but it's only
a brief respite. Less than half a mile later we're on top of another
I don't need to scout this to tell you it's not pretty down there. We make a quick portage on the right.
it opens up again, and has more flat and plenty of houses. We
relentlessly paddle downstream to make take out before dark. We're out
of our kayaks once to walk across a road that fords the river. Perhaps
because it's only two of us, we have no contact with the land owners
and quietly move on out of view. The rapids are still decent down here,
yet it's a relief to see the bridge and take out. We have just made it
before dark, and are happy to see the car just where we left it. While
loading up with chat with two friendly people who just moved to the
area, apparently we ran into all the good locals on our run.
Retrospectively what can be said about
the Fresno River? It's not classic because it's a river of two
characters; class IV or V+. The scenery is nice, as are most the
rapids. It would be a challenging river for a group of class IV paddles
to figure out, yet it doesn't have the class V most paddlers of that
ilk would prefer. An adventure well worth doing, yet something that we
will not be repeating too soon. We ran it with 1,000cfs on the dreamflows gauge.