North Fork of the American (Generation Gap)
|Stretch:||Mumford Bar to Euchre Bar (Actually Iowa Hill Rd)|
|Difficulty:||Class IV to V|
|Distance:||9.75 miles (+14 miles on Giant Gap)|
|Flows:||1000 - 2000? cfs. Current Dreamflows gauge|
|Gradient:||74 fpm average (2 miles are 120 and 140, Dream Gap is ~240 fpm for 0.3 miles)|
|Put-in:||Mumford Bar Trail|
|Take-out:||Euchre Bar Trail though hiking out sucks, so just continue down Giant Gap|
|Shuttle:||~25 miles, 45 minutes one way|
|Season:||Spring and early Summer from snow melt|
|Featured in Video Twenty-Five|
Second try did the trick. Last year a group of friends and I went out to do this run the very same weekend we did it this year. Only last year we got hit with snow at the gate, unexpectedly, and thus as we were moving slowly, decided we didn't want to hike the however many extra miles that would entail. So instead, we went and did a loaded boat Chamberlains run. This year, we got an early start, fully expecting there to be snow and a closed gate at China Wall, but instead were greeted by relatively clear roads all the way to the trailhead. I guess we didn't have to wake up at 6 AM to meet at the take-out at 7. Be aware though, if the gate is closed, and there is a lot of snow on the trail, the hike can take many hours. For us it took less than two. We had snow for the first part of the trail, which is more of an off-road-track than trail. Then the actual trail dropped down and the snow nearly disappeared. Some carried their boats while others (me included) dragged. It wasn't the friendliest of drags, but apparently a loaded boat is heavier than I thought it would be. There were also many trees down across the trail that would have made a backpack system hard to negotiate. Those that did carry did so on their shoulders or heads.
So what can you expect from this run you ask? The first 3 miles were by far the best. There were several class IV to IV+ rapids, some requiring a quick hop out to scout. There were a few holes that could offer a beating in there. Then you got a mile or two of easy class II-III to the next gorge which consists of a wood portage (very ugly) and a fun class IV. Then another mile or two of easy class II-III before you get to the Dream Gap. After the Dream Gap, the river again mellows out to II-III with a few easy class IV until you get to F-14. It is then a few hundred yards to Euchre Bar Trail.
We had 1,200 cfs on the gauge and would have welcomed a little more water. Don't get me wrong, we had plenty for all the rapids other than Dream Gap, in fact everything else was probably near optimum. However, Dream Gap 0 was low but doable, Dream Gap 1 was fine, Dream Gap 2 was too low for our comfort which resulted in a long and very hot portage. Dream Gap 3 was totally fine as well. Unless you portage the way we did, you probably cannot scout 3 and I do not believe it would be portagable but it is ok, because if you managed to get to the Dream Gap you can handle the last rapid, it is an easy class IV. Also I should note, that at least one person in our group walked nearly every big rapid. We had 7, so except Josh (my new favorite probe unit), the portages were spread out.
So timing, we met at take-out at 7, left take-out at 7:45, started hiking at 9, got to put-in at 11, put-in at 11:45, got to the tree portage at 1:45, put-in after a lunch break at the tree at 2:30, got to the Dream Gap at 3:15 or so, left the Dream Gap at 5:00 or so (scouting and portaging took forever), and got to camp around 6. If we had a little higher water I think the Dream Gap would have gone quicker as we wouldn't have had to portage, which then wouldn't have given me heat exhaustion, so I would have had to pull over to try my hardest to not throw-up. The water was cold, so under my dry-suite I had a fleece onesy on... whoops, it was all good until that dang portage.
Also, this river was a little weird, it totally was not what I was expecting. I was expecting the grandiose of Giant Gap, huge walls rising straight up to heights that frighten you of having to hike out. However, Generation Gap was quite different (not that I would want to hike out), but it isn't as inescapable as Giant Gap. And although the very short 0.3 mile Dream Gap section was awesome in the dramatic manner in which its cliffed out walls rose 50-75 feet, locking you in to the rapids, I think the first gorge was actually more spectacular. From Mumford Bar you get to the first gorge with a quarter mile and are greeted by shear walls of light grey granite slopping down straight into the water, waterfalls falling in from the edges of the cliffs and large clean rapids between the walls. What more can you ask for?
So to echo what my friend Brian Austin told me years ago, before I knew any thing about Generation Gap, on Generation Gap you want more water than you would want on Giant Gap and I agree. 1,200 would be a perfect mellow flow on Giant Gap, however on Generation Gap, the Dream Gap just wanted a little more, maybe 200 would have made the difference... Though it might also close out the small eddy we used to portaged around Dream Gap 2, thus making it a mandatory, or maybe the little eddy just upriver would become a viable option, I don't know, let me know if you find out.
Ok, one final quick thing, you can also put in on the other side of the river using Beacroft Trail and add 2.5 extra miles to the run. I have been told that that trail is steeper though a little shorter and also that the rapids between it and Mumford aren't that great. I don't know that for a fact though. See Stanley/Holbek for those directions.
For more photos of Generation Gap, see these websites:
Thanks to Diane Gaydos for contributing photos for this write-up. If you would like to see more Giant Gap info see my write-up... here
- The first gorge keeps a steady pace of solid rapids.
Mumford Bar Ledge (IV+). So it is fairly straight forward, however it is within the first 100 feet of river and it is extremely rocky. We ran down the left and slipped into a seam between rocks. Tupper and I went deep. A few chose to further warm-up and walk around it on the left, an easy walk.
Slide (IV+). The next horizon line is best run down the left. A slopping ramp leads to a hole that pushes you into an under wall, just hit it a little right and you are fine. The run out was fun read and run.
Double Drop (IV+). Boof a small hole and paddle like hell for the deceptively large hole. Seriously, it is the biggest one on the run, and you have to go through it.
Zig-Zag (IV). Zig left around the big bolder, avoid the mid stream rock, and zag back to the middle.
Boulder Bar (III+). There was a semi blind bolder bar in there. We started right and ended up left.
Boof (IV). A large boof on river right, oh, and it also had an unfriendly hole at the base so get a good boof. More water would make this one tough.
Sieve Hole (IV+). A simple enough rapid but it had a really stout hole that fed into a sieve. You could boof off the rock forming the sieve and over the hole, and that was the best line. Easy scout or walk on the left.
Avoid the Rock (IV). The top of this rapid is a squirrely slot that leads to a small boof. Just be aware that the landing is shallow and pushes you into a few rocks, so boof right and drive right upon landing.
- Easy class II-III rapids continue for a ways. Be aware, on a left bend after a short pool, a class II rapid begins and drops steeply into a small gorge that has a very serious hazard in it. Our day we had a helicopter hovering overhead for 10 minutes waiting to see us run the rapid as we approached it. But of course we caught and eddy at the top on the right and took lunch. I am sure the helicopter thought we were a waste of time.
Used to be a Portage (IV+). It has been run, mostly blind and on accident. People have been getting lucky if you ask me. The tree spans the entire river though in the right channel it is submerged. Update 2019: Gavin Reiser notified me that the the log is now gone, and the used to be sketchy class V+ nature of this rapid is gone, and now it is just a IV+.
Big Hole (IV). We snuck it far right. The left had a double drop that was rocky and landed you into a bad hole that was backed up by green water feeding back into the hole. There were a few fun holes in the runout.
- Dream Gap -2: Not the official name, but whatever, you can tell the Gap is coming, the walls begin to get taller, and I don't remember anything about the rapid other than I took an in the boat photo from the top of it. It was read and run whatever it was. The picture doesn't help.
Dream Gap -1 (III+). Not the place to take a swim, though this hole might think otherwise. We boofed the rock, went to the left shore, and began scouting the Gap.
Dream Gap 0 (V). Rocky and sievy, that sums it up. We boofed into the middle, the landing was shallow. We then realized we over achieved on the boof, slammed into the big downstream bolder on the left, rock spun off of it, flipped, got pushed across the river, rolled, and ran the rest backward... or at least that is what the Heir to the Tupperware fortune did. The rest just boofed in and ran the run out. Flipping just after the boof would be painful, so don't.
Dream Gap 1 (V-). This one gets added difficulty in my mind because of the short pool and difficult rescue situation for a swimmer and gear before Dream Gap 2, a rapid which an empty boat would have sever difficulty not pinning in. The rapid was straight forward, boof the large hole, avoid the wall on the right, sieve on the left, error on the left side because just below was a very large hole that had a window on the left. Scout the spot just above Dream Gap 2 where you can get out, the rock was slick and the spot was very small, so be sure that with more water it isn't gone to too tiny to get out of with out help.
Dream Gap 2 (V). Rocky and sievy (go figure). With a little more water the crack on the left would be more doable. At our flow it led to a ramp of boulders which were not covered enough for anyone's taste. The middle had a bunch of horrible looking rocks so that was out of the question. The right could also be run, but needed a little more water to avoid breaking your elbow on a rock. We all opted to walk it arduously on the left and lower ourselves and our boats down into a small eddy, just upstream of the bolder that separates Dream Gap 2 and 3.
Dream Gap 3 (IV+). Steep but clean. There is a nice large eddy just at the lip on the left, big enough for several boats. We ran down the center right (of the left channel) and skipped off the submerged rock to clear the hole. The far left side of that channel had a fairly large pocket hole. Also note, this rapid really is just the exit of the gorge and a continuation of the previous rapid, the white water from the previous drop continues right over the lip of this one. This one is also unportagable, though don't stress, its not bad.
- Easy class III-IV rapids. There is one large hole on the left just outside of the Dream Gap Gorge. There is an easy line on the right side of the river. This is when you may succumb to Heat Exhaustion of the portage of Dream Gap 2.
- F-14 (V-). If you are not sick to your stomach and throwing up in your mouth while running the small rapids in the past 3 miles, you can run this rapid down the left. It looks big, but Mike and Josh made it look easy and didn't even get their heads wet. However, if you are sick, you can walk it on the left without much effort. Lower the boat to a ledge and put back in. Also, there used to be a log in this rapid, necessitating a carry. However, either the log shifted or is gone because it was no where to be seen our day.
North Fork of the North Fork: 100 yards downriver from F-14 enters the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River.
Euchre Bar Trail Bridge: Downriver a few hundred yards from the NFNF you will come to the Euchre Bar Trail and the beginning of the Giant Gap. If you want to carry your boat up a hellish 2 miles, you can hike out here or continue to road side service at Iowa Hill Road. I haven't heard of anyone choosing to hike out except for being skunked on one day attempts. We camped here, there is a nice campsite just on the downright / river right side of the bridge off of the end of the trail. A campfire and the fifth of rum I had boated (that I wanted nothing to do with) awaited us.
Take-out: Off of Highway 80, take the Canyon Way exit and turn left. Follow to the top of the hill and turn on Iowa Hill Road. Follow this road down to the river, across the bridge, and park at the parking on the left in the dirt lot.
Put-in: Continue on Iowa Hill Road and climb the opposite side of the canyon. In the town of Iowa Hill the road forks, either way is fine, we went left but they are nearly equal distances to the same point. If you go left, turn right when you reach the end of the road. Follow the 10 or so miles to Forrest Hill Road. Turn left and follow the 3-5 miles to China Wall (I think that's the name). The gate may be locked if there is still snow, or maybe unlocked but covered in snow. If you are lucky you get to drive the 2 miles to Mumford Bar Trailhead. Don't mistakenly turn early to Italian Bar Trailhead. From the trail it is 3 miles to the river and drops about 3,200 feet.
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