For Mount Shasta kayakers, McCloud falls is a
while embarking on a standard McCloud River run. Early on I had written
off middle falls as an un-ideal waterfall due the combination of a
tricky shallow slide leading in, an abrupt lip and forty to fifty foot
free fall, way too big for me.
Knight finishing off another epic
South Branch run.
Ending another epic day on theSouth
mid May, we weighed our options and drove over halfway to Slate Creek
of the Yuba before camping out on the South Fork Feather.
It’s not always paved roads with easy park and hucks.
on the road?
and we thought snow pack
was lower than this.
even more snow…no problem.
ended up turning around and taking
an alternate route.
Waking up relatively early, we rallied to Slate Creek and found flows
to be slightly less than optimal.
Driving all the way out to Slate Creek had ruled out Big
our list, so we opted to check out a local secret in the Pit River
drainage, but after three hours of driving were skunked again, and
decided to continue our loop up through McCloud falls to check the
flows. I have since retured to Slate Creek
at the right flow now that there is a gauge.
is the water at?
Not knowing how flows we looked, we called in friends and
family for a
nice Sunday BBQ at the Upper Falls. While everyone pulled in we scouted
both Upper and Middle Falls. Initially the Middle Falls looked low, but
from the base the four foot high boil looked plenty inviting, so we
were off to Upper Falls.
The McCloud Falls are interesting because although they
are located in
close proximity, they all differ vastly in character. Upper Falls has a
fifty yard long box canyon leading into a two tiered thirty foot
free fall, Middle Falls is a low angle slide into a fifty foot free
and Lower Falls is a ten foot falls with a gigantic undercut.We
all agreed about one
thing on Upper Falls. Flows were really high,
and we all felt that we had at best, a 50% chance of coming over the
lip upright. Since the falls drops ten feet onto a slab before free
falling another twenty, we quickly wrote it off and headed up to picnic.
Picnics tend to be relaxing, and in a beautiful setting
McCloud river, the mellow picnicking was killing any ambition of
running Middle Falls. Eventually as the food settled we slowly moved
towards our gear, without anyone promising to actually run the falls,
we put in at the base of Upper Falls and tried to ignore the impending
horizon line just a quarter mile downstream.
Middle Falls has an interesting lead in rapid. Not
challenging in size, the rapid runs out into a low angle, very shallow
slide that continues right over the falls. Due to the volcanic nature
of the rock, slides on the McCloud are hard to move around so we
portaged down to an eddy at the top of the slide, and commenced
Scouting Middle Falls on the McCloud is absolutely
terrifying! First we
scrambled across exposed scree fields to an outcropping twenty feet
above the lip of the falls. Uncomfortable with heights, I took once
glance over from the exposed ledge and called it good. I instantly felt
like I’d rather run the falls than stand at the brink. The
downside was from my one brief glimpse the falls looked terrible, an
abnormal shallow slide right to the lip of a massive drop, with no
clean ramp and minimal green water to speak of.I
also noticed that due to
lighting, there wasn’t a shot I
wanted to get from the lip, so at least I wouldn’t have to
lean over trying to get a photo, all the goods would be gotten from
downstream, one more reason for me to probe.
Knight on the lead in to Middle
Falls on the McCloud.
Hiking back up I got my boat positioned to launch in the
several logs and gave them a toss to see how hard the slide was pushing
to the right. The first log I threw into where I assumed my line would
be, and it was quickly pushed all the way into the right wall by the
time it reached the lip. I threw the next one in two feet to the left,
and it went over right where I wanted to be, about four feet off the
wall. This was looking like a narrow line, but there were two nice
tufts of grass sticking out of the water, and they marked the entrance
Confident in my ability to go over the correct spot at the
minimum, and willing to deal with going over vertical into the
(relatively) soft landing, I got in my boat and focused on my line.
From the eddy I received the good to go signal, splashed
water on my face and peeled out into the shallow slide. Coming in I was
worried about being too far right, and after goal posting the grass
tufts, I felt like I was too far left, and only a few feet from the lip
took two back strokes as an upstream ferry to move me a little more
right, then I pitched over the lip, took one long stroke and slowly
tucked forward, feeling myself go to vertical and just a little past
before melting into the boil at the bottom. I resurfaced downstream and
quickly rolled, adrenaline and relief rushing through my body, with a
huge smile on my face.
probe unit about to go deep.
up to a rock outcropping high
above the falls, I got setup to
get shots of Devin Knight running a perfect line over the falls.
Knight lost in the mist at the
Matt Thomas enjoying some California sunshine.
Knight staying on top of it on
Middle Falls was exceptionally rewarding for those of us who had grown
up looking at its beauty, and we were glad to have everyone emerge safe
and sound from such a consequential drop.