©FLASH; March,93

revised, March 94, March 95, June '97, March, 2005

©JAFRG Productions, March, 94


The comments below are informational only. Nothing can substitute for reading the river. There is often more than one good way to run a rapid. I’ve set this up to give you the NAME of the rapid(variations/alternate names are given in brackets), specific RECOGNITION marks to help you identify where you are and what’s coming up, the recommended APPROACH to each rapid (variations/alternates again in brackets), ending with any SPECIFIC HAZARDS to avoid or fun things to do.

SECOND THOUGHTS: It must be pointed out that most of this was written during, and for, the low water years of '92-'94. High flows render much of the maneuvering described pointless. However, when the flow drops (and it will), these hints might come in handy.

More SECOND THOUGHTS: The floods of January '97 have created many changes in the river. In the interest of historical perspective and to remind us all of the propensity of nature to change, I've left a lot of old stuff in but have changed it to strike-out type. Much remains the same, especially in the Gorge, where most of the rapids are bedrock.

PUT-IN at the Nugget or Chili Bar:

Be sure you have your life jacket secured, your paddle, water container, and any needed personal gear (PG) secured BEFORE you enter your boat. Check your crew for snug fit of life jackets and paddles BEFORE they get in the boat. Know who your lead and sweep boats are. Don’t pass your lead boat, don’t let your sweep boat pass you. STAY IN THE CURRENT unless signaled to eddy out. Watch the boat BEHIND you- you’re responsible for him/her and his/her swimmers.


MEATGRINDER: At the end of a fairly long, quiet pool, hazards start cropping up. Keep toward the RIGHT bank until you’ve gotten through a narrow slot and can see the big stuff coming up. Follow the V between two large boulders (the right one is often submerged, but forms a pour over), then work right. Feel your way down through numerous guide rocks toward a really big boulder. You MUST get right of that boulder, but only barely because as soon as you pass you need to get back left to miss a reef extending out from the right bank. Then just stay left, in the gut of the current; too far left can get rocky. Enjoy the big waves, DON`T LET ANYBODY SWIM!!! SURF ALERT: At the very bottom, on the right, just before "acid rock", there’s a good surf hole at some flow levels. If people swim there, they’ve got a long pool for recovery, (and they just might, if you decide surf’s up!)

SECOND THOUGHTS: At high flows ( 4000cfs and above) beware big boat flipping holes. Avoid them. Look out for that surf hole at higher flows (5,000 cfs and higher). We've picked up swimmers at the head of African Queen from boats that have flipped there. It gets BIG. Keep left of it.('95)

RACEHORSE BEND: At the bottom of the pool below Meatgrinder the river drains off to the right into a big, sweeping left turn. Enter RIGHT, with the main current, and cruise down the right bank until you feel the push of the river to the right. Stay clear of the bank with a slight left ferry angle. When you hit the big waves at the top of the sharp left turn, you have a choice: Stay RIGHT, right on the wall for the VERY narrow slot on the right wall, (risking a cartwheel spin if that right bank grabs your bow), OR, after you hit the first 2 waves, set an EXTREME left ferry angle and dig hard for the LEFT side and a clean, wide chute. HAZARD ALERT: MID-CHANNEL HAS SHARP ROCKS THAT WILL GUT YOUR BOAT IF YOU TRY TO GO OVER THEM! PS: The boss gets really mad too.

SECOND THOUGHTS: At high water (2000cfs and up), the lateral waves off the right wall at the bottom of this one can flip you. Hit 'em square or stay a little left of them.('95)

MAYA: At the bottom of the pool below Racehorse, move to the RIGHT to enter. Left ferry angle after the first little chute, move left after visible rock on the left (won’t take much, the current will take you if you’ve got the angle). The rest should be obvious, just miss the little rocks and go for the hole at the bottom. HAZARD ALERT: At very high flows (10,000+cfs), Maya develops a HUGE hole. Stay out of it, unless you are told it is safe to run, by keeping RIGHT. SECOND THOUGHTS: Hell, at flows much over 2500, the hole at the bottom of the rapid will stall you. Hit it hard and square or sneak right of it.('95)

UPPER ROCK GARDEN: Below Maya, through a couple of narrow slots that take you through a right turn, the river straightens out, spreads out and gets shallow (though always chest-high to a duck). I like to catch the eddy at river left and sneak down the extreme left bank. About halfway down the straight stretch, move to center, following the main current. HAZARD ALERT: Beware of hippos in the eddy at flows of 1000-2000cfs. Go where you like at 2500 or over.

AFRICAN QUEEN: After 2 sharp left-right-left-right moves, the entry is tricky; narrow and shallow at low flows, quick and tight at higher flows. Hard left to avoid a rocky reef which must be taken with it to your right, then hard right to straighten out to take the visible rocks to your left. Avoid staying in the channel you’ve been in, except at very high water. You must get LEFT. Down the center of the current from there. HAZARD ALERT: Rock just right of center current will screw you up if you hit it: visible at low flows, ignorable at 3000+cfs. It’s about 1/3 of the way down from the entry. Check the action at the bottom-go for the biggest waves, the best downstream V. Be ready to avoid the right wall after you hit the waves. The big pool below is a favorite for water wars. Watch your back.

CORKSCREW: After an easy chute at the bottom of the pool below African Queen, the river turns left. Stay to the inside of the turn (if the eddy left catches you, try to ride the right edge of it). Corkscrew is a series of tight turns through narrow (at lower flows) slots. Dick`s trick is to stay to the INSIDES of each turn. I’ve gotten through with NO paddle strokes from my crews, although I had to work my butt off!

FROG ROCKIt’s easy. Enter left, with a strong right ferry angle. As you start over the first drop, a few forward paddle strokes will take you right (and upstream) of the rock. Be aware of a little rock midstream. Be sure you get downstream of it. Square off and get set for First Threat. At high water, it's not even visible unless you know where to look.

TRIPLE THREAT: Actually 3 separate rapids, First Threat starts right below Frog Rock. Drift in left of center, with a strong right ferry angle. As soon as you can see a clear channel, power into the center of the big hole. EVERYBODY should get wet. A memorial plaque to Don Favor, a pioneer South Fork rafter, is on the bank, river right of the big wave. Second Threat is immediately below. Run it a little left of center and look for the hole (low flows) that nobody will see coming. Lots of folk swim 2nd Threat from the rocks, river right. We don’t.

THIRD THREAT: At low flows, (1000-2500cfs) this is a very big rapid. It tends to wash out at higher water. In the big pool at the bottom of 2nd Threat, move LEFT to catch the main current. Stay on the RIGHT side of the main current until you start into the final drop, then angle left to take the wave square on. Any right angle will let the wave shove you right and away from the second wave (I’ve seen boats flip that way). You need a right to left movement in the drop to get the good stuff!

SECOND THOUGHTS, '99: The right side is still a good idea, to avoid a couple of sharp drops over rocks on the left. If you see a wave, "T" it.

360: Straightforward shot, be aware of the tendency of the river to push you into the right wall below the big wave at the bottom. Most of us will call a right or left turn to spin the boat on the way in to the wave; people expect it.

UPPER SWIMMERS: Obvious routes, a good place to encourage your people to swim; remember to review proper "swim" technique, have them swim to right bank for pick-up.

BOILING EDDIES: The trick I’ve used here is to nose up onto the biggest boil and let it push me back and downstream with that left ferry angle to keep me off the rocks on the right.

PICNIC BEACH: A road on the right bank with some new homes warns of the approach of the dread "QUIET ZONE". The rapid at the bottom of the pool is obvious, just don’t let people swim it because there has been a butt-buster rock in it for the last 4 years that doesn’t show.

SECOND THOUGHTS, '97: Don't know if the rock is still there, but it's broadened out too much to allow for good swimming. Too shallow (How can you tell? Look for lots of little wavelets!)

SECOND THOUGHTS, ’05: There are now 2 channels, either one works.

QUIET ZONE: A sign on a tree (river left) announces the "Quiet Zone". From here to the bottom of Lower Swimmers rapid, El Dorado county pays people to stand by the river and record company names and guide descriptions for those boats they feel are creating excessive noise levels or engaging in water fights. The county then assesses the involved company in 2 ways.1. A monetary fine of over $100 for each violation and 2. Quiet Zone violations are considered MAJOR no-no`s and too many (like more than 3) can lead to revocation of a company’s permit to run the river. Suffice it to say that the company will not pay the fine for your violations. YOU DO.

BUMP`N`GRIND: This may have another name, but hey. It shows up at the bottom of a big pool, just after the big house on the left bank. Enter right, with a left angle so you can dodge rocks and work your way left to a short pool extreme river left. The slot out of that pool is wide and easy and puts you into another, bigger pool with houses river right. One of them had a metal slide into the river with a repair plate in it that could probably take neat 1/4 inch slices off your butt if you tried to use it! Gone now.('97) SECOND THOUGHTS '95: At high water, pretty much go where you like.

RAFTEATER: Enter at the right side of the bottom of the pool described above, again with a strong LEFT ferry angle. You need to aim at a shark-tooth rock just left of center current. As soon as you can, without hitting that shark tooth, forward paddle to get LEFT, and avoid the Rafteater Rock. Pass it river LEFT and start setting up for Troublemaker.

SECOND THOUGHTS, '99: At high water, use the left channel, it's easier.

TROUBLEMAKER: Enter with extreme left ferry angle: face the big island on the left of the channel (Make sure your stern misses the big rock in the right side of the channel. Don’t worry too much, there’s usually room). Keep your nose close to that island! When you can see the photographers stand, aim for it while looking for the "Green Tongue". When you spot it, ride right down the center of it, no forward paddle at low flows (1000-2000cfs), a little forward paddle at medium flows (2000-4000), good and hard at high flows (4000+cfs). Your approach should be progressively farther to the right (not much, but a little) as the flow rate rises. At high flows, hit the hole, at low flows, just barely catch the left side of it.

From Troublemaker to camp is no sweat, just pay attention to what everybody else is doing and try to do what the good ones do and avoid the screw-ups the Libra (now American Whitewater and marginally better) guides pull. The only named rapid is Old Scary which isn’t.

At camp, take your boat out and put it away if you're not doing the Gorge run. If you are continuing, be sure it is well secured (tied to a tree) and, if possible, in the shade during lunch. If shade is not possible, be sure it gets wet down frequently to keep it cool. Boyle's law applies here. If a gas (air) is heated, it will expand. Since your boat already has all the pressure it can handle (you did top it off before you started, didn't you?), expansion of the air inside it will burst it. Nobody will be happy


BARKING DOG: First rapid below Camp Lotus pool. Obvious routes.

SPLIT ROCK: It’s pretty simple. Enter center current, keep to the inside of the turn left and cut right upstream of the rock island then follow around the turn to the left, staying on the inside of the turn as much as possible.

HIGHWAY RAPID: At the tail end of the River Bend pool, ride the eddy line staying left, out of the trees. Enter the main part of the rapid a little right of center, moving to the right of the channel. Drop through the slot right, set a hard left ferry angle and move left to miss the big rock island. Not too far left, or you’ll hang up at low flows. Pick your way through the rock garden below the main drop, working to the right of the main current. Take the final drop, which drops off to the right, as close to the inside of the turn as possible. You really don’t want to get swept too far left there or you could spend a lot of time getting loose. On crowded days, go where stuck boats aren't and you'll be OK.

LOWER SWIMMERS: On your left, an expanse of lawn and rock walls that looks like a Civil War monument (guests have been convinced it marks the site of the only Civil War battle fought in this state) marks the entry. Keep to the insides of the turns, letting those who wish to swim go over the side just as the current starts to accelerate. Remind them to breathe between waves, pick them up when they want to get back in. The bottom of Lower Swimmers is the end of the "Quiet Zone". Water fight city!

CABLE CROSSING: A cable for a "flying dutchman", a cable car used to gauge water flow midstream in this case, but often used by miners to ferry gear and bodies across deep and/or fast streams used to cross the river near the end of the pool (sometimes referred to as "Turtle Pond"). marks the beginning of the rapid. Be sure you get your swimmers back aboard well upstream of the cable. The cable came down sometime early during the '96 season and has not been replaced so you'll just have to make your own call on swimmers. We haven't changed the name. ('97) Enter far right, with a left angle. One or two forward strokes will carry you across to mid-current. Let yourself be swept to the right, keeping your angle, and you will miss the rockpile to your right. The rockpile makes a good ambush spot if you and your crew are so inclined and you can catch the little eddy just downstream of it.

VARIOUS UNNAMED RAPIDS: Keep your eyes peeled for "V"s pointing upstream, which indicate rocks, and "V"s pointing downstream, indicating clear (more or less) channels and make your moves early through a series of twists and riffles, with the BLM public beach on the right bank.

CHICKEN FALLS: The river bends left over a low ledge with several slots usable, then runs relatively straight and shallow (betrayed by lots of small wavelets) toward the left wall. A move to the LEFT keeps you in the deepest current and away from a rock just left of center that may, at levels below 2500cfs, kick up a small roostertail on its left side. Stay clear of it, but immediately after passing it, set a strong RIGHT ferry angle and move RIGHT. Just below this rock is Chicken Falls, a nasty sieve on the left with a nice, wide, clear channel on the right.

There is a narrow, shallow entry channel leading to a neat drop that turns right as it drops at the extreme left, but don’t try it until you know you can pull it off - part of the trick is knowing it’s there and how to get to it without stacking up on the rocks. The last boat I saw stuck there stayed stuck for 45 minutes. Your lead boat won’t be happy if the next boat there is yours! The right side has some good waves that usually get missed if you use that little left side chute, so stick to the RIGHT especially at low levels. High water hint: far left edge of the drop has a great, fairly safe surf hole, if you aren't in a hurry.