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California Trip Report '07

Summer '07 is game-time for researching the River Gypsies' Guide - our first stop is California to check out some Sierra classics. Here's the report:

North Yuba Drainage
Catching the water levels in California is part luck and part voodoo and requires a commitment to lots of driving. After running the Kaweah in Southern California, we looked at water levels and weather and decided that we were going to have to drive about 350 miles north to the Yuba drainage in order to catch the famous Pauley and Lavezzola creeks and a few sections on the North Yuba. Along the way we also checked Dinkey one more time, then visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and Yosemite. We finally arrived at the boating destination wonder town of Downnieville, CA. We awoke to the fresh smell of pine and lush musky ground--a familiar scent that reminded us more of BC and less of the granite and desert landscapes that we had just left behind. The rivers here are lush and forested, the rock is metamorphic (rather than Igneous granite), and the air is soft and humid. The town of Downieville is boater heaven. It's small and quaint and noone seems to work. They are boater friendly, there is food, a laundrymat, and loads of really beautiful camping. The town is surrounded with class III/IV whitewater with a few class Vs here and there. And all of the shuttles are either walkable or hitchable.

We started with Pauley creek because we heard it was good quality creeking and didn't require any portaging. It was half the flow that is the lowest recommended flow in the California guidebook--wow how things have changed since the days of 13 foot long kayaks! The level was around 200 cfs. The creek was small and continuous in a gorge that remined us again of BC. At this level we found the creek to be class III, IV-. We have heard that at about 300 it turns to class IV/V due to the boxed in rapids and big holes.

Leland running the small falls on Pauley Creek. We tried to boof, but at this level, all you could do was plug it and come up laughing.

Andria running a cool slide on the creek. I have heard that this rapid and a few others get extremely gnarly holes with more water.

Our next run was the Wild Plum stretch of the North Yuba. This run surprised both of us in quality and water level. It turned out to be on the high side even though everything else was low. It just doesn't take much water to get this little continuous creeky river running good. We had somewhere between 700 and 1000 cfs. This run is super good quality class IV with a little wood, one easy portage around a broken down dam, and lots of big holes to punch.

Andria on one of the many class IV rapids on the North Yuba. I am actually paddling the medium Burn to try it out and Leland tried out the large. I loved having more buouancy in the big water, but was having trouble catching eddies in the bigger volume boat.

Our last stop in the Noth Yuba drainage was the playboat section downstream of Wild Plum called the Goodyear's Bar stretch. This was an excellent class III play run with one class IV+/V-rapid thrown in for pucker factor. This stretch of river had bigger volume too -1000+ cfs. We ran this river in our Recoils which I have to say, I love paddling. It reminds me so much of my trusty Inazone. The small one is just my size--I can confidently run the river in it and do all sorts of fun tricks too!

Andria in one of the bigger rapids. I had actually run the rapid before Leland had a chance to get a picture, so I walked back up to do it again. No big deal--it was just class IV-. Well, I caught an eddy line and ran the big hole at the bottom backwards and a little sideways and got some really cool tricks in the hole. My Recoil was so easy to handle though, so it was good clean fun. I might do it that way again next time!

Andria running Mixmaster, by far the biggest rapid on the run--class IV+/V-.

Now the race is on as the water levels in California have peaked and begun to drop, so off we go to catch the North Fork of the American.