Kayaking on California's last completely undammed river system, the
we had a mixed group of paddlers and decided to paddle
Oregon Hole gorge, and then the South Fork Gorge. Both these runs use
the same take out. Oregon Hole went well, and we milled around eating
lunch and getting cold, followed by a quick shuttle for the SF Gorge.
Things have changed since Best Whitewater of California was published.
The stated weigh station is gone, and there is now a river access
signed “Craig’s Beach” that is the take
out for the class II/III South Fork run, and put in for the gorge. While
gearing up at Craig’s Beach we ran into a group of
paddlers from the bay area taking off the II/III run. One mentioned the
run being “scenic” and we invited him to join in a
gorge run with us. Generally we always refer to a run as
“scenic” and don’t say anything else
about it when it’s not that great. The
McCloud…good scenery….you get the idea. With our
group up to five we put on the water and quickly discussed hand
signals. The first rapid of the gorge is a nice class III rapid with a
hole that gets more retentive as flows drop.
Nate runs the entry move to #1
Samantha puts the heat on for punching the hole.
the first drop there are eddies on both sides, and if you
the left it’s safer to eddy out a bit higher up, if you push
to the edge of the rapid you take out with your stern in the water
going down the rapid while clinging to rocks trying to get out. Dave
and I figured that one out. A quick scout showed a large, quite ugly
hole on river right and twisty drop on river left. I felt good about it
and charged down the center moving left and got into the water moving
around the hole quite easily, punched the next hole and found a huge
eddy on river right. Davey hopped in his boat next and paddled through
with a nice clean line.
Brian headed to his boat next and I shotthis
him hitting the same line.
was up next, and while paddling up the eddy lost his
and dropped down the center, mistaking a rock to the right of the boof
as the boof rock. This resulted in a slight piton. The piton killed his
speed and Konrad spun around, barely missing the large hole as he
drifted by it sideways. BJ was up next and was probably the least
experienced paddler in the group but ran the rapid quite well, brushing
the hole but with lots of momentum in this shot.
up was a nice rapid that Dave scouted on the right and BJ
left, and I probed down the middle through some nice splashy water, and
eddied out to wait for the group. Clean lines for all through the rapid. One
more class III rapid and we were eddied out above the next drop,
one you couldn’t see all the way down. I saw a nice rock boof
into an eddy on the right, and went down to the eddy to check things
out. The right side looked good and BJ went to follow me down into the
eddy but didn’t move back upstream enough to get all the way
over. He ended up sliding over a two-foot ledge sideways and started to
get surfed. He worked his way to the right side of the ledge hole and
flipped, flushing out on the eddy line. BJ tried several rolls but
wasn’t able to get any in the swirly eddy line, and swam.
Thankfully he appeared in the eddy, but the boat took off downstream. I
started chasing it until what looked like a rather large drop
immediately after the rapid he swam in. I watched the boat plunge down
it and go through a nice hole and decided to follow it on through. This
was really a rather fun rapid had I been paying attention to it, and
was really the last rapid in the gorge. The
final drop requires a center to right move and is a lot of fun,
pictures don't do the slide justice, and occasionally paddlers end up
on the left wall that is perfectly shaped for holding a boat and
paddler until they swim.
Nate moving right in the final rapid.
This is what happens if you get pushed left onto the wall.
Matt Porter enjoying the last drop.
I drug the boat over to the side and we regrouped for the paddle out
through a bit of flatwater and beautiful gorge scenery.
Nate with the killer shuttle rig, nine people plus boats for a quick
shuttle on the South Fork Smith.
most flows the South Fork Gorge is decidedly a step up from the
Oregon Hole Gorge, as several rapids have more consequence. Combined
they make a fun, although still short day. You can do two or more laps
on each in one day, or four to five on each if you are motivated.