you'd asked me about Thomes Creek a few years ago, I wouldn't even know
what state it's in. Then it became a bit of an obsession. In mid
January, 2017, Joseph Hatcher invited me on an overnght run. That's a
rarity for January in California but we were having a warm winter. I
was game, not knowing what we would be running, and off we went. In the
town of Corning, we turn west and head to the east slope of the North
Coast Range. I didn't look up any information on the run. Joseph said
it is about 22 miles but a lot of that was the paddle out.
Farmhouse and shadow.
4WD car, chainsaw, and 2 sets of chains. We gave it the full college
effort. We could have gotten to the river, but our shuttle drivers
would not have had enough gas to get back out. We turned around when we
made that calculation.
April 10th, 2018. No snow issues, and I get a first look into the watershed.
are already dropping, around 500cfs here. While I'm able to make it to
the put-in, by the time Joseph is free, the water is gone; it goes fast
What I saw of the river looks good. One class V-ish rapid and a lot of read and run.
9th, 2019. Locals say there is way too much snow to get to put in, yet
I'm able to motor all the way up with no snow. Flows are way too
high, around 2,000cfs on the gauge.
just four days the river has dropped from over 2,000 to around 850.
It's time to go. The final gorge is unusual; just before the
river empties into the valley floor the walls pinch together. Above
this is a small valley, and then the river drops through the gorge into
the Sacramento Valley. I've done a little research this
time. The river drops 80fpm over 22 miles. That's like the Scott or
Cal-Salmon. I'm not too worried, even though I know the bottom 6-8
miles will be paddle out. I'm convinced there are few long term
who are not overly optimistic and good at ignoring facts.
Well ok, I
did some research in 2018.
2475 Put In
2140 (Alternate Access, hike down old steep road)
2040 (Possible Portage just after 4 MI, then at 4.5 larger rapid for .5 mi)
1450 (crux here?)
1020 (out of gorge)
Huge Paddle out - 9 miles.
The gradient barely hits 200fpm. How hard can it be?
Looking downstream from the shuttle. April 12th, 2019.
The road is in decent overall shape, just some rocks that need to be tossed out of the way.
make it to put-in at 12:18pm and don't waste time. The joy of
three people. With the gradient I joke that we may paddle out today.
Should be all read and run at 80fpm right?
Luke Andraka and Joseph Hatcher and put-in.
As expected, it's nice read and run down for a mile and a half down to
the first significant rapid seen from the road. It's 1pm when we reach the rapid, 1:30
by the time we adjust boats and scout the rapid as we're all getting
used to paddling overnight loaded boats.
Joseph Hatcher elects to probe. Note that somehow the rock on the right is undercut...on the downstream side.
It's pretty full on, Joseph Hatcher styles it with ease.
A downstream view as we drain boats and make a few more adjustments. It's a deep canyon.
the road visible rapid, we have a couple miles of read and run. It's
good. Really good. So good that we think this may just become a spring
classic. Looking upstream at some typical read and run.
doesn't look good. Thomes Creek somehow shows that distinction between
boulder garden and rock pile; this is a rock pile with water flowing
over and through it. We portage on the left. Then the rapid keeps
going, so we follow a game trail higher up.
Joseph Hatcher makes his way through more read and run.
Two and a half miles since our last scout, and four miles into the run, Luke Andraka takes a look at 2:35pm.