A small amount of dubious beta existed for the
Wishon Reservoir. From three different sources we didn't have much to
work with. Two said simply "it looks good in there" and when they
checked it out flows were either too high or too low. Our other source
said they had done the run, it was class IV except for one gorge which
they portaged, but at the end of the portage they looked upstream and
the gorge was good to go.
Earlier in the year we had consider the run, but
misinformation came to believe the Wishon
reflect water levels in the North Fork Kings above Wishon. It doesn't,
as the hydro project is of the more complicated variety. Courtwright
and Wishon Reservoirs are in close proximity. There is a powerhouse at
Wishon, powered by water from Courtwright. There is also a powerhouse
downstream at Black Rock Reservoir, powered by water from Wishon.
Straightforward stuff. Except that Courtwright is also used as a
fore bay for the Wishon powerhouse, and in the hot summer nights,
PG&E will pump water from Wishon up to Courtwright, so they can
make more power when people down in the valley switch on their AC in
the afternoon, aka peak demand. Thus, the gauge below Wishon isn't much
of a reflection on the inflow to the reservoir.
This lack of flow information is the most likely
for lack of
exploration on the North Fork Kings. Upon arrival at Courtwright we
hiked two miles cross country to get a glimpse of the river.
we decided that dropping over
this dome would be a nice quick
route. Perhaps a little too exciting, Charlie Center climbs down in
the North Fork Kings and John Muir Wilderness. The river flows through
the shadowed crack to the left.
The closest section of river visible was at least a mile away, if not
too. A little zoom action and we thought flows look ok.
On our way back to the car we opted to skirt the
drove up the road to Maxon Trailhead. From the trailhead map we
estimated a six to eight mile hike was ahead of us the following day,
so we found a nice campsite and called it a night.
place, you can drive to 8,000'
and enjoy some nice views.
Hiking, we all hate it, but sometimes it has to be done. Rush Sturges
getting his system setup.
Although we didn't get an early start, we were making good time and
continually looking for a fork to the right at Post Corral Creek. We
didn't have a map for the area and were relying on the Gazetteer and
trailhead map. Five or six miles into the hike we decided to take a
break with a group of boy scouts in this beautiful meadow.
One of their leaders had done the hike before, and said we had six
miles to go. A little disheartening since we thought we were within a
mile or two of the river. Most of the hike is perfectly flat, but there
was one last climb before we finally got to drop to the river. I
thought the hike was a lot like Upper Cherry, a touch longer but
flatter too. As easy as hiking eleven miles with a fully loaded boat
can be. It's not easy.
too glad to see the river, which
looked a bit low. But hey, Post
Corral Creek confluence should only be a mile downstream and it's a
Glad to be on the water, we were all dismayed at how much
were doing, but optimism remained high and within minutes were standing
at a large horizon line. So much for the class IV, it was on. A
multi-tiered slide that looked like more flow would pad it out nicely.
Having cracked my boat the week before I opted to walk due to potential
(mandatory) boat abuse the slide dictated.
Center probes the first larger
drop of the North Fork Kings.
Sturges on the same bouncy slide.
We pushed our way through many low water boulder gardens,
able to stay
in our boats but doing a fair amount of gorilla boating too, until we
hopped out at an even larger horizon line. Scouting the drop we were
all sure of one thing, that it would be epic with about four times the
flow. Once again citing the cracked boat as an excuse, I portage again.
Sturges probes the second bedrock
has a great line, and Charlie
The boulder gardens got considerably steeper, but with the
low flows we
were able to stay in our boats and aggressively boat scout our way down
another half mile of river. Class II culminated into a tough drop that
had a narrow three foot wide goal post move at the bottom. Missing the
line would be a massive piton, and not wanting to risk ankle damage we
all portaged down the right, putting in right above Post Corral Creek
and what turned out to be a beautiful camp site.
Up and out of camp we were forced to gorilla over
If the North Fork Kings is low, Corral Creek equally is. To our relief
after only a short bit of boulder gardens the river entered a gorge.
Center soaking up the scenery.
I'm sure that at higher flows the gorge would have been
but have no mandatory portages. As it was, the slides were fun but some
almost covered sieves required portages.
Center making a splash.
quick sieve walk...
we pushed deeper in, the gradient
accelerated, tragically flows did
not correspondingly increase.
We couldn't help but imagine how fun this section would be at the right
flow. As it was, the deep crack stole all the water.
cracks were wide enough though,
and this one offered up more
slides and pinches than a day in grade school. Charlie Center.
Post pinch slide, the gorge walls scaled back and
entered over half
a mile of Upper Cherry styled low angled slides. With the low flow
Charlie led a read and run charge, but I had to hop out for one quick
picture for posterity's sake.
Center enjoying some low
stress slip n slidin.
A little more low angle slide action and then
signaling down the middle with a big thumbs up.
Center enjoys the slide to
We were on our toes for the gorge we had heard
to be looming around the next bend. Thankfully there were a few fun
ones mixed in with boulder gardens.
Sturges about to auto boof a nice
With a wall only on one side, Rush below the boof.
As we floated around the corner, the gorge
itself and was
every bit as intimidating as we'd imagined. Below few technical boulder
gardens we were scrambling out at the last access point to reconnoiter
the situation. Immediately below us was a portage, but we could work
around it just above river level. After that the gorge looked
manageable, and besides, we had certain beta that the last cascade was
"good to go". Of course, our inaccurate beta also indicated that
everything above here was class IV...
into the heart of the gorge.
Rapids are always look flat from above, and the
section was more
challenging than we had anticipated.
Center gets up and over while
Rush Sturges sets safety.
Scurrying into eddies above the gorge's final drop, things looked
dubious. None of us particularly like crack drops. Hmmm...
Scouting unveiled a crack worse than we had feared. After
fifteen feet into a crack marginally wide enough for a kayak, the river
stayed in the crack for another twenty feet before exiting into the
pool. The good news was that you wouldn't need your paddle for the
whole rapid, it was too narrow. Not wanting to lose a boat into the
"crackamole" we passed boats up to
a ledge on the right bank and portaged into a nice throw and go below
throw-n-go gorge walls spread open and we got out to scout
the cascade we'd seen two days before while scouting. From a few miles
away it looked like the line was on the left, but we weren't surprised
that at river level the line was quite different.
Sturges skips down the smooth
Charlie Center lines it up.
It was obvious that several drops lay in quick succession
and we hopped out to scout the series. As we walked further down river,
our grins grew proportionally with each slide scouted. Amazed that
everything was good to go, we took turns linking all the slides and
Sturges on the entry drop that
could use a little more water.
enough that flows don't matter,
I went next and was grinning ear to ear by the
while Charlie hiked to his boat.
Center boofing the best of the
North Fork Kings.
Celebration slide - Charlie Center.
boulder gardens set the tone
below the slides, until Helms Creek
added in a paltry 20cfs and we got to enjoy one last bedrock drop.
Once again a few more boulder gardens were scraped
through, and we were
on Wishon Reservoir early in the afternoon. We exchanged waves with
fisherman on the mellow paddle out, glad to have explored the North
Kings. As Rush embarked on the odyssey of hitch hiking the shuttle we
commiserated about the flow window for this section. A consensus was
reached that when Upper
at or around a "perfect medium flow" that the North Kings would be at a
similar perfect flow. Another classic like this should hopefully spread
out the user load on Upper Cherry, or at least be an alternate for
those looking for great whitewater with a bit of solitude.