was the only thing I was looking forward to after getting done with the
Canoyon of the Tuolumne
. Technically we
had really finished early in the
morning, but Ben
awake at six am and checking the outflow of O’Shaughnessy
Dam. Too soon he was waking us up talking about “the sneak of
the century” and an opportunity too good to pass up. Plus, we
still had extra food and all our gear from the Grand Canyon, so if the
fifteen mile run took two days we would be set.
During the setting of our dubious Grand Canyon
Ben saw the
Poopenaut Gorge and quickly added it to the list of things to do.
Gorge of the Tuolumne,
obscured by the smoke of forest fires.
The map showed decent gradient and one major gorge
it opened up.
The word of mouth beta had us in anticipation rumor of a clean thirty
footer and lots of granite. Perhaps this is what helped us get up after
the three hard days on the water and five hours of sleep.
Grand Canyon of the
Tuolumne had gotten us in used to hiking, so we
made quick work of the access road. Why the early start? This section
of the Tuolumne River too is in Yosemite, and nothing is known of its
legality, but it’s probably questionable, so we took an early
Downstream view from put-in bridge.
We put on with a thin 200cfs and pushed
at how flat
the pools were. After just a few initial drops and a long lake we
arrived at a large horizon line, and ran/portaged through a mini gorge,
the rapids a mix of slides and sieves, setting the tone for the day.
low flows I would almost
call the pools between the steep sections
lakes, and after this long one we took our breakfast and a nap to catch
up on sleep.
sleeps while Chris
refreshed by the short
R&R we put on to something we
would see too much of; underground river due to large boulders.
As we pushed downstream into the gorge our focus
into unknown gorge always contains the hazard of finding the unrunable,
unportageable rapid. The river character was already dubious, and as
the gorge started to tighten its belt we came upon a sketchy rapid that
didn’t have any portage options. A manky boulder pile
squeezing through an undercut slot too narrow for a paddler to fit
through without driving up on a rock. Knowing we had no other options I
ran it while Ben filmed.
The author heading into a tight spot.
tight gorge walls continued, with
a monolith the size of a tour
ship's smoke stack splitting the river.
above we couldn’t scout the
right line, so we opted for
a throw and go down the left, only to look back upstream and fight the
right side cleaner than expected.
Glad to have the tight gorge behind us, the canyon opened up a little
but retained its massive walls. A few slides were run and our hopes
were up for quality rapids.
Korbulic in the slide section.
The gorge bottom of Poopenaut Gorge is similar in
character to the
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, massive walls but in generally fairly
wide on the bottom. We were all pleased with how wide it was, because
large chunks of rock had fallen from the walls, creating an interesting
mix of rapids. A low angle slide led into house sized boulders that
channeled the water up against the right wall, making two fifteen foot
tiered smear moves that we couldn’t resist dubbing it
Stookesberry on the first smear.
Korbulic loved the smear too.
The standard rapids switched back to boulder gardens, with more
portages than I would like to remember, and the occasional cleaner
author somewhere in the mix.
With all the boulder gardens we were starting to
faith, but hope
was renewed as more bedrock appeared.
Korbulic, laundry master,
handles the fold with no problem.
As we paddled across another lake, we were excited
gradient loss in a mini gorge, scouted and took lunch. It
wasn’t a thirty footer, but a nice long entry rapid led into
a photogenic pothole boof.
author running the entrance.
Korbulic styling the pothole.
The pothole drop raised hopes again, and the lake
character maintained for a several more drops, one that had a long lead
in to a nice twenty footer.
Korbulic enjoying the better
side of Poopenaut Gorge.
Not knowing how much further we had to go, we hurried through this
section and didn’t take much time for photos or video,
getting out simply for posterity’s sake.
Stookesberry slides into Poopenaut
Suddenly the walls were gone, and we were cruising
class II with
the occasional mank pile thrown in. Where was the thirty footer? Like
most rumors of large, clean waterfalls, this one was simply a rumor.
While we were all glad to have done, and be done with this section of
river, I don’t think any of us will return. I’d
consider every run worth doing once, and although this run does rate
higher than others, it’s by no means a classic.
Flows are nearly impossible to gauge, a little more water
been nice, but I wouldn’t go back with too much more. Use the
Hetch Hetchy Gauge.