See this trip report for some great photos and additional information. For historical purposes, here is the first descent.
This section might be difficult to catch but well worth the effort. I would go back in a heart beat. The difficulty is the logistics. The road into the takeout is steep, narrow and really overgrown. Once you start in there is little in the way of turn around spots. The recommended vehicle is a small, high clearance vehicle. Such as a jeep, Tacoma truck, etc. A vehicle such as a full size truck, suburban, etc would have difficulty.
The other hurdle is catching it when the water level is good but the snow is melted off enough to get in. We tried on April 17 and spent the better part of a day clearing logs to the takeout only to not be able to get to the put-in due to snow. After a week of warm temperatures we were successful on April 26/27. I would recommend taking a day and doing some scouting and tree clearing before calling the boys.
To determine snow, I would use the Blue Canyon (BLC2) California Cooperator Snow Sensors site - elevation 5280 feet. When it shows zero snow (i.e. April 21 on this snapshot), you should be close to be able to drive to the put-in.
As for the gauge, the North Fork Yuba above Slate Creek gauge was having a dihernal of 1500 - 2000 cfs. I think this would be fine.
Though, a better indicator is the Slate Creek - Below Diversion Dam gauge. We had right around 300 cfs.
The first part of the run is boney and rather manky. It cleans up the lower you get. The last 1/3 of the creek has some classic rapids. This run has LOTS of sieves. Always be on the lookout. While it is pretty scenery and clear water, it is spoiled by lots of miners trash all over the place.
There are lots of canyons, hence the name. No canyon is very long but each seems steep and almost impassable. There were only two portages and those were in the last couple miles. One was due to a rock falling in from a cliff and making the river impassable, and the other was a "V" notch drop with a tricky lead in. The later could have been run. The first major canyon was the hardest to scout. Send your best climber up the river right side, you will want to make sure you get eyes on the bottom narrow slot to make sure it is clear of wood. If not expect to spend an hour or two doing a difficult rope portage. The others were all scoutable to some degree at water level.
There was another rapid that at the bottom had a curler rock that tossed you into the left wall. Darin got temperarily pinned but broke free, Gain ran fine. I pinned and had to swim. My boat flushed free. I think it was because my boat was longer. It ends in a big pool so swim is easy. Not sure how easy it would be to portage this drop?
We left Brownsville at 9 am and set shuttle at the top of the hill and got to the put-in and launched at 12 pm. We paddled for 6 hours and covered about 2/3 of the miles. The next day we launched at 9am and were at the confluence of the North Yuba in 3 hours. It then took about 20 minutes to get to the take-out at Slate. I then had to go up the hill to bring the vehicle down and back out shuttle. We did not get back to Brownsville till about 7pm.
Shuttle is very confusing with lots of roads that loop out then back in. The key is finding the best maintained road because it will be the fastest. The fastest is to go through Poverty Hill. If there are issues with snow, consider staying lower elevation and passing by the abandoned town of Union Hill and Scales. If you get blocked by tree/snow, there is a good chance another route will form. See these maps for optimum route information. See these maps for alternate route information. Bring a chainsaw!
Possible other higher exploratory put-in alternatives:
We found a great camp spot river right at 39.55832,-121.02634. If you want to camp early, consider river right where Sawmill creek comes in, 39.60423,-120.96078. If you want to camp later, there are some good ones as you get close to where Rock Creek comes in on river right.
Narrative copyright 2018. Contact Joseph Hatcher. This page was last updated May 8, 2018.