I first saw the put-in for this section while
Middle Cosumnes. Crossing over
river on Buck's Bar Road, the downstream gorge is alluring. A little
bit of inquiry steered me away however. The put-in is also a popular
climbing destination, and all reports told of sieve pile rapids in a
gorge. One winter day however, I got a call from Taylor Cavin and
decided it was time to talk my boat for a hike through the low Sierra.
Will Pruett decided to join in the boat walking too.
Pruett unloads my grocery getter at the same parking area used to
started by hiking down the climbers trail for a few minutes before
getting our first glimpse of the river. The view was more promising
than expected, a big rapid that looked full on but not out of question.
Adhering to prudence we set our boats down and embarked on an extended
scout. Unfortunately the good rapid ended without much of a pool, and
the next drop didn't look quite as classic.
down at the first potential rapid.
Eddying out looked like too dubious of a move for
taste, added to the fact that egressing from the gorge would take rope
work. With darkness setting in just after four in the afternoon speed
was of the essence, so we wasted no time in sticking to the trail and
just keeps going down there.
that's why we're portaging. Will with the run-out of a massive sieve in
the background. Things
don't look too much better downstream....
a total of fifteen minutes of hiking behind us, we officially put in
below the rapid pictured above and
ran a quick rapid. Only to be forced out of our boats on the next
corner. Another ten to fifteen minute walk and things looked a lot
better. The river opened up momentarily and gradient eased up for a
quarter mile. Then once again the river delved into walls of granite
and got steep.
long scout revealed a better looking gorge, and Taylor leads the charge. A
downstream view. Yes that's ice on the left bank, it's winter after all.
lots of sieves, but some fun moves too. The
water levels seemed perfect, just enough to open up the options.
back upstream at the single largest drop we ran on the North Fork
Deep in the gorge we knew we were committed to figuring
out at river level, and after five major rapids no one was complaining
when the gorge opened up. A brief flat led us to the lip of another
gorge. I was starting to wonder about how we were doing on time, if the
river continued at this pace we'd have no chance of escaping before
dark. I noted that on the left there were ATV tracks coming down an old
road near the river. At least there was some access. This gorge was
considerably tighter than the last, but only contained one big rapid. A
rather junky rapid, with of course the requisite sieves. It had a
decent line and we all ran it together, dealing with some chaos coming
through the crux move but all escaping unscathed.
In typical Cosumnes fashion, after the gorge was over the
flattened out. Thankfully it was not as willow infested as the Middle
Fork of the Cosumnes is in its lower reaches and we made quick time
through a mile or two of class II before the pace picked up again.
Although there were no gorge walls, the river picked up into a nice
mile long section of IV with one notably larger IV+ which was a nice
surprise and not at all typical of the watershed. As the sunlight left
the river, so did anything resembling warm air, so we put our heads
down and paddled to take out.
Cavin finishing in daylight, not bad for a little December mission!
Glad to be done with the mission in daylight, we all agreed
it was fun but certainly not classic. It's the kind of run that's worth
doing once to see somewhere new.
Take out: From
Sacramento: 50 East
to Highway 49 South. Follow Highway 49 until a hard turn left on Union
Mine Road. We drove up Union Mine until we could see the river, then
asked a local land owner if we could park our car on the side of the
in: Back to a right turn on
Highway 49 North, follow until making a right on Pleasant Valley Road.
Follow until another right turn on Buck's Bar Road. You can follow
Buck's Bar Road to the river, but will need to turn around and park a
few switchbacks up the hill on the North side of the river, as there is
no access where the bridge crosses.