Middle Fork of the Yuba (Our House Dam)
|Stretch:||Our House Dam to the 49 Bridge|
|Difficulty:||class IV to IV+ with 1 class V|
|Distance:||7 miles, 1 day|
|Flows:||400 - 2500 cfs. Current Dreamflows gauge|
|Gradient:||65 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Our House Dam|
|Take-out:||Highway 49 Bridge (Oregon Creek Day Use)|
|Shuttle:||10 miles (20 minutes)|
|Season:||near-peak spring runoff, from diversion-reduced snowmelt|
|Written:||© 2006 & 2009|
|Featured in A Wet State #10 and in A Wet State #128|
This run is an instant classic. I don't know if I had even heard of it being run until this year. From the stories I heard, it is said to only flow correctly for a few days a year, and on a weekend, only every few years. The stories are either exaggerated, or this year (2006) was amazing, because it has been flowing for the past month non-stop, and is still on the high end of the spectrum. So I had been a little timid to put on at the red flow as listed on dreamflows, but after a friend had negotiated it at the flow, I knew that I would be just fine, and eagerly hopped on the trip the following weekend. The flow ended up being just fine (2,200 cfs). At no time did I feel that it made the river unrunnable. In fact I think lower would actually make it a little more difficult, there are rocks all over the place that were covered at our flow and hardly any holes were sticky. I would edge up to 2,500 easily without thought and project it can be run up to 3,000 but am unsure.
The final statement is this, the river starts out with some of the hardest stuff on the run. Below the put in there is a nice class III warm-up, then the river drops into a large rapid with maneuvers and holes abound. Then the river drops into a fast rapid with large gradient. After this, it mellows out some. So don't be disheartened after the first mile unless you feel you are in WAY over your head, we all felt a little surprised after the first mile but ended up just fine. Also, there are a lot of rapids on this, I don't remember all of them, so I am only putting the ones that stuck out more, but there are some class IV's and a lot of III's which are not making the write up.
Since the original write-up, I have gone back at lower flows (and three years later). The photos (all from within the boat as we didnt have time to scout/photo after putting on at 2 pm) are with ~900 cfs and the video above is with ~2,200 cfs. I honestly wouldnt go in much lower than 900 cfs as some of the rapids became rather junky. Also, in general, I actually thought the run was a little harder with less water. Holes were trickier and more rock dodging was needed, at higher flows things cleaned up a lot more.
- Diversion Dam (III). Right below the put in the river drops over a small 4 foot
diversion dam. On the left it piles into a rock, on the right it flows nicely. The
easiest line in on the right bank, however finish center to left as the water piles up
on the turn.
Carnage Warm Up (IV). This is the next major rapid after the diversion damn. I remember, we entered center and worked right which ended up in some holes. The whole time dodging rocks and maneuvering around the river. The river then turns left and drops over a small drop into a hole. On the right it flushed, on the left it was a bit of a ledge drop.
- Cable (IV+). The next big rapid is easiest to scout/portage from the right, we had to
go through some brush to get to a beach. The drop has a rock left of center, aim to the
green tongue just to the right of this. Drop down the first wave and into the second,
now you are going pretty damn fast. Hit the boil straight (don't be to the left of it as
it is an eddy, and don't be to the right of it as it is a wall) and plow through it and
down into the hole behind it which is soft. Below 800 there is a cable in play in thr rapid, scout it to make sure it isnt in play, I don't know the details about it though. Also, at low flows, this rapid was significantly harder with more rocks exposed and the holes stouter.
Right of Left? (III+ to IV-). A mid-river rock splits the flow. The right side is all go, once through the first step, choose to go either right or left of a pour over half way down. The middle left channel also appeared to be good to go.
Boof (IV-). A easy lead in to a ledge drop that is easiest run right of center on the right part of the rock. It seemed shallow on the landing but none of us pinned, despite some lackluster boofs. One person didn't land with left angle and got washed into a manky little chute and pinned, lost her paddle and didn't have a good time.
- After Lunch (IV-). We stopped on nice beach with a small waterfall coming down across the
river from us. After lunch we pushed off into a long rapid. I don't think it was that hard,
but I got stuck in 3 holes or so, and braced my way down. Chalk it up to a near nap at lunch
disrupted by Diane and Aleece. We ran the rapid on the right down the whole thing.
- Scout 2 (IV to IV+). Large rocks cross the river, scout from the rock piles on the left. There is
a flat rock in the center, shoot just right of this with left angle. Try to avoid the wave
and hole just below. Then work left to avoid being pushed up the wall on the turn. If you
drop into the holes, at our flow we all did, and it was totally flushy. At low flows it was very rocky and pushed you pretty hard into some strainers. Harder at lower flows.
Boulder Bar (IV). Immediately downstream of the second scout is a boulder bar. We entered right and cut left pretty hard. We then ran it out on the left moving back to center.
- Big One (IV+ to V). At high flow, the line was down the left, hitting two large holes to
push you more left for the final drop which is only passable on the far left. At low flows the rapid became easier with a "friendlier" hole on the right.
Half mile to take out, a few class III's remain.
Take out: The take out is just a hundred feet after the Middle Fork of the Yuba Bridge on Highway 49 coming from Nevada City. Turn into the Oregon Creek Day use Area and park here.
Put in: Continue up 49 about 4 miles and at the sign for Pike City and Alleghany, turn towards Pikes City. Follow this road 4 miles or so to Pikes City. A quarter of a mile after the fire station (on the left) and at a 35 MPH sign, turn right on a one lane road and descend a mile or so down to the river, park at the gate and walk to the damn and down the stairs (200 yards).
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