Shannon Carroll runs Lower
Falls at medium flows, 2011.
For quite some
time groups would put-on, run through Lower Falls and start portaging
on the right as the river sieved out. Our group did this on my first
trip and tried to run as much as possible. This is not the thing to do.
When you see the river drop into a gorge below Lower Falls, get out on
the left about 100 yards above the gorge and start portaging on the
left. In general you just try to stay on the ridge line closest to the
river. Doing this only requires a few spots of thick bushwhacking.
Eventually the ridge closest to the river will end in a ravine. If you
follow this ravine to the river you'll be at the first good drop. It
takes about an hour and a half to portage on the left, and three on the
Maps Marker for the Triple Drop Put-In.
The first triple drop needs no explanation, it's unique and one of the
best boofs in the world. Kevin Smith reaps the rewards. 2011
David Maurier exits the same, 2011.
Shannon Carroll exits, 2011.
of the next
rapid, in 2011 a boat was pinned in a sieve on the left, and another
the following year. It doesn't treat them well. Nick Murphey 2012.
walked right since the drop after that one is a portage too. There is a
bit of read and run with the occasional scout/portage before the next
bedrock drop. This slide goes better at low flows, the bottom is very
retentive at medium or higher water levels. It's possible to make a
fairly quick portage on the right and run the next fun slide.
Thomas Moore drops in, 2011.
Tom Janney below the pothole slide in 2014.
Below the two
slides is a portage at medium or higher flows. Mr Hilikie's line in the
Seven Rivers dvd is very memorable as he barely escapes the pothole. To
run the next slide, seal launch in on either side. The right is a
little harder for everyone, while the left is easier except for the
last person who gets stuck with a rather tough seal launch at the lip
of the slide. Scout this whole gorge because the next three rapids are
walled in. We went left, and left. After the three distinct horizon
lines is "Clay Wrights Drop". It looks mellow but has a nasty sieve in
the middle. It's an easy portage on the left and worth doing.
Shannon Carroll getting busy, 2011.
The slide sequence, Phil Boyer 2017.
Just after Clay Wrights Drop is a nice slide, that ends in a possible
camp site if you are having a slow first day. This site is not ideal
because the next day will be quite long.
Kevin Smith and Dave Maurier below the slide, 2011.
This is the midst of one of the best sections of river, as there are
several fun slides.
Kevin Smith and Thomas Moore, 2011.
One of the most memorable, a hundred yard long slide into a five to ten
foot falls, 2011.
Below the long
slide get out on the left. It can be a little tricky to get out if
flows are high, but the next rapid falls ten to fifteen feet onto rock.
Make a quick portage on the left by passing boats, it's very slippery
to get down into the pothole. The horizon after the portage is blind,
go far right. Then scout far right for the twin falls. The twin falls
is one of the most amazing places I've ever been. Two tributaries come
in to join the river, each on their own waterfall, but at the top and
bottom of one rapid. I don't know if this one changed over the years,
but on my first trip we all walked it. It's a tough, brushy portage
high on the right. At medium flows most the group ran it, and one
wished they had. It goes a lot better than it looks.
Kevin Smith makes final move of the twin falls rapid, 2011.
Below twin falls you are locked into running two significant but fun
rapids. The first is a slide where it's possible eddy on the left
above. Run the slide on the far left, then stay right for the final
drop and end of the first gorge.
David Maurier exits the gorge, 2011.
changes below the twenty footer. The granite bedrock gives way to
boulder gardens, and most are not granite. The majority are read and
run, but stay on your toes as this is an unstable region and the rapids
can and do change yearly. The further you get into the boulder gardens, the
steeper the gorge walls get. Eventually comes a portage on the left,
which is followed by two mandatory rapids both run left of center,
before the highlight: boof-a-matic.
Boof-a-matic falls. Mandatory and very, very fun. Thomas Moore. 2011
Chris Madden, 2014.
There is a
large pool below boof-a-matic, then the river goes over a small slide.
The next two rapids after the slide are significant, tough to portage
and tough to scout. Go right on the first one, about four feet off the
wall. Boof hard and fast, the hole is sticky. If you get past the first
hole, go slightly left of center through another hole (try not to get
stuck in the eddy on the left) and go left for the final ledge. There
are eddies on both sides above the final drop, which has caused a
number of swims (the drop not the eddies :) The secret of the final
drop is running the first tier
on the far right, staying up on a pillow then boofing around a hole.
Follow this with another boof over the second larger ledge.
Shannon Carroll exits the final exit rapid of boof-a-matic gorge.
Camping just below boof-a-matic is a nice way to spend an evening.
There is a nice campsite on river right after the next rapid, it even has a little cell phone service.
Significant inflow is added with the addition of Fish Creek and the
North Fork San Joaquin, and the next
half day the river is more read and run, except for two portages, both
have been run but are very marginal. Both are portaged on the right.
This one has been run at very low flows and it still resulted in a swim.
Scout where appropriate as always,
are sieves and some large holes in this section.
Jim Janney somewhere in the middle, 2014.
Most of it is open to
Cassidy Crossing with the exception of the "Class IV/Big Water Gorge"
which is walled in and has a few mandatory rapids in it. The bridge at
Cassidy Crossing is obvious and marks the start of the Crucible
section. Although not particularly long, about two miles, this section
can take most to all of a day. W̶a̶t̶c̶h̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶a̶n̶
̶u̶n̶d̶e̶r̶c̶u̶t̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶w̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶
̶f̶i̶r̶s̶t̶ ̶r̶a̶p̶i̶d̶ ̶b̶e̶l̶o̶w̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶r̶i̶d̶g̶e̶.̶ ̶T̶h̶e̶
̶s̶e̶c̶o̶n̶d̶ ̶r̶a̶p̶i̶d̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶p̶o̶r̶t̶a̶g̶e̶d̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶
̶l̶e̶f̶t̶.̶ ̶I̶t̶'̶s̶ ̶t̶e̶c̶h̶n̶i̶c̶a̶l̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶r̶e̶q̶u̶i̶r̶e̶s̶
̶c̶l̶i̶m̶b̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶o̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶ ̶n̶a̶s̶t̶y̶ ̶e̶x̶p̶o̶s̶e̶d̶
̶s̶i̶e̶v̶e̶.̶ Significant change as of 2017, it can no longer be
portaged at river level, one must take out out at Cassidy Bridge,
use the trail on river right to climb for five minutes and then find an
obscure fishing trail to go
through a notch and put below the first two rapids of the gorge, just a
short ways above this rarely run
Nick Murphey, 2012.
Continue into the Crucible, scouting & portaging when necessary.
One of the good things about the San Joaquin is you won't have to
debate about portages, because most of them just go underground. The
one pictured below absorbs all the energy of the rapid, and ends in a
flat green pool.
David Maurier at the base of the above portage.
Where the river
in the above image is the crux portage of the Crucible. There is a
run-able V-V+ rapid there, but it's best to start the portage above it
(hard to get out once run). From above the portage looks much easier on
the left, and initially it is. Unfortunately the left portage turns
into a thin ledge high above a sieve, where a mistake would likely end
in fatality. My first two times we made the mistake of
portaging on the left, it was terrifying. Thankfully Kevin Smith has
found a good portage
on the right. It's tougher at the beginning, requiring a steep friction
climb up a mini granite ridge, and then a long exposed traverse. Thankfully the
footing is good, and the portage route gets better rather than worse
the more you continue downstream.
Jim Janney just past the scariest part of the portage.
The next drop is portaged on the
right too. Rope boats 20' up to the obvious ledge to portage the whole
thing, or portage near river level for half the rapid and run the
bottom half. It's quite sievy and it doesn't take much longer to just
portage the whole thing.
Thomas Moore running the last corner that often gets portaged (mostly because it's hard to put back in). 2014
Balloon Dome and the calm before the storm. There is a very
campsite on the left below this.
Making the last long portage into the Crucible. Start high on the right
and finish at river level.