East Fork of the Kaweah (Bear Ranch / Lower)
|Stretch:||Below Toxaway to the Middle Fork|
|Difficulty:||Class IV+ (with portages)|
|Distance:||2.15 miles (+3.4 miles on the Middle Fork to get to take-out)|
|Flows:||~125 cfs to ~275 cfs (~600 to 1,000 in Three Rivers). Current Dreamflows Three Rivers gauge|
|Gradient:||266 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Small trail just below Toxaway Rapid|
|Take-out:||Dinley Rd Bridge|
|Shuttle:||5.8 miles (15 minutes one way)|
|Season:||Spring/Summer from snowmelt|
|Featured in A Wet State #88 and John Moore's rapid-by-rapid video|
This lower section provides an easier experience of the East Fork without the epic portages see in the section above and is commonly done by locals rather than the whole run. Though... sure it does not have the long portages, but the two in our group who hiked in here stated it was not easy! Poison oak is plentiful as are blackberry bushes. And it takes 30-45 minutes in its own right. But the reward is worth it! You will get a pristine, deep, granite canyon full of slides and boofs. Be on your toes though as there are a couple of extra rapids that you may want to sneak or portage that others will route through in addition to a handful that everyone portages.
But man, the two in our group who were stepping up to this, with the excellent guiding by Darin McQuoid and Chris Tulley had huge smiles on their faces and were in awe top to bottom. If you are able to run numerous class IV+ drops with minimal risk of swimming as they are all stacked up... you should find a friend to show you down this run. You will be in awe as well.
Mileage is counted from the Bear Ranch Trail and from the above Classic section.
- Ledge (IV). No warm up here, a nice 10 foot ledge to start things off. Run left or right. Don't plug middle as you can piton.
Portage (?). A few little rapids lead to a portage on the left. If I recall correctly this is the lead in to Hour Glass. If I am incorrect than there is another portage here as well followed immediately below by the lead in to Hour Glass. The lead in is run but is big and junky and feeds directly into a steep drop that would suck to be upside down on.
Hour Glass (IV+). Seal launch in on the left and just run straight down the gut. So fun.
- Portage (?). I didn't look, I think it is unrunnable. Portage on the right to the top of the next very cool slide.
Broken Paddle (IV+). Slide down the far left before rejoining the meat of the current and boofing the exit hole. Jeff broke his paddle by wedging it between the rock in the middle and the left wall at the top.
Junky (IV+). Things get not clean for a while.
- Sieve Rapid (IV+). I remember seeing pics of this on Darin's website. Some may choose to walk this on either side. There is a bit of a junky lead in to a good size hole with most of the outflow going into a sieve. Swimmers have gone under the sieve in the past.
Get Back to Bedrock (IV to IV+). Just downstream one or two junky rapids is a cool 10 foot slide with a reconnect that is best run left of center into a big pool. The next rapid is worth scouting.
Worth a Scout (IV+). The next rapid looks worse that it is. Some of us ran left and boofed left into an eddy and ferried back out to finish. Others ran left but boofed right into the hole and surfed it down and out to the right. Either way works. Just don't enter far right as there is pin potential.
- Driftwood (V+). One junky rapid lead to Driftwood which most will walk on the left. The walk kinda sucks. I almost slipped and feel down the cliff. Getting back in also stinks. Many seal launch in gingerly without their skirts on (too slick and steep of a slope to get it on). There is a big pool below with a beach so I jumped in with my boat to swim there rather than swamping my boat. Turns out the water is shallow. Gently lower yourself to the water if you take that option. The line for those that run the drop is to act like driftwood and just plug it.
Slides! (IV+). More slides! Many more! Some have a hole here or there, so be aware. But oh so good. Heaven in a canyon, this section. No joke.
- Junk 1 (IV+). This one is a potential portage. Or you can sneak down two very thin slots on the right then the middle before rejoining the main flow and boofing the exit. Just downstream is another little ledge that we ran down left of center.
Junk 2 (IV+). Immediately after as I recall, there is another junky rapid that Darin said "we catch an eddy on the right and then ferry back across. It is junky just don't flip." And then mentioned to two in our group to portage on the left. He then failed to catch the eddy due to an unforeseen guard rock that submerged his boat and flipped him before sending him down the rocks upside down and backwards. I took a different angle to catch the eddy not knowing about the unseen guard rock and had a similar experience. I still can't believe my gopro didn't get knocked off with how many rocks I hit. Chris and Diane then didn't catch the eddy on purpose and just ran it directly with great success. Oh well. Immediately below is another big drop.
Pothole Boof (IV+ to V-). OK, so this is a consequential drop... but super easy to walk on the right if you are not 100% confident you will nail your boof. The line is down the left and sailing a boof off the left wall. Land and start paddling to the right, away from the pot hole on the left wall. It would really suck to end up over there.
- Island Drop (IV+ to V-). Enter a small micro channel on the left side of the island amongst the brush. This then drops into a cool pinch against the island rock and slides you down into a small eddy. Exit driving left and slide to a 8 foot boof with a shallow landing on the right.
- One Last Boof (IV+ to V-). This rapid had a good size lead in splashing down the middle as I recall. There is then a large eddy in the middle of the rapid to catch. From there, stay left for an easy slide exit. Or go right and boof the 10 foot tall exit boof moving left. The landing is tight amongst some boulders. But oh so good.
Paddle Out (IV). The paddle out is short down to the Gateway Bridge where you now have a few miles on the Middle Fork which will triple the flow at least.
From Three Rivers drive 2.4 miles to the Dinley Dr and the bridge over the river (or just downstream to the Hideaway Camp if that is where you are sleeping).
Put-in: Continue up Highway 198 for 1.5 miles to Mineral King Rd, turn right. Continue up until you see the mile 4 marker on the left. Pull over on the left in the small turnout and find the trail.
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