We arrived in San Francisco on a hot afternoon and I was glad to be off the plane and excited about my first time in North America. After sorting the hire car and bodging together a roof rack we headed out of the city stopping for supplies on the way. After checking into a motel we checked water levels and we were a bit disappointed to find a lot of rivers not running. It had been small snow pack this year and the runoff for a lot of rivers had already ended.
We decided the best way forwards would be to seek some local knowledge so headed to the first kayak shop we could find. We left with some recommendations and headed to our first river, the Tiger Creek section of the North Fork of the Mokelumne. This was a fun class 4 warm-up run with nothing too serious on it. The next day we awoke early and headed to South Silver Creek. After walking up a steep valley and bush walking the last 200m we rounded a corner and we were presented with the most incredible series of falls, all of which looked good to go. The river reminded me of the Etive tribs, just much, much bigger. The river was quite busy with several local groups on who were helpful showing us the lines.
The South Silver was an awesome creek with long slides and several tricky drops which required multiple moves. All was going well until towards the end of the section one of the guys in our group managed to get pinned in an inconspicuous looking rocky rapid. We managed to get him out of his boat fairly quickly but his boat refused to move. After trying to pull in all directions we set up a pully system to help us. With three of us pulling on the rope we managed to rip an attachment point out of his brand new boat! However, this did twist the boat into a slightly better position where we were then able to pull it out by hand. After a few hours in the sun the dent in the side of his boat soon popped out so all was good again. After hiking out of the river we headed back into San Francisco to meet up with the rest of the group at the airport.
Next up was the Lovers Leap section of the South Fork American River. This was a really good section with plenty of continuous read and run boulder gardens with the occasional tricky rapid thrown in to keep interest.
After this we had a bit of a rest day and prepared for a 3 day trip on the Middle Fork of the Feather River. After loading our boats up we drove the 6 hour shuttle and set off down stream. This trip took us into a beautiful gorge and away from civilisation. The two nights camping by the river were fun with us cooking on open fires each night and then curling up into my bivvy bag hoping there’d be no hungry bears in the area. The paddling was also amazing. The river had countless sections of class 4/5 read and run rapids with a few requiring us to jump out and scout our lines. This really is a fantastic run that I’d recommend to anyone heading to California.
Well, after a night of karaoke and beers in Chico we are now chasing water southwards looking forward to more classic paddling.
Ed’s note: Photos courtesy of Phil Higgins. You can catch more or Phil’s photos in his Facebook gallery.