Legend of Yuba Gap has
surfaced during many shuttle drives on the upper
echelon of California kayak runs. I first heard of the run from Devin
Knight, one of the few who had done the run prior to the 2009 flow
study. He referred to Yuba Gap as one of the best runs he had ever
done, full of locked in gorges, bedrock slides and long boulder
gardens, all in a wilderness quality setting. Calling any run a "best"
in California is a big statement, considering Big
, the South
many others, the state has many of the best day runs in North America.
So why has the Yuba Gap escaped the media blitz and notoriety of it's
It's not that Yuba Gap is the most remote run, the
is only five
minutes off highway 20, and the shuttle is straight forward. It's not
the amount of portaging as only two are mandatory, and none are
technical or require rope work. It is a longer day, but possible to do
in a day even if you have never seen it, and only a four hour run if
someone knows the lines.
Water, or lack of, has kept Yuba Gap a secret for
previously only had water from the unpredictable Lake Spaulding spill,
and no gauge. Everyone that wanted to do the run had driven to it at
least several times to find too much water, or fish flows. Generally
the lake would spill 1,200 for a few days then get shut off, offering
no window at all. Thanks to the hard work of American
, we had our first
flow study on the South Fork Yuba in 2009, with a release of 300cfs for
three days on Yuba Gap.
The run is seven miles long, from Bowman Lake Road
Golden Quartz day
use area. All the flow comes from Lake Spaulding, and although the run
has a short shuttle, it's very remote and once past the initial gorges,
hiking out would be an epic undertaking.
Our first day we were lucky enough to meet up with
Center and Lane Jacobs, who had all done the run before. What followed
was an intense routing fest with our over sized group of ten. The
following day we went back with a nice three pack of Chris Korbulic,
Taylor Cavin and myself. We set slightly mellower pace, taking time to
get a few shots but still moving fast.
At the put in a steep "trail" leads to the river,
short pool to the first boulder garden. This rapid sets the tones for
rapids on the run, a blind boulder garden, that while not exactly manky
is only clean if you are dead on line.
A pool below the boulder garden reveals a tall
line, and if you
don't know the lines, it's time to scout the whole gorge. Thankfully we
knew the lines from day one, relayed the info and boofed into the gorge.
Burnham at 600cfs.
Stephen Wright at 600cfs.
Yuba Gap has the best start of any run I have ever
onto a pillow with a short slide after it, then a perfect calm pool,
followed by a 20-30' high slide, a ledge and another nice big slide
into a pool where the walls spread out and offer egress from the gorge.
There is nowhere to get out at river level, so perhaps one day I'll
hike down and get shots from the gorge rim. If you are gripped and not
enjoying the run at this point, it's time to hike out, it only picks up
in difficulty downstream.
A multi-move boulder garden leads into one of the
the left, ending at "Emerald Pools" and the start of the second gorge.
Smaller slides lead into the first scout of the day.
Taylor Cavin finishes the hourglass slide in an unusual style - upright.
Devin had raved about the
hourglass slide, and the feature was
intimidating as it pinched int a 10' wide slot before opening up again,
but the friction climb portage was even more intimidating.
With a big pillow on the right, and an even larger
on the left,
it's hard to stay upright through the hourglass.
Chris Korbulic getting a face full of the first pillow.
There is a nice big recovery pool before the next drop, a slide that
mandates a quality plug into the depths.
Four drops from 10'-30'
high are required to finish the second gorge,
many of which can't be scouted at river level. If the run has regular
flows, an afternoon lap & hike back up could be done on this
Below the gorges, the river turns to big boulder
with bits of bedrock and the steepest gradient of the section. A few
portages are mixed in with the long, complex and occasionally sievey
A quick portage around the Island on Yuba Gap.
Taylor Cavin enjoys a great end of the portage.
This side of the Island has only been run once by Lane Jacobs.
Steep boulder gardens, follow, until another quick portage around the
entrance to a nice big slide. I consider this section the crux of the
Taylor Cavin bounces down the goods.
More boulder gardens link
together after the slide, and then the river
bends left and enters one last gorge of two big drops. The first is the
cleaner of the two, a mandatory boof into a large pillow. The second
drop is a twenty five foot high waterfall. Tragically there is a rock
on the right side of the landing, and there is a line to the left of
it, but it's barely more than a boat width wide.
Taylor Cavin runs the first drop of the final gorge.
On both of my runs those
who portaged went up and over on the left.
During the portaged we inspected other options, and agreed that next
time we would run the first drop (or portage at river level) and
portage the top half of the second drop on the right, allowing us to
run the slide at the bottom of it and shorten the portage by a
considerable amount. (Worked great in 2010)
Lane Jacobs running the first tier.
Charlie Center getting left on the twenty five footer.
Below the gorge the river
opens up, and there are optional portages
around a few questionable drops that some run, then a bunch of IV-V
boulder garden boogie, a quick portage around two mean holes with
undercuts, and one final moderate effort portage.
The Crane Falls.
Large caves await a missed line, and we all chose to portage both days,
although the rapid has been run.
Once past the crane, the
river relaxes into a class IV character with
the occasional easy V for the next two miles to take out.
With only two mandatory portages, you can go as
big as you
want in Yuba
Gap, although most portage at least five times. Consistent class V for
five miles won't leave you wanting at the end of the day. With a
prospective future of reliable releases, Yuba Gap is sure to become a
Take out at Golden
Quartz Picnic Area
, and put in at Langs
Crossing on Bowman Lake Road.
Six pack on Soccer Mom!
Flows can be found on the new
gauge on Dreamflows
. 300 is
ideal, 600 was too high and we hiked out while 200 is too low.