West Fork of the Walker River (Above Walker)
|Stretch:||Highway 395 Bridge to Walker|
|Difficulty:||Class IV- to IV+|
|Flows:||500-?,000+ cfs. Current Dreamflows gauge|
|Gradient:||102 fpm average (starts at 144 fpm, gradually decreases)|
|Put-in:||Highway 395 Bridge|
|Take-out:||Town of Walker|
|Shuttle:||11 miles, 10 minutes one way|
|Season:||Spring and Summer snowmelt.|
I don't really have all that much to say about this run. It really was one long rapid. We actually put-in just below Chris' Flat Campground at turnout just above the good section of the river. The first 2 miles are 34 feet per mile, then 2.5 miles are 144 fpm, followed by another 2.5 miles of 125 fpm until the river then lets up and is a mere 94 fpm. The first 2.5 miles of the goods are where all the difficult sections are, one or two would be worth taking a look at from the road before hand. There very few eddies, if there is an eddy you can bet that more than one boat will not fit. In all, the run was fun, but once done with the first 5 miles, the rest was kind of a grind. The bottom 4 miles were nothing more than splashy waves causing you to always paddle forward and squint your eyes. The top 5 were more like one long Meat Grinder rapid from the South Fork of the American. As I said though, there are no eddies, and at 1,000 cfs there were two sections that seemed more solid IV and could easily bump up to IV+ with 2,000 cfs. Swimming on this run would not be recommended. Thus, although class IV- boaters would love the skill it requires, I am not sure they would love the stress of non-stop action.
So anyways, if you do put-on and decide you don't want to go further, there is always a road nearby to escape to. It really is too bad the 1997 flood destroyed this river. Prior to that it was apparently a great class IV-V river with continuous whitewater that actually had character. Post flood the river bed has been graded and there are only 3 or 4 spots where there are any rocks larger than the sofa in my living room. It is all weird and feels a bit unnatural.
If you do end up going out there, there are lots of hot springs in the area. We went to Bridgeport and found some. When we got lost we just asked around for directions to the Travertine Hotsprings. Nice place. Just South of town, turn left across from the Animal shelter sign, when two dirt roads go left after a hundred yards, take the right one, and follow it the mile or so to the parking.
- Start (IV to IV+). The river starts off with a bang. We went down the right then moved back left and punched our way through some holes. We then looked at each other and got nervous, for that was a lot bigger than anything looked from the road. It turned out to be one of the two hardest sections. In total this section last a hundred yards or so.
Some inbetween stuff
- Straight Away (IV to IV+). There is a big white wall face on your right, the river bends left and drops over several holes with several badly placed rocks. We went down the right side of them all.
- Canyon (IV-). After a lull, the canyon tightens and bends right. There are some rocks to avoid. The straight away down stream of here actually had some boulders and made for entertaining whitewater. The rest of the river begins to let up and the water gets easier and easier until take-out.
Take-out: Driving south on Highway 395, the last road on the far side of Walker is Eastside Road. Park at the bridge and scout an eddy to catch to actually take-out at. If you have left the town and stop seeing houses, you have gone too far.
Put-in: Continue south on Highway 395 for 11 miles to the bridge over the West Fork of the Walker. You can put-in here. Or you can go to the turn out 1.8 miles downstream and put-in there, just downstream a short ways from Chris' Flat Campground. The first big rapid is immediatly downstream of this turn-out. The other big rapid is at the next downstream big turnout.
View West Fork of the Walker River (Above Walker) in a larger map
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