Middle Fork of the Kaweah (Gateway/Dinely)
|Stretch:||Pumpkin hollow Bridge to Three Rivers|
|Difficulty:||Class IV- to IV+|
|Distance:||6.1 miles (2.8 miles from lower put-in)|
|Flows:||500-3000+ cfs at Three Rivers. Current Dreamflows gauge|
|Gradient:||81 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Pumpkin Hollow Bridge or near|
|Take-out:||North Fork Drive Bridge, in Three Rivers|
|Shuttle:||6 miles one way, 10 minutes (all outside of the park)|
|Season:||Winter and Spring from rain/snowmelt|
The week before, Darin and I had planned a one week vacation down on the Kaweah, at which time I was going to scratch everything that was within my ability off the list. However, although I have a fairly decent grasp on what is within my ability, I forgot to size up my aging boat’s ability and the vacation was cut short due to 3 small cracks sustained on Hospital Rock that grew into 1 large hold on the Upper North Fork. So with that, we had to drive back to Sacramento to get a new boat. Once in Sacramento neither of us was too keen on driving the long valley drive back to Three Rivers to continue the Kaweah mission. As it turned out I ended up popping my head into work and was promptly sucked into a business trip to LA. Not quite the “vacation week” I had planned.
As the week concluded, I had a family wedding in the beauty that is Hanford California. As I discovered the prior weekend, Hanford is only 45 miles or so from Three Rivers. So with that I was able to talk my brother into coming out for his yearly boating outing for a run down Gateway. It was also nice because he was finally able to use the Christmas present I gave him of a repaired creekboat of mine… finally. That’s what you get when you move to LA I guess.
Anyways, this run was fun. We had just about bare minimum water. I would like to go back when it is running at 1,000+ instead of the 710 (in Three Rivers) that we had. I think that the flow was perfect for the group, as my brother sue to be a class IV-V boater but as I said hardly goes out anymore and is recovering from an unrelated head injury. But for folks who are looking to step up, though the low water gives you time to make the moves, it is a bit boney and unforgiving if you were to flip. For folks who are looking for a rush, I think the more water would pad everything out and give you a hole or two to ponder the mysteries of life in.
Since this is a rafting run, every little riffle has a name. I however have no idea which is which. I tried my best to use the resources to figure out the names, let me know if I have misnamed anything. This run has also been run much higher, in excess of 3,000 cfs. Although I imagine this is great fun, I also imagine it is pure class V. Also, I should note that my brother and I totally were unprepared and didn’t check all the beta to find out exactly where to put-in. The stuff above Pumpkin Hollow was too much (and too low looking) for us that day and we had no idea where downstream to put on. I knew I saw plenty of write-ups saying to put-in at the East Fork, so over the barbwire, past the “No Public Access” signs we walked and probably worked towards further strained kayaker and business owner relations. Sorry about that. It turns out that in 1994 the put-in at the Pumpkin Hollow Bridge was closed. Now you have to either go up 0.5 miles further to the powerhouse just before the park entrance, or go downriver 1.5 miles to the commercial put-in, though I have no idea where either of those are, check cacreeks or Bill Pooley out for that info.
One last thing, this river has turned into a 2-3 mile short section breakdown much like the Kern. Every place that there is a bridge or access point, the run names change. The top half mile mentioned in the paragraph above is call the “Park Boundary.” Gateway runs down the Dinely Bridge 3 miles below Pumpkin Hollow, and Dinely runs down to the North Fork of the Kaweah. Stanley Holbek on the other hand only have 3 runs. In their Hospital Rock write-up they include part of what is now called Ash Mountain. In their Gateway, the include the tail end of Ash Mountain, and all of Park Boundary, Gateway, and Dinley. This write-up includes Gateway and Dinely, it also only has the big rapids. There are many many class III rapids that all blended together in my mind.
For great write-ups see Bill Pooley's Gateway and Dinely pages.
- See Bill Pooley’s for what to expect if you legally put-on this stretch.
- Gateway (III+ to IV+). We worked our way down the right, trying to avoid all the rocks. With higher water this rapid would be full of holes and very fast. We scouted from the Pumpkin Hollow Bridge prior to putting on.
The Chute (IV). Probably the most fun rapid, this rapid drops steeply into a whole or two. Just line it up straight and hold on. Great rapid.
An in between rapid
Osterizer (IV to IV+). This rapid will get a class IV paddler’s heart pumping. While running down the right, several large holes have to be negotiated while trying to work back left only to be greeted by another hole or two. There was also a route on the right at the bottom but with more water I would take a look to see how it changes. We scouted right.
- Bumper (IV). Easy scout on the left. We ran the center, going right of an undercut halfway down and then working back left. Have fun trying to avoid all the large boulders.
In between rapids
Powerhouse (IV- to IV+). Ok, so I honestly don’t even remember this rapid. There are a couple of channels, some easier than others I guess. Who knows. It looks gnarly on Bill’s page so you would think I would remember it.
Cyanotic (IV to IV+). A longer read and run rapid gets much steeper and then makes an abrupt right turn. There was an ever so thin line straight down the middle. Scout from the right or left, though right is easier. Portage right if so inclined.
In between rapids
- Screaming Right Turn (III+). I think this is the one that we actually portaged. All channels looked very junky and overgrown. The channels basically were steep gravel bars with large pointy rocks, with trees in them. I didn’t feel like bushwhacking to get a view, so we just carried 25 feet around the rapid.
- Dinely Bridge is overhead, just downstream on the left is a gauge. We had very low water as the gauge was out of water. Below this point, you don’t get the same views nor feeling of being in the wilderness as you did above the bridge.
Fun rapids continue for the next 2 miles, though none really stuck out in my mind.
- Suicide Falls (III+ to IV). On a left turn, the obvious horizon line will tell you it is time to scout. We hoped out on the island to scout right, though left would be easier. At low flows anywhere you went was ok. At higher flows take a look at the hole to get an idea of where you want to be. A nice flake boof is on one side of the trough while a taller rock boof is on the other, great rapid.
The Chair (III to III+). Just downstream awaits a very unfriendly midstream flake rock. We let the curler just above it move us over the 5 feet required to miss impact.
Upper Slicky (IV). Short, steep, and intimidating. We boofed in on the left, and exited left. Due to downstream boulders there are some interesting boils, cushions, and folds going on.
Lower Slicky (III+ to V). A sliding piece of granite drops you into a riverwide reversal with some large pull back. At low flows it was straight forward though you still needed to get your nose over the hole. At high flows this can be a very dangerous hole.
Take-out: From Visalia drive 28 miles to Three Rivers. On the West side of town look for North Fork Drive. Find a place to park that doesn’t have no parking signs. We used a closed shop, then got off the river on the opposite side of the river and carried the gear over the bridge to the car. Maybe experienced folks know of a better way.
Put-in: Drive 6 or 7 miles upriver. The Gateway in is where we illegally put-in. 0.5 miles further there is another option, same with 1.5 mile downriver. Check the other references for that information.
View Middle Kaweah, Gateway/Dinely in a larger map
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