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Hi, myself and a couple of mates are coming from Australia for a paddle - it's been a dry sad summer... We are planning end April to mid May, and plan to do rivers between the Feather and the Kern. How is the season shaping up? Any advice on must do runs? We are solid class 4+ paddlers. Any suggestions for picking up a used boat? I'm looking at picking one up to take home. Thanks


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I'm not really familiar with the whole variety of runs available in that region, but I do know the snowpack is not shaping up as well as you would expect for an El Nino season.

 

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So far it is not promising. Central and northern Cali had good precipitation from late November to about the 19th of December, but since then nothing other than a system that dumped some snow and rain on southern CA a couple weeks back. And there is nothing in the ten day forecast either, so it's looking like we could be in for another year of drought. In other words, not a lot better than your area. If you can go further north into Oregon you may do better, but their weather has been schizo too.
The dam controlled runs in the Sierras like the Tuolumne should have some kayakable flows on certain days, and there may be some low flows on the Klamath and Trinity, but I would not count on the Feather unless the pattern turns around. And the Kern is in very grim shape. Dick DeChant, from Hyside, who also advertises here on the Buzz is located there so he could tell you more about their local conditions.
Weather underground has ten day forecasts ( wunderground-dot-com ). We'll keep our fingers crossed for a Spring surprise..... Hope you can find something!
 

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California is awesome, but if it doesn't snow and you are still coming here you should head to Idaho. That's a Class IV whitewater destination in summer. You'll miss out on clean granite waterfalls, but you'll more than make up for it with big splashy whitewater goodness.
 

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If you want reliable flows in April and May all you need to do is come to Oregon or Washington. We have great paddling here that time of year--and the rest of the year too. If you don't have drysuits however... you will be wishing you did. People get by in good drytops and wetsuits but it really sucks day after day. Even newbs up here paddle in Goretex most of the year. We get rain constantly and it seems like Juneuary is becoming more of a pattern the last few years... There is a great kayaking community around Portland. Check out PDXKayaker.
 

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You should check boof.com if you haven't already. That's the California "mountainbuzz." I'm not a Cali expert but we went to northern CA in 2013 when they had a mediocre snow year and did Devil's Canyon, Giant Gap, Burnt Ranch Gorge & some stuff in Cal Salmon at mostly fun mediumish flows. Many of their drainages are large so stuff runs for short periods even on off snow years. Late Apr-May should be close to prime runoff for a lot of stuff so is a good time to go.
 

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Be aware that California is huge (600 miles between north and south). So it is best to pick one region. If the snowpack remains low, north is probably better. I would think that the American, Feather, Yuba are a pretty good bet. Trinity, Cal Salmon, Smith are likely to have water even in a dry year.

It is still early in the snow season and you may have decent water even if the snowpack is below average. If all else fails, you can go north the the pacific northwest.

All the info is here:A Wet State - Guide to California Kayaking
 

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a wet state is great. Other good resources are:

California Creeks - Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking for a more conservative approach
Darin McQuoid Photography for pretty pictures
North Coast Paddling for far northern cali runs

I will say that CA tends to rate their rapids slightly different than other regions I'm used too. Definitely start on easier runs for a warm up and get a feel. I'm no expert either since I've only scratched the surface of Cali, but in my opinion coming from Colorado, Washington/Oregon class IV is a smidge harder that colorado class IV, and California is a smidge harder than Oregon/Washington class IV. Then again a lot of it may have to do with the water levels I saw (large).
 

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Seems like the overall advice is good. Two main points stick out to me... Stick to one half of the state(N or S), you will spend less time on the road. Even though Cali driving can be epic in the right car. Also, Cali boating is on another level, especially at higher flows.

The beauty of the far North boating like the Trinity, Cal Salmon, and Scott is they are all within an hour drive of one another. The Smith is a little further, but having the redwoods makes it a gem of its own... They all remain runnable into relatively low flows, and are all classic pool drop runs with the exception of a few rapids, but those can all be scouted or walked. The Tuolumne is a great run to combo with a Yosemite visit, but it gets beefy in a hurry during spring flows. The N. Fork American @ 2k or the Merced @ 4k are the only other reasons to go into the Yosemite drainage without seeing Yosemite, but that is just my opinion.

The Cal salmon also has the best kayaking schools on the Planet(fact), Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School. They are a great source of local knowledge and always have a good selection of quality used boats. California Kayak School Shop | Call 530-462-4772 | Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School
 

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Discussion Starter #10
This is wicked information! Thanks all . That's what I love about the American boating community - it's very friendly, helpful and BIG. It's a very small community here in Aussi. Looks like we might fly into WA and head south.
Anyone know of a used smaller Nomad for sale?


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So take this with a grain of salt as I'm not sure what the rivers in Australia are like, but most of the time when friends from Europe come to California we suggest paddling a boat size if they normally paddle a small. The rivers here tend to have decent volume and a big boat helps deal with that. It's pretty typical for everyone, including small people, to paddle a Nomad 8.5 out here unless you are under 45kg.

If you venture into the more southern/central California area don't hesitate to get in touch with me, the Kaweah has some great class IV if we get some snow :?

Darin McQuoid
 

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Thanks Darin, we'll be in touch if we are out your way. Come check out Australian rivers for yourself, certainly don't get the flows like in the US, but some sweet runs and beautiful rivers... When there's water... Point noted about CA flows and grading.

So is the Dry Meadow likely to be Dry?


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Well the year could still turn around as February is generally a better month for snow. If it continues as is, yes Dry Meadow won't have water. It's also one of the most over-rated runs in the whole state, it's just very photogenic.
 

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Not sure if it was mentioned yet but dreamflows.com is another useful resource. Hood river and bend Oregon and Coloma California are good places to look for used boats. Also highly recommend Idaho if you can make that journey.


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