South Fork of the Yuba (Golden Quartz)
|Stretch:||Golden Quartz Picnic Area to Washington|
|Difficulty:||Class IV- to IV+|
|Flows:||?00-6,000+ cfs (estimated upstream at Lang’s Crossing + Canyon Creek below Bowman + take into consideration what downstream at 49 Bridge is doing). Current Dreamflows Canyon Creek gauge, Lang's Crossing gauge, 49 Bridge gauge|
|Put-in:||Golden Quartz Picnic Area|
|Shuttle:||~3.5 miles, off road car required (i.e., no Civics, Outbacks OK)|
|Season:||Dam release rarely or winter during heavy rain or spring due to Spaulding spilling|
When American Whitewater got us the weekend release on the South Yuba, my group headed that way with our sites set for Jolly Boys and Golden Quartz runs. However, we came ill equipped for the roads that lay ahead. We had no idea you needed that big of a truck to get up the road. The Subaru Outback made it a measly 200 feet before we admitted defeat and settled on the lower run. Luckily we did get up to Jolly Boys a few days later with the help of Steve Schmidt’s Shuttle Wonder-Truck.
Also another note, some people call this and Jolly Boys “The Arctic Mine run of the South Fork of the Yuba.” This makes no sense to me, the road “Arctic Mine” goes up Canyon Creek. Arctic Mine itself is up Canyon Creek. Also, the run should be split into two since due to water differences and road quality the lower will often be run by itself, with the upper run only being considered an addition to the lower run.
Thanks to Canyon Creek, this run has water far more often then the upriver Jolly Boys run. Additionally, you don’t need a hardcore truck to get into it, and finally this run supposedly only gets better and better with additional water. I know of folks running it in excess of 6,000 cfs and reporting big and fun. Of course, don’t count on it going to 6,000 cfs every year. (Note: In 2010 I got to run this at 3,500 cfs and had an absolute blast, was certainly gripped, but had an amazing time).
This run surprised us with the quality of drops and sizes of the holes. Many of the rapids consist of merely hole dodging the big feature. We took about 2 hours our first time down, but we also scouted excessively in order to capture good photos. Once we knew the lines I think we did it all in under 30 minutes. For reference, we had a flow of 1,200 cfs at Lang’s Crossing plus 300 cfs in Canyon Creek.
Also, a big thanks to Steve Schimtt for contributing the raft photos taken at 6,000 cfs.
- Canyon Creek (IV). A rocky piece of shit, we ran down the left. It gets better, I promise.
Boogie for about a mile.
- Big Hole Number 1 (IV+). If you sneak using the right channel it becomes more of a class IV. Boof the big hole in the middle will keep you honest. After that, run down the bottom heading right to left.
More nice boogie.
Island Number 1 (III-). The river splits and left side is against the rock wall. We went left down the easy rapid, at the bottom there is another rapid that we swung far left on. The right side channel around the island ends in some mank, be far left if you go that way. Just below is another very large rapid.
Big Hole Number 2-3 (IV+). I only give this rapid the “+” because of the size of the entry hole that has to be run (or just nearly) and the size of the ledge hole below it. That is consequence enough for me to rationalize the “+.” We hit just the edge of the hole on the right, the far left would also work. Then avoid the large pour over just below.
- Ramp (IV+). A tricky entrance with a folding hole and pillow off the wall leads to a ramp and a hump. We went right over the hump, went airborne and then crashed through the exploding waves below. This one too isn’t all that bad, but flipping in the lead in would be very painful as the exploding wave part is very shallow. Scout or portage on the left.
Rorie’s (IV- to IV+). Rorie lives up on the left bank overlooking this dramatic short mini-gorge. Depending on your line, you can make this rapid much harder or easier. The easier line is to cut right just past the first rocks. From there it is clean sailing until the final hole which should be avoided. To make it harder go left the whole way and dodge two rather large holes.
Left Turn (IV to V). The right side is burley with several large offset holes that if negotiated properly lead you to an even bigger hole at the bottom. We all snuck it far left. You can eddy out on the right to scout, but then you have to do a good ferry across the river to avoid being swept into the worst of it. You could also probably scout on the left if you get out on the shore before you go around a blind class II rapid that culminates in the main rapid.
- Island Number 2 AKA Chezo’s Hole (IV+). Again, if you stay away from the hole half way down the rapid in the middle, this rapid is much easier. The problem is, the hole comes out of no where. Honestly, you don’t see it until you are like 5 feet from it. You can recognize this rapid by the cliff on the left and presence of a small island. The hole is directly next to the right channel reentering the main channel. You can avoid the hole around the right but it is guarded by a rock, so don’t dry-out on the rock and slip into the hole. You can also punch the hole with some speed, or drift into it and get worked and recirculated like Chezo. Your choice.
Take-out: From Highway 49 in Grass Valley, take Highway 20 towards Truckee. After 16 miles, turn left on Washington Road and follow 6 miles to the town of Washington. Cross the river and park just on the other side. The best parking is where Maybert road goes off to the right.
Put-in: Continue right on Maybert Road. Follow 4 miles to Canyon Creek continue another half mile to Golden Quartz Picnic Area. This will require a Subaru or comparable.
View South Yuba, Golden Quartz in a larger map
HTML Comment Box is loading comments...