Middle Fork American River Info Needed - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-17-2012   #1
San Diego, California
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 5
Middle Fork American River Info Needed


I'm looking to take a trip with a buddy of mine in northern California in early September. We are interested in fly fishing as well as running some whitewater in my new raft (14ft self bailer). We both have a good amount of experience, yet I've never run anything in northern Cali before. My questions are:
First of all whether the Middle Fork would be a good recommendation for early September. It is dam release and is supposed to have good fishing and I imagine the logistics of the portage at Ruck-a-Chucky Falls keeps the numbers of people down a fair bit. Should the water temps be conducive to fishing?

Second: Camping: I think that you can also camp on this stretch on BLM land which would be fun. Is that correct?

Third: Does anyone have expererience with the portage? It looks from pictures that I've seen that you'd need some rope and caribeeners and it would be a 2 man job coaxing the raft down the right side of the falls.

Thanks so much!!!!

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Old 08-17-2012   #2
, MA
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 35
The portage is a HUGE pain. Especially if you have any gear. I was in a 14' Avon with 2 others. We had been hoping to be able to carry the boat, but the trail was a bit narrow for that.

Sending the boat over the falls was also a pain. You have to send it down the center slot, or the left slot if there are only 2 slots, which means pushing the boat out into the current enough to get to the slot, luckily there is a huge eddy above which gives you some space to work with, and if you miss the right channel, the really bad one, has a rope across it which stopped my boat from going that way 1 time. Below the falls I had swum out to a rock so that I could recover (jump like a flying squirrel) the boat and pick everyone else up. I did have a guy with a bag pull me in after I got back into the boat, otherwise your running the next rapid solo. I don't know about trying to do this with 2 people.

Another way, which you can see on videos if you look through youtube, is to have someone run the falls. It seems easy enough, but I wouldn't be doing it myself. Have a look on the tube and see what you think.

Outside of the portage crap you have to deal with, it is a beautiful run, pretty easy and forgiving.

Have fun out there.
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Old 08-17-2012   #3
San Diego, California
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 5
Thanks for the info! Good to be forewarned but not dissuaded! I think we'll pack light as possible to make the portage easier. My girlfriend will be there as well. I'll make sure to look up vids on youtube
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Old 08-17-2012   #4
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 54
I would look at doing the Toulumne rather than the Middle Fork American, if they still have releases in September. Look to Dreamflows.com for that info.

As for the Middle Fork American, yes, the fishing is pretty good. There is camping on the river, though it is kind of limited. The spots that there are, though, are great - nice beaches.

Ruck-a-Chucky is a fun rapid in a raft. It's pretty much a Class II move with Class V-VI consequences. Just don't mess up. That being said, running the rapid is probably safer than doing the boat-push / death jump / swimming ferry maneuver. Not sure if commercial trips will still be running then, but if they are, you can watch what they do. They have it dialed in.
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Old 08-17-2012   #5
San Diego, California
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 5
Thanks- I'd looked at doing the Toulumne and called the Ranger station for info on permits. They said permits were available for September but that one of the units on the dam above was broken and the flows were really low. So I'd figured that hte middle fork was a safer bet. However, looking at your Dreamflows.com site (which seems really awesome!) it looks like the Toulumne might still be an option. Thanks for the input.
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Old 08-17-2012   #6
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 69
Guided for 5+ years on the MFA. I think it's one of the most under rated trips in California. Gorgeous canyon, good fishing, some great hikes etc. The big class 4 is Tunnel Chute. Punch the reversal (Last Chance) above it then just run the chute in the raft forward. Throw (so the handle is forward) your right oar and use your left oar to keep your bow pointed river left and hold on.

Kanaka is the last big one. 90 degree right had bend after a long class II section and a short pond. Either cheat river left side or gut it, just don't have swimmers or boats river right as there are some nasty rock sieves.

Cool Hike: there will be a very small creek/trickle coming in river right after the last rapid over some cool, layered bed rock. Trail should be obvious up to a pretty cave/waterfall slot canyon thing. Follow the trail and then hike up the spring 'till the obvious end.

Camp at Camp 5 or 6 (both have composting toilets). The better one is camp 6. A steep, sandy beach river right, along a gentle right had bend.

Another pretty hike up the creek river left, right above Chunder.

The next rapid, first of day 2, is Chunder. It looks kinda gnar, especially watching a raft disappear over a waterfall but it's straight forward, just be in the middle with a very slight right left angle. This rapid is the source of much frustrating carnage on big commercial trips. Watch out for a little FU rock right below the fall river left. Most of the time it's fine, but sometimes the river gods just decide it's your time.

The portage is a pain, but worth it I think and is right down stream of chunder. I've pushed/swam and "hucked the chuck". If you feel confident just run it. Carry everything that's above deck level around. Have one person row it. You want to again have a bit of a river left angle, with the front left tube about 18" off the river left rock side and hold on 'cause it's violent but quick. Grab the oars quick because your boat's only really going to fit on the left side of the big boulder at the bottom. Youtube if you want to swim or watch another trip do it. Re-rig the boat river right in a eddy amongst the big boulders.

The only other rapid that's not read-and-run is the second drop below the portage. Start right, get left quick and down a small drop and bounce off the river left wall.

The T is fun as well but the locals have a bad habit of vandalizing cars left for a few days so pay someone to drop your vehicle the day of take out.

A bit long, but hopefully informative.
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Old 08-17-2012   #7
San Diego, California
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jul 2012
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Old 08-19-2012   #8
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Fresno, California
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 113

MFA is a great run, Shuttle is long; Drivers Flat down to take out in a tough road that get lots of traffic from Com. Companies running up and down. Watch Last Chance it is right above T-Chute. Tunnel Chute was blasted by miners and is super sharp u do not was to swim it. Easy scout on river R. the tunnel is cool as well( yes a 70 ft. tunnel through MT. few class 3 for next few miles then Kanacka stay on L side no worries. After that class 2 for 6-7 mi but that is where all the fish are. Several big sandy beaches.
Otter creek is a great one. Canyon creek is great side hike river L right above Chunder. Now u are back to action: Chunder 4-5 ft. drop but watch out for alligator (wedge rock on R side of drop).Ruck a Chuck is 100 yrs. downstream.
Ruck – A -Chuck- warning this is a nasty spot! Yeah it is a class 2 move but it has severe consequences
At low water u can become wedged in drop, flat rap right side and you will be holding on above a 20+ footer
I would r-2 Chuck. Better control, paddle up to drop. Jump on floor and hold on. U just ran a 23 ft. water fall!!!
Talk to the commercial guys ,Tributary has been running it the longest they have it down.
U still have Parallel parking and Texas Chain Saw to deal w/ but manageable class 4.
Want to see something funny about MFA? Goog “Shane’s World” Ragging Rapids was down there when it was being filmed. jajajajajajaja!!!!
T does not have allot of water right now if it does not come back up i would head to MFA espically if u like Trout.
Want more info PM me spent yrs. running it
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Old 08-19-2012   #9
SLC, Utah
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 115
Just got back from paddling that area. Someone from CA added this info here:

American River, Middle Fork - Tunnel Run (Ralston Powerhouse to Greenwood) - River Brain

Probably not much more info than has been said already but has the lat/long points if you want them.
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Old 08-20-2012   #10
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 69
Oh, and don't worry about the water level at night. Us Californians like to turn our rivers off at night to, you know, conserve water. When you wake up, float down to the tributary coming in river left, right before Chunder. Hike up the creek, nurse the hangover and wait for the water to come up. Should be runnable by 1.
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