Squaw Valley Creek (McCloud Tributary)
|Stretch:||Cabin Creek to the McCloud River|
|Distance:||11.5 miles (plus 10 miles on the McCloud River)|
|Flows:||~500-1000 cfs at the confluence. (Our day the flow McCloud at Ah-Di-Na was 280 cfs and the flow at Shasta was 1,530 cfs. Darin had 280 cfs and 1,150 cfs two week earlier. If the gauge at Shasta is going good and there is nothing coming from McCloud Reservoir then Squaw Valley Creek is probably in).|
|Gradient:||94 fpm average (The McCloud is 45 fpm)|
|Take-out:||McCloud Bridge on Gillman Road|
|Shuttle:||76 miles (2 on dirt road, more than 1:45 hours one-way)|
|Season:||Winter/Spring from rain and snowmelt|
I first heard about this run several years ago when my friend Orion Meredith mentioned to me he did the elusive Lower McCloud via a creek that fed in half way down the run. He said the creek had a bunch of small waterfalls on it and that it was great run. That was all I needed to hear, being an enthusiast for seeing new runs I tried for a year or two to get a group together to go in and get on the creek as well as the Lower McCloud. After having no success, The McCloud Reservoir dam broke one fall and allowed folks to boat with ideal water the 22 some odd miles between it and the Shasta Reservoir. After doing the length of the Lower McCloud the little creek that entered in the middle of the run slowly moved further down my list of runs to boat, until I had completely erased it from my list of runs to get on.
Then I get a call while stranded in Arizona on a 3 week business trip. Darin was motivated to do Squaw Valley Creek, the same little creek that I had been wanting so badly to do a few years prior. He reported back that the run was one of the best class IV runs in the state, that the scenery was superb, and that you can get it done in a single day. He also said it was so good that he wanted to come back the next weekend. Although I could not make that weekend either he was accommodating enough to delay one more week. And there we had it, the plans were formed.
We planned a weekend of boating up in the Dunsmuir area, taking his injured girlfriend up on shuttle driving service. The off the water time would be spent enjoying Shannamar's family's accommodations at the Cave Springs cabins in Dunsmuir, relaxing comfortably in a warm house or the even warmer hot tub. Of course, thanks to a slip on the way into Box Canyon Saturday morning and the resulting what I know now was a dislocated tailbone (no joke, you can apparently dislocate your tailbone) the weekend, though relaxing, was far from comfortable. In fact as Saturday afternoon progressed, the pain while in my boat became intolerable, leaving me that night laying butt up in the air asking for people to get me a stronger drink to kill the pain. As I drift off to sleep that night I wonder if the creek will elude me yet again and if I will be left on the sideline with only an icepack and bottle of Irish Cream to comfort me.
Lucky for me, I am accident prone and have developed a decent ibuprofen aided pain tolerance. So with more medicine in me than I will admit, we drove to put in. Be aware that early season, the 2 miles on dirt to put-in is commonly snowed in. It is a easy walk or drag in this case but it would make an already long day even longer. We got lucky though and the road was cleared. Arriving at put-in at 8:30 we find ourselves suiting up in 32-degree weather, hoping and praying that the weather warms up.
Upon putting on you are greeted with continuous class II rapids which occasionally spice up to class III. After a mile you get to the first of the ledges and the fun really begins. After the waterfall section you get to some mankier but still surprisingly fun rapids. There is a wood portage or two (2010) in the mile or two below the ledges. After 7 miles Tom Neal Creek enters on the right nearly doubling the flows. The next straightaway has several great fun rapids, the second of which is the hardest on the creek. The first one will sneak up on you but is only class III. The big one is a triple drop with two serious holes to get through. From here there are several more sections with class III-IV rapids though the gradient seems to diminish. Once you get to the confluence, if you have 1,600 cfs you will be done in 1.5-2 hours without scouting. You still get all the biggest and best rapids of the Lower-Lower McCloud; Double Drop, Tuna Creek, the Reagan Years etc. We put on at ~9 AM, got to the confluence at 1 pm, took lunch and got to take out at 3 pm. With less water or with scouting I could see adding 2 more hours to the run. Although we had someone that had done the creek before, we still took a lot of time to get down it not out of fear, but because we were going out of our way to take pictures. Anyways, this is a great long day run. It is too bad there isn't more camping as just a few mile below put-in you boat through a fishing resort's property thus limiting the camping spots to overnight on. As it was, there are some early in the day that I believe are ok to camp at.
Also Check-out Rapid Magazine Early Summer - 2010 Edition, page 28 for Darin's write-up of the run.
- Boogie starts immediately and does not stop for the length of the run.
S-Turn (IV-). Less than a mile downstream the river makes an S-turn. Dropping to the left is a 3-4 foot drop into a good size hole. The river then bends right, you want to be on the far right side as the left side contains some sieves.
- Double Ledge (III+). After about a mile there is a nice double ledge. The first one stood maybe 6 feet tall and is best run on the far right where a tongue leads. The second ledge is straight forward and can be run anywhere.
Squaw Valley Creek Falls (IV). Waterfalls West (a website) says that the falls are 1.6 miles. They sneak up on you after a right hand bend. There is a small eddy at the lip on the left that you can scout from. The line is down the seam on the right. Don't bother trying to boof, it is not going to happen. Just plug into the frothy white goodness.
A mile of boogie water leads to the next good ledge.
- Lower Falls (III). Again waterfalls west say this is about 2.5 miles into the run (it is hard to see anything on Google Earth to figure out mileages). This one is a nice boof on the left side. The right side should be avoided. Again scout or portage from the left.
Boogie continues, the in between rapids get a little bigger. Before the lower falls it is mostly class II but now it turns to class III- sets of rapids some going up to III+. There are two log portages in somewhat quick succession after the lower ledge.
Darin Goes Solo (III-). There is one in early that you want to be far left while dropping over the ledge as the rock in the center is very sharp and was the location of the beginning of Darin's solo trip 2 weeks prior (thanks to an IK losing a tube).
- The first major bridge overhead signifies the start of harder sections. The rapids pick up and are more often in the class III range.
Canyon Bridge (IV- to IV). At the end of a straight away the river drops into a good size hole and then leads to a rocky ledge. You can boof the right of the large rock in the middle or just go all the way right around it.
- A major tributary, Tom Neal Creek enters on the right nearly doubling the flow. The next couple hundred yards are the hardest.
Tom Neal Creek (III). A zig-zag drop that we ran down the left of. There was a good size hole at the bottom. Eddy out right to scout the next horizon line.
Triplets (IV to IV+). Three drops each with a large hole. Each successive drop gets slightly easier, which is nice. The first one is a ramp down into a large hole that recirculates back on the left as it deflects a rock, and on the right off of the wall. The line is down the left of center heading right, find the seam and carry speed. The next drop has a few options, some of us boofed the far right, some boofed a semi blind rock center left. The final drop was cleanest on the far right. Easy to portage on the right if you are inclined,
Hump Boof (III to IV). A smaller lead in leads to a larger horizon line. We went left of center and boof over the large hole. One in our group went too far left though and got to try out cart-wheeling the Nomad.
- The next bit is boogie with an occasional large class III rapid.
- Sneaks Up on You (III+ to IV). A normal looking rapid begins and as you round the corner you find a rather large ledge dropping into a rather large hole. Boof the right side of the bottom.
A Few More (III+ to IV-). Although most of the last 2 miles are easy class II, there are a few distinctively harder rapids that are all pretty close to each other, maybe a mile below the sneaky rapid. They are all read and run and I imagine scoutable as the canyon is not tight here.
- The confluence with the McCloud River is impossible to miss coming in on the left. There is a nice beach just downstream on the right that is sunny in the afternoon.
- You are landed on the McCloud right before a really fun 2 rapid set that is in a amazing gorge. Over the next 10 miles you get to run Double Drop, Tuna Creek, The Reagan Years, and more more fun class III-IV rapids. Though the mileage is split evenly on the two waterways, you will spend ¾ of your time on the creek. Although the creek took us 4 hours, the river only took us 1.5 hours.
Take-out: From Highway 5 take Gillman Road east (South of Dunsmuir some 20 miles). Follow for 17 miles to the bridge over the McCloud arm of Lake Shasta.
Put-in: Continue North on Highway 5, Take Highway 89 east towards McCloud. Once in the town of McCloud, take Squaw Valley Road. After a few miles, at the end of a meadow there is a sign for Squaw Valley Creek to the right, follow the dirt road for the 2 miles to the bridge over the creek and the sign for the Cabin Creek Trailhead. If you end up at Lake McCloud, you have gone too far, turn around and look for the dirt road.
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