Gate of the South Fork American V
worth noting that some time in 2011 the rock at the bottom right of
cracked in half, and now blocks the standard right line.
morning in Truckee found our group a mix of
motivational levels. Having paddled the previous day on
few of us
were fired up to get out there again, while others were more focused on
coffee and a mellow morning. Eventually we rallied out of Truckee, our
group consisting of Gabe Forsythe, Ben Stookesberry, Jared Johnson,
myself and Lizzie I still don’t know your last name. We
into the South Fork American drainage through the Tahoe weekend chaos,
debating between Lover’s Leap or Golden Gate. By the time we
stopped for food and gas around one in the afternoon we settled on
doing the one-day Golden Gate run as a two-day. This run is called the
Golden Gate run because in an older guidebook, California Whitewater,
the run is likened to jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Lizzie was
the only one who had previously done the run, and with a minimum flow
of 500 cfs or so. At the put-in we found a healthy flow that we
estimated between 1200-1500, rather on the high end. (Retrospectively it
was higher than
The shuttle took a good long while, and we took our time packing boats
around four o’clock in the afternoon. Gabe Forsythe fitting
all in the new Jefe.
how dubious my memory is. I finally got back to Golden Gate in
early April of 2009, with flows on the other end of the spectrum,
hanging around 500cfs. In my memory I got the order of the rapids mixed
up. On our first trip I didn't get any shots of Initiation, the first
significant rapid. I think Daniel says it well, if you're going to walk
it you should probably just hike back out.
Taylor Cavin runs Initiation in 2009 @ 500cfs.
Large rapid below Initiation, be sure to take the left channel at the
bottom. Taylor Cavin, Culley Thomas and Darin
The first of the named rapids is "Drainpipe" which we all portaged at
high flows, it looked absolutely terrible. Good fun at 500 though!
Daniel Brasuell runs the lead in to Drainpipe at 500cfs.
Daniel Brasuell making the crux move, this hole is backed up by a rock
pile that looks a bit like a sieve.
Thomas lines it up with flows around 900.
Looking back up on a nice spring day.
I was expecting a mellow class II-III lead-in for the first
and was surprised by the quality and quantity of IV-V rapids in the
first two miles, which prompted a few scouts and hand signals. Big
water isn’t my forte, and I was pleased that my Jefe actually
paddled better in big water with overnight gear in it. At the end of
the warm up we came to a large rapid that had an ugly hole at the
bottom, with large sieves on both sides. Ben quickly portaged up the
cliff while I stood around debating between the difficulty of the rapid
and portage. Jared liked it and gave'er right away.
Jared Johnson in the entrance to the first large rapid. [Ed note, this
is actually "Straight Shot"
Style was the definition of how Jared Johnson nailed the line between
the sieve and the edge of the hole.
Much easier rapid at 500cfs, Taylor Cavin leads the charge.
Lizzie and Gabe followed through shortly after, but I missed
Lizzie’s run and caught the tail end of Gabe’s in
on the sketchy portage. Retrospectively I would probably run the rapid
instead of portage up and down the cliff, but halfway up was too late.
This drop really marked the beginning of the hard section, we scouted
more and did one big portage around a long drop that had a huge hole
feeding under a rock.
Gabe got out to scout a large river wide ledge drop while we
an eddy. The move was a ferry across to the right side, which had a
nice tongue down it. Jared probed it first and hit a funky eddy hole
thing in the ferry but managed it well and made it right, followed by a
similar line from Ben. I didn’t like the eddy hole funky
thing, but didn’t want to get out of my boat to portage. I
hard upstream on my ferry and turned around for the funky feature,
thought I was riding it thought but right when I was getting past it I
flipped. I remember thinking “boy I hope the hole
sticky” as I rolled up went into the center of the ledge hole
backwards. Thankfully it wasn’t and I rolled up in the out
and got an eddy, realizing I was more tired than I had previously
thought. We all agreed to push on but take the next available campsite,
although we had seen none in the boulder garden style of the river so
far. Within a short amount of time all the boys had eddied out on river
left and were scouting a drop while Lizzie took a small creeking line
down the right bank. Lizzie gave us some hand signals that perplexed
both Gabe and myself, is she signaling a sleeper rock or something?
Ahh, the first and seemingly only flat spot on the run.
on the South Fork.
camping spot was a sweet bedrock slab with a small creek flowing
right through it. Dusk sets in and we warm by the fire.
back upstream at the steepest section of Golden Gate. It's
like this for a mile or two below Drainpipe.
morning had beautiful California weather once again and we were
slow to get up.
We got on the water around nine and were marginally refreshed, but
stoked to be an estimated half way through the hard stuff. Taco Bell,
an infamous rapid, came on pretty early in day two and we all portaged
around the unfriendly looking beast.
Cavin runs Taco Bell at 500cfs.
drop came up after Taco Bell, I started portaging pretty quickly
as I was far from fired up, but Jared was and ran the drop.
Johnson, somewhere (Brainfade at high water) on Golden Gate.
I imagine my line would have been similar, perhaps upside down in the
final drop though.
reunited with the portage crew.
This whole section is really a four-mile boulder garden with some
harder spots thrown in. We portaged once or twice at high water, but
ran them all at 500.
is the lead in to "Brainfade"
Moore running Brainfade.
Jared led well with some superb boat scouting and we made good time to
another sizable drop.
probes well, avoiding the left side that
had an interesting and unfriendly feature. "The Rose"
Rose is a much more technical rapid at 500cfs.
Forsythe ferries across to portage The Rose on the right, general
of the run in the background.
and run class V was the norm for another half mile or so before we
eddied out to scout an enormous boulder garden. A quick scout revealed
a sweet centerline that started off in low volume creeking style,
fading into big water river running at the bottom. Gabe was fired up on
this one and ran it while I was getting in my boat. I liked the rapid a
lot and followed shortly after, video coming soon hopefully.
Stookesberry in the creeking entrance with Jared Johnson looking on.
Johnson dwarfed by my favorite rapid on the run.
above rapid is "All Fucked Up" at high flows. It really cleans up
with more water. The lead in at 500cfs. Taylor Cavin and Darin McQuoid
Tully makes the key move, the key is avoiding a sieve on river left.
Ben took the lead from here on out and we made great time down to
F111. We lunched here and contemplated F-111, I didn’t like
funky entrance nor the hungry pocket on the left side.
up and ran it though.
There was a brief moment of concern as the pocket started to
back, but she put the steam on and paddled out of it. After F-111 the
river mellows back into IV-IV+ shifting from granite to a metamorphic
canyon. We kayaked down to the take-out in blazing summer heat, glad to
have done this worthwhile run. Our group had a minimum of two total
portages, with individual portages as high as five.
the V+ on this run can be portaged with relative ease, but that
said a swim in any section could easily result in a lost boat.
I’d imagine this run would be a blast to fly through with
that knows all the lines. We spent a total of about four hours on the
river, and I’d certainly do this run again.
up after a great weekend of kayaking in the Sierras.
and another write
from Daniel Brasuell.
To reach take out go to Pollock Pines off of Highway 50,
drive north from the freeway, turn left just past the Safeway. After a
few blocks, turn right on Forebay road and following it 8 miles down to
the river. On that road, you will go by a small lake and a cement road
drops down to your left, stay right.
To reach put in, go back to highway 50 and head east. Follow it
a few miles to Peavine Ridge Road. Follow this road which turns to dirt
down to the river. The road is poor quality, we got a Subaru down, but
it wasn’t easy.