McCloud River flows off the southern side of Mt Shasta, and after
dropping over two large waterfalls it flows through a beautiful class
II-III+ run before being impounded in McCloud Reservoir. Springs
supply year round flows in the McCloud, and the water is crystal clear
and just above freezing.
morning fog at the McCloud
I had done the McCloud years ago as a beginning
and swore never
to return due to boulder bar rapids and the cold water. I always knew I
would have to go back and get photographs at some time though, and as
December arrived without any precipitation, I started motivating to get
on the McCloud.
I really enjoyed the run this time, I think having
drysuit and pogies
made a large difference over my previous wetsuit experience. The first
time we put on at Fowler Falls, and scraped down over a mile of rocky
rapids before Little Springs came into the river. The falls is fun to
run, but the section below is miserable at low flows.
Shannamar Dewey at Fowler Falls.
This time we drove as
far downstream as possible and hiked another half mile or so to right
above Little Springs, an ideal put in for base flows that eliminates
all the scraping endured on our previous trip. The class IV rapid is
above Little Springs, so even when water is up a class III boater could
put in here and enjoy the McCloud.
Flows are still a little low but acceptable for
until Big Springs pours in doubling the flow in good fashion.
runs the rapid at the base of Big
this run is done mid summer,
so the heat offsets the cold
water. December wasn’t the same story, but it gave us scenery
Right below Big Springs is one of the best rapids
run, a long
II+ rapid that stacks up to class III because it’s about two
hundred yards long and fun. The general character of the run is very
continuous class II with moving water in between. Nothing in particular
stood out to me, but the river keeps you moving at a good pace
downstream, dodging rocks and hopefully taking time to look up and
enjoy the scenery.
Mitchell splashing it up on the
Eventually after many miles of twists and turns
McCloud goes under
a bridge and mellows out, flowing through the Hearst Estate, my largest
motivation to return and get some pictures. Paddling through this fairy
tale scenery has to be done at least once. Usually any sign of
civilization on the river is a detraction from the scenery, but they
know how to do it right.
little one is my personal
three miles of flat water
isn’t my idea of fun, but
thanks to low lake levels the length of flat water paddling was
The McCloud really is a scenic wonderland, and while the
aren’t particularly challenging, the current keeps you moving
downstream and the views make it worthwhile as a novelty that I would
recommend as a “must do once” kind of run. Bill
has a greatwrite-upwith
shuttle directions. While in the area, the rarely run Upper and Middle
McCloud Falls are worth checking out for viewing pleasure.