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Trinity River - Burnt Ranch Gorge IV-V

The Burnt Ranch Gorge of the Trinity River has long been shadowed by the infamous first descent. As years have gone by and gear improved dramatically, Burnt Range Gorge, aka BRG, has gone from a seldom run cutting edge whitewater adventure to an often paddled classic section of river often done in playboats. In my opinion there are often better options in the spring, BRG has flows all summer long and is a fantastic resource. It's well worth noting the run drops to more of a class IV  at 700cfs, albeit with one portage and a few IV+ rapids.

This sign (now gone) probably added to the notoriety of BRG.

Mike Ward enjoys "Afternoon Delight" at summer flows.

Shannamar Dewey runs some typical Burnt Ranch Gorge class IV.

The crux of a run on Burnt Ranch Gorge is navigating "Burnt Ranch Falls". While none of them are true waterfalls, they all verge on class V at some water levels, and the third tends to always be in the class V range. The first in many ways is the most dangerous. While the line is on the left, at higher flows a considerable amount of water pushes into a cave on the bottom right. As a swimmer it could be hard to avoid, but in a kayak there is a large eddy on the right, and it's not too hard to catch the eddy and ferry across to the left line.

The second falls is run down the right at all but the highest flows. This is one that gets trickier as flows drop, because a paddler is forced to run a tricky notch/ledge (for class IV paddlers) above the final, often retentive hole. As flows increase a boof opens up to the left of the notch, making it easier to come through with control.

Nate boofs the ledge with flows around 1,200cfs.

Danny Salazar gets a great boof at the bottom of #2 at summer flows of 700cfs.

Surprisingly the boof line even works for a raft with spring flows.

   One of the best things about Burnt Ranch Gorge is that even though there are some beautiful, vertical walled gorges, there are generally portage options too. It's easy to walk the top of Burnt Ranch Falls 2 on the right, and put in just above a fun slide down the left.

Alex Cousins enjoying his back yard river and taking the left slide on the deuce.

 Burnt Ranch Falls #3 is the toughest of the bunch, and has hazards at all water levels. It used to be easier at low flows, but a recent shift in the rocks makes the entrance a step above anything else on the run.  In the spring the largest concern is a hole near the bottom, that feeds into an alcove on the left. Once in the alcove it takes patience and persistence to fight out, neither of which are easy to have while getting beat down in a hole or shoved up against a wall.

Aisha Hill charges into the hole on #3 at 1,200cfs.

   Aisha had a lot of right angle, but still got stopped by the hole and started taking turns between the hole and the alcove. Brett had decided to follow behind, which might not always be the best choice for #3.

Video of Nate cleaning the bottom of #3. Below the third Burnt Ranch Falls the pace of the river mellows out, similar to the section above, although there are still a few spicy rapids down here too.

Rafting #3.

  In all reality David Ernst's video does the most to show what Burnt Ranch is all about, because it has nearly every major rapid in the run.

Burnt Ranch Gorge from 1596 Media on Vimeo.

   It's worth noting that strangely BRG is toughest around 1,200-1,300cfs. Both lower and higher are easier, somehow that is a magic flow for pushy water and sticky holes. You'll want to check flows at the Trinity River at Cedar Flat. Daniel's write up at A Wet State has great detailed beta too.

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