North Fork of the Kaweah (Upper)
|Stretch:||Above Burnt Point Creek to Yucca Creek|
|Flows:||200-500 cfs (1.1' to +2.0'). Current Dreamflows est gauge|
|Gradient:||132 fpm average (first .85 miles is 175 fpm)|
|Put-in:||Slide about ¾ mile above Burnt Point Creek|
|Shuttle:||4.9 miles hiking (~2.5 hours)|
|Season:||Spring from snowmelt|
This run has been on my list as long as I can remember. I remember when I was new to kayaking I would scour the internet for photos to use on my computer screen saver. Those searches brought me to the Preston Holmes page for the Upper North Fork of the Kaweah. In those pictures I saw a beautiful granite wonderland of waterfalls and slides. Unlike South Silver, at the time it looked like I could actually boat the Kaweah. In the years since, every year I make a plan to go the Kaweah but in the end either I ccould not find anyone to come along or the weather/water do not behave and force a change of plans.
This year as part of a week long vacation, Darin and I made our way to the Kaweah and the beautiful Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. On our list was Hospital Rock, Upper North Fork of the Kaweah, Gateway, and Clover Creek along with the Tule drainage. After the first day on Hospital Rock the plans were dealt a blow as my boat developed 3 small cracks. We arrange for some friends to bring another boat to us but they weren't planning on coming that way for 4 more days. Time to take it "easy" and prolong as much life in the boat as possible. Who knew there was so much mank on the Upper North Fork? It came as a surprise to us at least.
Due to the grassy hillside, much of the 5 mile hike to put-in seemed like it would be minimal impact to drag the boats on. So with a mix of shouldering and dragging we progressed through the miles. About 1 mile from the end, Darin calls out he thinks I am dragging a rock, we look under and to our surprise there is no rock by a huge hole. After a few profanities, I decide there is no way I am hiking out and we will fix it with duct tape.
The put-in for this run has to be one of the all-time best. How often do you get to put in and within feet be sliding down a 30 foot tall slide? What a kick! After the put-in slide the run gets a little junky before getting oh so clean. The 4 or 5 drops that are in between the granite walls seen from the hike in are a blast. Easily worth the hike. It is just too bad the hole run is not full of these slides and falls. Instead, the river gets dirty and mank is in abundance. It was in this stretch that my duct tape decided it had enough. We stopped and retapped, amazed the Version 1.0 lasted through so much. Version 2.0 however only made it 2 rapids before it quit on me. From this point on I was dumping 20-30 gallons of water out of my boat every 1/3 of a mile or scout when the few scouts came up.
At the end of the day, we had finished the run with zero group portages though I did take one around a obvious sieve near the end. The hike took us about 3 hours and the run took us 3 hours. If you knew the lines I think you could finish this run in 1 hour easily (if not much less) but why on earth would you want to rush down after it took so long to hike up. Finally, I would recommend getting and early start to your day. We started at 9 am on a day that peaked at 72 oF and still were pretty hot and desiring water refills by the end of the hike. I would hate to think what the hike would be like if temperatures peaked at 90o, which they do often at the Kaweah.
The gauge at Three Rivers was peaking at ~900 cfs the day we did it, though the only gauge for the North Fork is a Bridge Gauge. Dreamflows has an estimate that seemed within ballpark. Also, although this run is rated as a class IV+ run Darin and I both thought that this was not the place to be stepping up to class IV+. Although the goods were very clean and very good, the in between mank was very congested with lots of potential for pinning if you were too out of control. All and in all, this is a great run and worth doing the hike for sure.
For Darin's write-up of our day on the water, see JSCreeking.Blogspot.
For other great write-ups see Pretson Holmes's site or cacreeks.
- Put-in Slide (IV+). What a start to the day. Slide down the left side, turn 90 degrees, boof and hit the run out. This has got to be one of the best put-in drops around!
Cross Currents (IV). Hit it down the middle, be ready to be pushed left. On the right there is a rock, on the left there is a rock, just go down the center.
Boulder Bars (IV to IV+). Some good size boulder bars. None are all that difficult, but they all hold plenty of consequence.
Get it Right (IV to IV+). So all the beta says to get far right because of two bad rooster tails on the left. The other school of thought is to boof off the rooster tails. We went left.
Baby Niagra (IV to IV+). A straight forward drop needs to be boofed. Otherwise you may get a beat down in the weird pocket that pulls back into an undercut. Weird drop, but very fun. You may also be able to go right and slide down the rib of rock.
Slide (IV-). A fun slide, we just drove right the whole way down. Good times.
Hum Dinger (IV to V). We snuck it far left down a trickle. With more water you may be able to drive left across the main current. Just down slide to the right and meet the bad sieve over there.
Burnt Point Creek enters on the left, great views looking back up from the next drop.
- Undercuts (IV+). Two good size holes need to be punched. Apparently there is an undercut near the top, but it didn't even register to me. The undercut at the bottom is bad though with a good chunk of the hole feeding into it and sieve underneath it. One of the more serious drops on the run.
Rhinitis (IV+ to V-). A junky rapid with few clean options, we scouted left I believe, or maybe we boat scouted it. I don't recall, there were several big junky, blind drops just like this one.
Mank Boogie (IV to IV+). There were easier sections and a few harder sections. For sure keep your focus up as there are plenty of places to pin in here. Also, somewhere around here the tape on the bottom of your boat will come off and you will start to sink.
- Bed Rock reappears
Another Slide (IV+). I have forgotten where exactly this one fits in, but I think it was the first of the second bed rock section. The river splits into two narrow and turbulent bed rock channels. We went down the right. Good drop.
Hump (IV-). Fun drop, we tried to get up on a hump for a flake boof, but due to the blindness from above we both failed miserably. Still fun though!
Boof Boof Slide (IV to IV+). This had got to be one of the best drops on the run. We hit two boofs (I think in the center) and then finished down the slide. Really good fun. Also very blind from above. You may want to scout on the right.
Slip and Slide (III-). Straight down into the pool below.
Heaven's Gate (III). A great and very easy waterfall. Cool cave behind it too. The drop right below is a fun boof on the left.
Yuck (IV+ to V-). An easy enough drop, just don't end up in the huge sieve on the right. Easy scout and walk on the right.
Slide (IV). The run-out of Yuck is two large holes, the second of which is surprisingly large. Get some speed down the straightaway!
- Rapids slowly ease though still class III-IV. Be aware of wood as we ran into one or two dead channels thanks to wood.
Take-out: Take North Fork Drive off Highway 198 out of the town of Three Rivers. Follow it 11 miles (this seems to take a long time, a lot of it is on a cruddy dirt road. No 4-wheel needed. We got tired and set up camp on the side of the road as the sun went down). Park at the end of the road.
Put-in: Yucca Creek is to your right while the North Fork of the Kaweah is to your left. Cross the small bridge over Yucca Creek. Begin hiking up Yucca Creek and when a road dips down to the right, stay left and begin climbing. The first mile is pretty steep. The second mile is just an uphill grade. From there it is mostly a gradual downhill gradient. You will begin to see the granite gorge that marks the good section of river. Keep hiking, cross Burnt Point Creek and continue another ¾ of a mile. You will see the put-in slide from the trail and you will see a nice grassy slope heading down to the river. Walk down it and cool off in the water. I recommend getting an early start, especially if the weather is warm. Most of the hike is in the sun. It also took us 3 hours, though we were taking our good time and it could easily have been done in just over 2 hours.
View North Kaweah, Upper in a larger map
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