|Stretch:||Henry Cowell Park to Paradise|
|Difficulty:||Class III-IV (one class IV-V)(water flow dependent)|
|Distance:||4 miles, 1 short day|
|Flows:||200 - 2500 cfs. Current Dreamflows gauge|
|Gradient:||40 fpm average, 80 fpm in gorge|
|Put-in:||In Felton, Henry Cowell State Park Entrance|
|Take-out:||Ocean Street above cemetery|
|Shuttle:||9 miles, 20 minutes one-way|
|Season:||Winter or Spring from recent rain|
A rainstorm over night and curiosity in the morning led to my first decent of this run. James and I left at 12:30 from Concord and drove through a rainstorm for 2 hours with the knowledge that the river was at 1,300 cfs and rising about 300 cfs an hour. Once on location we find a smelly 2,100 flowing under the bridge. This river was hardly technical at all, there were two or three moves per rapid at most, however the waves and holes were on the large size. In addition the class IV rapid “The Waterfall” was more of a stomping class V in full might. Once you get over the smell of this river and the fear of swallowing even an ounce of water, this river provided many good thrills. There were many large wave trains with wholes or rocks to avoid throughout the run in between the three large rapids that have been labeled. The wave trains were large enough to be rate class III-. The downside to this river is the sewage which is constantly running it along with you. Makes you really not want to flip over.
- The first mile is flat; thankfully due to the steep gradient there is a swift current
the entire flat water paddle.
- First Rapid (IV-). The first rapid comes on a short straightaway. At high water
we ran the right side. After the initial hole or two make a right move and go
directly to the right of the pressure wave and ride out the remaining waves. The
left side is also commonly run, however the hazard of the tree and the high/virgin
float resulted in us choosing the right line (as opposed to left line).
Second Rapid (IV). The second rapid of concern comes right after a right turn in the river. There is a path along the right shore to scout on. We entered center to avoid a rock on top right. Then we moved right around a mid-river poor over (actually I went straight over it). We didn’t go all the way down on our scout otherwise we would have noticed the monster hole at the bottom. On the fly I paddled to the meat of it, directly left of the point of a rock sticking up about two inches.
- The Waterfall (V-). This rapid comes into the second mile. The river makes drastically
sharp right turn where all the water slams into the wall creating a large recirculating
eddy. We portaged the rapid since we have never seen it before and couldn’t see through
the muddy water.
- After “The Waterfall” the logs and brush becomes a major player. A number of rapids
require precise maneuvers with extreme consequences. One such rapid came as the river
narrowed, turned right, and narrowed further. At the end there was a large branch
sticking over the river, with major strainers on either side. In addition numerous times
we felt logs under our boats or paddles in rapids.
Once the houses start to pop up there is roughly three quarters of a mile left but it is all calm boating.
Take out: From Highway 17 take Ocean Streets Beaches as opposed to the Highway 1 exits. As the highway ends, turn right at the first light. Follow the road about half a mile (under the highway 1 overpass) and turn left half way past the cemetery on Ocean Street. Follow this road until it is next to the river (about three quarters of a mile).
Put in: Leave the same way you entered. Take Highway 1 north. Stay right and turn on the first street, River Street (Highway 9). Follow this road to Felton. Shortly after San Lorenzo Road and the Big Foot Store the Henry Cowell State Park entrance is on the left. One hundred feet down that road is the put in, under the bridge. Parking can be accommodated one hundred feet further up Highway 9.
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