Trinity River (Burnt Ranch Gorge)
|Stretch:||China Slide to Grey’s Falls|
|Distance:||6 miles, one day|
|Flows:||300 - 5500 cfs. Current Dreamflows gauge|
|Gradient:||55 fpm (90/110 in Gorge)|
|Put-in:||China Slide dump|
|Take-out:||Grey’s Falls Campsite|
|Shuttle:||10 miles (10 minutes) one-way|
|Written:||© 2004 & 2007|
|Featured in Videos A Wet State #38 Cali Fest '06, Cali Fest '08, Cali Fest '09, and Cali Fest '10|
A staple of my youth, or more accurately: a staple of my brother’s youth, a dream which I was always scared by. For as many years as I can remember, my family has known about the run called Burnt Ranch. Our family had vacationed with friends who lived in the area nearly every summer of my life. As scouts progressed and we began our whitewater lives, we knew that just up stream of our troop’s annual canoe trip was a massive run, for experts only. There is a picture of my brother when he was no older then 14, standing in front of the sign at cedar flat warning that below is “extreme whitewater for experts only.” When my family went rafting when I was 7, we always asked the guides if they had ever done Burnt Ranch. Only once did a guide answer yes…quickly followed by an “I will never do it again.”
Then after high school my brother began to raft, a year later he began to be trained to guide the Ranch, his life long goal nearly realized. His first trip down the Ranch as a paddler I hiked in to the falls in order to watch. It ended with a flip and swim down #2 and myself and my friend running out for help due to another paddler breaking a leg. So needless to say in my mind, it lived up to the reputation it had presented itself with all the years before.
A week before college started my brother talked my dad, myself, and a family friend into rafting down with him. I personally was terrified, wanted a way out, but my parents assured me that it would be fine and that I also didn’t have a choice in the matter. It ended up alright, we flipped in Origami and swam right of the rock. But this experience is what got me more into rafting, and resulted in me becoming a guide on the easier Pigeon Point run upstream the following summer. So without further a due…
Update 2017: Some major changes have occured in a recent storm. See the notes below for the comments on Pearly Gates and the Falls. Due to a landslide between #1 and #2, the main falls will be changing for the next few years. Scout if you haven't been in in a while. Thanks to Wes Schrek for the update!
- After the put in there are one or two small rapids on a right turn. The first big one
comes on the left turn, no more than a quarter mile downstream of the put in.
China Slide (IV). This rapid would really be no big deal if it weren’t so rocky in the entrance. Basically, you enter center, the river makes a sharp left turn and drops a number of feet over shallow rocks. This part scares me, a flip here would be painful. At higher flows it can be difficult to avoid the rock on the outside of the turn. Below the drop, it mellows, work your way to the right of the river for the final drop.
Pearly Gates (IV+). This marks the beginning of the actual gorge, once past this point hiking out becomes a major pain. This rapid is fairly simple if done correctly. Enter the rapid moving right to left across the channel a little. There is a hole at the top, don’t let it slow you down. Finally aim straight into the wall at the pillow forming off of it and hold on. The pillow will pick you up and throw you off the drop which is nearly two meters tall. The right side of the channel has a rock forming a wall, improper entrance can cause being thrown against it or getting caught in the meatiest part of the whole right next to it. Below the rapid on the right side of the river are some caves which look nasty, if swimming avoid at all cost.
Update 2017: It is now becoming a double drop with the top hole possibly feeding into a sieve. Be careful out there.
- Meteor Rock (IV- or IV+). The crux of this rapid is the final move. A junky lead in
with many routes ends in a number of choices to boof at the exit. As flows get higher
the boofs turn into holes. The hard part comes in that there is a large volcanic rock
twenty feet downstream of the ledge which is very undercut and which all that water piles
into. At low flows it is much easier to avoid, at high flows the current wants to slam
you into it. Either right or left of the house size “Meteor rock” go.
Son of Scrapper (III-). Actually a very easy rapid, only you are bouncing off slightly submerged rocks the whole way, a flip would be disastrous. Keep your eyes pealed, there are a lot of Bald Eagle sightings above Son of Scrapper.
Tidy Bowl (IV). This rapid is named for the whirl pool on the right. Enter center off the ledge drop. The river will move you to the left of the rock just downstream. Just give a little left angle on the landing, however too much left can cause you to get recycled in the hole at the base of the drop.
Afternoon Delight (IV). A bolder garden. Best of enter center but with left momentum. There are many holes and rocks. Move left by the time you get half way down to avoid a rock or hole at low water. Then move right again at the end for the cleanest exit.
- Guilt Complex (IV). At low water, move left to right in a hurry, sneak behind the
center rock; this will help to avoid the ledge drop with a nasty hole at the bottom. This rapid
is made more difficult because it feeds directly into the next rapid.
Pochoe’s Peril (III to IV). An easy rapid which is best run on left. It consists of a small chute, with a rock at the bottom/center at low flows.
Burnt Ranch Falls #1 (IV+ to V). Come just down river of Pochoe’s Peril, scoutable/portagable on left. The river narrows with many holes. Stay on the left side of these holes; it is where they are less meaty. Eddy out on right or left above the final drops. There are three choices: a sieve, a showerhead, and jaws. The sieve is the right most, stay away from it. It is nasty and will kill you, exercise caution when in the eddy above it. Don’t swim into it thinking the eddy is safety. The center channel is the shower head. It is runnable but has a nasty hole at the bottom. The common route is the leftmost. It is called Jaws. Enter with left momentum into the chute. I keep heading left, there is a submerged rock you can slide down which lifts you above the hole; shooting the right side of the drop results in meeting the meat of the hole.
Update 2017: Due to a landslide between #1 and #2, Jaws and the Showerhead are now underwater (i.e. the bottom is now underwater)
- Burnt Ranch Falls #2 (V). This rapid comes in three parts. First is an entrance hole.
From here there are two choices, going right or left, but whatever you do don’t go straight
into the sieves. At medium water left is the best route, this leads to a short chute which
can be a little rocky. Going to the right of the sieves leads to a runnable hole at low
water, or a boof to the left of the hole at high water. From this part there are two more
choices, right or left again. The left is a gradual slide, sometimes with rocks in the
center, avoidable to the left. The choice to he right is a steep drop, run it right to left
to avoid the recirculating eddy against the wall.
Update 2017: Currently, due to the slide upstream which dams the bottom of #1, this is now a sketchy move over wood or a portage.
Burnt Ranch Falls #3 (V). Personally I have never run the first half of the falls. At high water it is run on the left shore. At low water it is run in the center, then left around the rocks midway through the rapid. The second half of the rapid is the same at all flows, moving right to left over the drop into the meet of the hole. There is a little cove which at lower flows it is possible to put in at to run just the main drop. This rapid is extremely rocky and being upside down would be very bad, hence I like many portage the top half.
Update 2017: There is a new entrance and there is debris spanning the right side of the river.
Hennessy Falls (IV+). This rapid is fun in a kayak. At all flows the boof can be run. The boof is located right of center, there is an entrance into it but it is no worse then class II. There used to be a rock on the right necessitating a left boof, but the rock is gone now. Below is a ledge that can be skirted around using the right channel.
Origami (V-). A fun class III entrance is taken along the center left channel. This leads to a eddy on the left shore right above a house size rock. This makes a fun boof, boof with left momentum as the hole is sticky at the base on the right. From here, ferry around the rock in the center and begin a frenzied paddle left to avoid the Origami rock. Around the Origami rock is a small drop. At low water levels this drop has pins at its base, either make sure to get a boot, or sneak around behind the Origami rock and run the small hole.
Table Rock (IV+). At low water this rapid can be shot to the right of the Table Rock. Be weary to not be to far right or you will clip the wall in the chute. The line that is the most fun is into the edge of the pillow of the Table Rock. At high flows a sneak route appears on the left of the table rock, this is recommended.
- Bear Rapid (IV-). A straightforward lead in is class III read and run around rocks and holes.
Then there is a ledge drop of about four or five feet. Run everything down the right side
including the ledge where there is a nice boof flake at low water.
Walrus (IV-). Midstream is a rock that looks like a walrus a bit. To the right of it is another rock. The usual line is between these two rocks and over a run little ledge. To the left of the “Walrus Rock” is a cascade which most years ends in a bad hole. You have to make an effort to stay right in order to make the move to the walrus rock boof.
New River Rapid (III). This is a rocky rapid just above the New River. The old line was to run along the right shore. Apparently there are now pins there so a center to left at the top move is the easiest way down. At the end of the fourth mile and just after the “New River Rapid,” the New River enters.
- Thread the Needle (IV). This rapid appears to look a lot like Table Rock. There is a chute
just to the right of a large mid river rock. Take the chute, however in it there is a large
hole that can be pushy towards the wall on the right. Enter with a little left angle, beware
there is a rock backing it up which creates a hole behind it as well.
- Grey’s Falls (IV+). This is where every stray boulder in the gorge is flushed to. It is at the
exact location where the gorge opens up and is no more then a huge boulder pile. The rapid is
entered in the main channel which then turns a little left. I have always gone off the left
side of the drop which has a flake under it which allows you to enter the eddy on the left.
Beware not to nose in off the drop as pins are possible. From the eddy, ferry back out into
the main current in order to make the rivers right turn and keep your self off the wall. It is
rocky just to the right of the main channel and a wall on the left, so stay upright.
Take out: In order to save a 3 mile class II paddle take out just below Grey’s Falls on river left. The trail in unrecognizable but it is about 100 feet down, just below a large boulder. The first few hundred feet is a scramble. Grey’s Falls campground is the location of the trail head. This is located about 8-10 miles west down 299 from Burnt Ranch.
Put in: The easiest put in is the China Slide dump. There is a small road marked by a sign with kayaking stickers. It is located about 3-5 miles East on 299 from Burnt Ranch.
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