* This write-up is based on a trip at 15", and is a description of how my paddling buddies and I ran rapids at that flow on that particular day. Be sure to make your own decisions ...
This section has some great rapids, but for most boaters it also offers some great portaging. It has a handful of BIG drops! I'm always willing to walk so I find this section worth an annual trip. A 1/2 mile of flat water leads you to Three Blind Mice - any paddler who has driven on I-80 by Donner Summit has seen this rapid. It looks big from the freeway and it's bigger standing beside it. The rapid is an 8' foot drop into some funky hydraulics which lead to a few munchy holes. The bottom holes seem to be more of a hazard than the main drop. All fared well on this trip. A short pool ends at a narrow cascading ramp that constricts at the bottom. Enter left and stay middle/left. Take the right channel below here - the left channel is Toilet Bowl. I accidentally paddled into this and got lucky ... pushed against the left wall and I rolled up after several attempts. Ski Jump - this rapid is located just above the bridge at Eagle Lakes Rd exit. A small ramp leading to a pourover that you 'ski jump' past the hydraulic. Avoid to the right of the pourover, it leads into a nasty rock just under the surface that broke the ankle of a paddler. Class III rapids through a short gorge. When the river takes a sudden right, scout river right. Goonie - located just above the westbound I-80 overpass. The more water = the more intimidating. Enter right to left catching the eddy on the left. Ferry hard to the right and stay right paddling down a shallow ramp. The bottom left has a funky pocket / hole hydraulic. Beware of a most likely portage just below here, Henchman's - a 14' drop dropping into a crack against the river right wall. Lindgren runs it in one of his videos, though most opt for the seal launch on the left side of the rapid. Class III building to IV-IV+. The Class IV starts shortly after the bridge that crosses over the river. A 100 yard class III leads to East Meets West - a class III entrance to a 20' vertical drop. Make sure you eddy out in time for the scout. Hitting the boof off the lateral is tricky, if you miss plan on going deep. The portage is on the right. After a short pool, scout the next 1/4 mile river right. You now have a decision to make. Once you enter the gorge you are committed to fairly continuous whitewater right up to a portage. If you choose to portage this section, it is a bit of a chore over and under rocks on river right. So, from the top: - two 4' boofs back to back, river middle / right. Eddy out left. Enter the next ramp middle, punching a few holes. This is when I start looking for an eddy to portage. Work your way down the right side, class IV-IV+, as far as you dare to go. Watch for a tricky lateral on river right ~40 yards above the Portage since it leaves you with very little room for error. This portage / rapid has apparently been run at higher flows, but not by us Shortly below the portage go far left, an unlikely choice, around a house sized rock. A 3/4 mile or so of a rapid or two and mostly flat water is Funnel - a 25' steep slide ending in a hole that looks tough to punch. It looks like you would go DEEP, maybe enough time for a 3-course meal before resurfacing then back down for dessert. It has been run; we portaged right. Just below here is a rapid with a fun right to left move. And yet another pool leads to a cascading ramp that is quite shallow at the bottom, one of our group hit his ass quite hard. Portage right if so inclined. Around an innocent looking corner are two BURLY holes Run down the left to avoid. When the lake is near full, a 10 footer is just above the flat water of the lake. This rapid has a MEATY hole at the base. I have not seen it run so who knows how to run it. Portage left, a bit of work, and seal launch into the lake for a pleasant 2 mile paddle across the lake to the boat ramp.
PUTIN - Take the Cisco Grove exit off of I-80. There is a dirt road leading to a beach on the south side of the river.
TAKEOUT - Take the Hwy 20 exit off of I-80. Drive a few miles toward Nevada City and look for a Spaulding Lake sign. Turn right. At the fork in the road, go right toward the boat ramp.
Narrative and all photos copyright 2002. Contact Justin States. This page was last updated Apr 20, 2008.