*** Photos and writeup were at 200 cfs, according to the Dreamflows gauge. These are the lines I run, make your own decisions. ***
This is one of my favorite runs, a good hike and miles of continuous, low-volume creeking. This run doesn't come easy, but that's the beauty of it, a 2 mile hike 1200' uphill ... woo hoo! I'll never forget the look on my friend's face at the top of the hike. "This better be worth it", he said. The downhill is 1/2 mile dropping 260'. It takes about 1.5 hours to hike in. The 5 bigger rapids can be portaged if so inclined, Playpen and Couch are a pain in the butt though.
The beginning doesn't waste any time getting to it but it is a great warm up for what awaits below. The first mile is more boulder garden in character. Most eddies have enough room for 2-3 boats. I would not go in with a group larger than four. A few of the ledges that are in this section are worth scouting. Barky - is a 5' ledge drop with a small log parallel to the falls in the right channel. The line involves sliding down some of the log. The middle is ugly and not an option. The move is fairly straight forward. After one of several shallow gravel bars is a ledge/slide worthy of a scout, the left side has a shallow shelf. Class IV for a bit. The next big horizon line is Dinner Falls and This is a 9' falls that looks to have a shallow landing in the middle, backed by a rock. Approach center, and boof the falls on the right. Just below here is a boxed-in hole. The left has a tricky entry but allows you to miss the hole. If you duck under a large tree spanning the creek it is time to scout. Smiley has a challenging, steep entry leading to a small pool followed by a 10' falls. The entry is run down the gut with a little left angle. After the short pool go right, lining you up for the right side of the falls. 50 yds below here there is a narrow slot on the right, the better choice. A pool leads to a 6' ledge that from above looks like you might want to run it right. Don't, you'll drop into a pocket. Run this boofing the center. When the creek straightens for a 100 yards to a horizon line, scout. Playpen is a 6' ledge into a strong hole. Run it right with a strong boof stroke. Watch for the right wall. I gladly portage through the trees/brush on the left, though it is a pain in the butt. This marks the beginning of the ledges section, numerous 6' ledges and drops for ~ 1 mile. Don't get lazy, some pack a pretty good punch and have some nice piton rocks too. Within this mile, I think it's in this section, is Couch, a 4' ledge with a rock at its base creating a typewriter type cushion heading right. I was intimidated by this rapid until I saw a group of 5 blaze down it, all with different lines, like a bunch of clowns none of which got worked. So. Boofing mid/right landing on the lateral heading right (2 o'clock angle) is a good line. The entry into the ledge is difficult to run clean (piton rock), so I portage the entry on river right. The gradient eases a bit and character is back to boulder gardens. When you starting thinking "boy this a long day" you should be getting close to the miner's cabin (river right, close to the creek's edge). This is the putin for the middle run.
This section is much easier than the upper and has fun class IV for ~3/4 mile to the takeout. Most rapids in this section can be boat scouted, they all go and only a few have a true line. On the second left turn, pay attention for a mid-creek rock at the bottom, boof off of the middle or to the left. Boofing to the right will put you in a potential pin spot against the wall (a boat pinned here in spring 2002). When you get to the creek-wide log, portage onto the log on the right. Seal launch from the log. The 6' ledge below here, marked by a slanted log just below the drop, has a pin rock in the middle at the base of the falls. Run far right. Rapids continue for ~1/4 mile. After a nice 3' left boof/slide, look for a trail on the right. This leads to the red house and the takeout parking. If unfamiliar with this spot it is worth a scout while running shuttle. For those thinking Pauley Falls is a better takeout, eat your Wheaties and 2 bananas for good measure because this is a loooooong day.
**** the order of some of the rapids may be wrong, I will revise this writeup next spring (2003) including more photos. I should have written this 6 months ago when it was very fresh in my mind****
**all mile points are from Downieville.**
From the 'T' in Downieville, head east, up the Downie River. Follow signs for 2nd and 3rd divide trails. In 0.7 miles is Pauley Creek Falls, the lower takeout and my 'gauge'. Continue up the paved road that soon turns to dirt. At 3.25 miles is the 2nd divide trailhead, the takeout, park here. Continue on this road (you are now following Lavezzola Creek), and follow signs for the 3rd divide / Empire Ranch. At 4.5 miles is the 3rd divide trailhead. Drop your gear and find a more suitable parking spot, usually backtracking downstream ~1/4 mile (good relations with the ranch owners is a good thing). Follow 3rd divide up until you think "what the ^%@", you are almost there. When the trail splits near the ridge (~2 miles up) take the right fork to the ridge. It's downhill from here. Put in at the miner's camp just downstream of the foot bridge.
**all mile points are from Downieville.**
From the 'T' in Downieville, head east, up the Downie River. Follow signs for 2nd and 3rd divide trails. In 0.7 miles is Pauley Creek Falls, the lower takeout and my 'gauge'. Continue up the paved road that soon turns to dirt. At 3.25 miles is the 2nd divide trailhead, the takeout, park here. A road leads down to the red house, ~100 yards.
Narrative and all photos copyright 2002. Contact Justin States. This page was last updated Nov 24, 2002.