“Looking back on the trip, and all the rapids we paddled, the unbelievable landscapes we were lucky enough to travel through, the amazing group of people on the water with us and the perfect water levels provided to us by Mother Nature, I would have to say this trip, the North Fork of the San Joaquin makes my ALL TIME TOP 5!”
After spending a solid month enjoying the record breaking spring, high waters in Ontario and Quebec, I was sad and excited, at the same time, to be leaving for California. Hearing that the snow-pack and run-off where doing funny thing this season in Cali, I was slightly worried about what I would get to paddle during my short 2-week trip.
Getting picked up at the Sacramento airport by Josh, Jamie and Nicole I was quickly informed about the potential trip into the remote North Fork of the San Joaquin. After a good nights sleep, checking some beta, and a quick supply run I was back on the road.
Getting into the Isberg Trail Head car park late in the night, we inflated our sleep mats and slept under the stars, which at some point really early in the morning became sleeping under a rainy sky. This rain threw all of us off, as it nearly never rains in Cali, so our sleep was cut short.
What was this rain going to do to our river flows? Did we need to drive the hour back into civilization to check the gauges? The levels were pretty much guess work at best anyways so should we just start the hike in? These were the questions we mulled over for an extended time.
Finally, sometime around midday after much … preparation we hit the trail for what we expected to be a relatively easy 6-mile hike in. It turned out to be a fairly hard 10-mile hike, which took a total of 10hrs to complete. Due to our late departure from the car park we didn’t complete the hike the first night and camped out at a nice spot along the trail.
Looking back, the hike in is absolutely amazing, there are several vistas along the trail that are unbelievable, pure beauty, it is no wonder this wilderness area was a favourite to its namesake Ansel Adams, one of the worlds greatest landscape photographers.
Also putting on the river midday allowed us to catch the evenings higher flows for the first day of paddling, which is ideal, then giving us the low water start to day 2 making the 60ft waterfalls marginally more run-able.
The first day of paddling is steep, steep, steep! But pretty much all of it goes (level depending, and depending on how big you feel like going). It took us 5hrs to paddle the top 2miles down to the confluence with the waterfall creek coming in from the left, which we decided would be a good spot to camp for the night. That evening the water cranked up quiet a bit higher, so keep that in mind if you are pushing a late day on the water.
The second day things opened up a bit more between, mini gorges with plenty of solid class v boating. The highlight of the day, and entire trip is without a doubt the 60ft waterfall. The falls on its own would be very straightforward and lap-able but the pool at the bottom definitely makes you think twice about that. A very, very serious, ugly under-cut wall on the left (But it is less in play then the right wall) and a kind of pocket eddy on the right feeding back into the curtain, make the thought of something going wrong at the bottom not so nice.
All things considered Josh Neilson and myself decided to give it a go. Having very nice lines and coming out clean at the bottom (with the slight except of a cracked / bloody nose for Josh) we were both sooo stoked.
Looking back on the trip, and all the rapids we paddled, the places we were luck enough to travel through, the amazing group of people on the water with us and the perfect water levels provided to us by Mother Nature I would have to say this trip, the North Fork of the San Joaquin makes my ALL TIME TOP 5!
Here’s to Adventures,
Photos Thanks to - Josh Neilson & Jamie Garrod