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Rubicon River IV-V

  For most Americans the name Rubicon brings up images of expensive four wheel drive Jeeps and the bragging rights associated with completing a trip on the famed Rubicon Trail. "Sports" in American parlance. Or perhaps for internationally aware it conjures images of Rome and the more famed Rubicon River in Italy. For a select few it brings a smile to the face as they recall miles of classic whitewater. great camping and probably a swim or two on California's Rubicon River. Tragically it's only a select few, as the river rarely has water due to extensive hydroelectric projects situated upstream.

  There is convenient access to the Rubicon and the water is just a short hike down from a bridge. Two things are obvious at put-in. The water quality is surprisingly good for a river with a hydroelectric project. There are a lot of willows because of said hydro project.

Gareth Tate gets going on the Rubicon.

Sections of the Rubicon are more non-stop than the average pool-drop river in the Sierra Nevada, and the first bit of whitewater is one of those sections.

Daniel Brasuell and Diane Gaydos in the first notable rapid.

The first long pool and some classic Rubicon scenery.

   Two of our group had already done the Rubicon earlier in the week, and their knowledge helped us make quick time down to the first portage. At higher flows it can be run in the right channel, but at our flow the left side was the only option and Jonas decided to give it a go.

Jonas Grunwald, you can barely see the yellow of his boat in there.

Jonas finishes strong in the big rapid

   We stayed in our kayaks until one of the more aesthetically pleasing gorges of the Rubicon River. From previous experience Jonas and Gareth knew it was worth a scout, because there are a couple big flushy holes and one final, sometimes sticky hole.

Gareth Tate gets a good stroke in while Jonas Grunwald looks over his shoulder.

The final hole is also the most retentive. Jonas Grunwald.

Gareth Tate squirts out of the same.

Looking back upstream at the stack up. We portaged the first very sticky ledge and seal launched in where Daniel Brasuell is standing. Diane Gaydos gains some speed.

Diane shows some great skills getting out of the bottom hole.

Daniel seal launches.

It's awesome and beautiful here. All smiles as everyone comes out of the ledges in their kayak.

A few boogie rapids and we are in another gorge. This one is harder to scout and we listen to beta, driving far right to avoid another sticky hole; Gareth Tate.

The pace didn't let up and soon we were at another possible portage. This one looks a lot worse in person. Jonas Grunwald.

Again and again big fun rapids, mostly read and run. As shade came into the canyon we decided to call it a day and camped in a nice spot on the left. Gareth Tate interviews about the day.


A lot of the in between on the Rubicon is like the stuff in the top of the image. Braided with willows in spots, sometimes hiding good sized rapids.

Jonas Grunwald runs a tough one.

On the second day there were a few I wish I'd had warning to take photos of. As it was, we routed hard running some big fun drops, with some more super classic rapids coming early in the second day.

   Too soon we passed the confluence with Long Canyon, and I knew there were only a few rapids left before take out. We came out of the trip with three swims, not an unusual number for the Rubicon. Something about the nature of the run creates solid hydraulics. I can say without a doubt that if the Rubicon had flows every year, I'd be there. As it is, when it does flow, getting on it should be a high priority, because who knows how long you'll have to wait if you miss it. There is a video and much better beta at Daniel Brasuel's A Wet State.

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