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Upper Canyon Creek

*French Lake to Bowman Lake*

* This write-up is a description of how my paddling buddies and I ran rapids at 80 cfs on that particular day.  Be sure to make your own decisions ...

This rarely run creek saw its first descent in ~1993, but has revived some interest this fall.  No it's not a South Silver, but it is a cross between Fordyce and the South Yuba-Spaulding run.  Just the scenery alone is worth the trip, at times it reminded me of Tuolumne Meadows.  After a hour or so hike down the gated road Hike-In Road, Canyon Creek is the French Lake, Canyon Creek French Lake dam.  The view downstream View, Canyon Creek is impressive - continuous drops surrounded by granite.  The canyon starts out with some fun drops Rapid, Canyon Creek and Hike-In Road, Canyon Creek.  Catch the small eddy (pay attention catching this one!) on the right to scout this 25' drop Rapid, Canyon Creek.  As with many drops on this run, I think another 20 cfs would make it more appealing.  Portage on right if so inclined.  The drop below this Scout, Canyon Creek has an intimidating horizon line, best scouted on the left.  This is a 7' drop with a sticky hole.  Running the middle gives you a boof to easily clear the hole.  A few more rapids Rapid, Canyon Creek to Weil Lake, more like a pond really.  Just below Weil Lake is a twisting jolly of joy to an 8' slide Rapid, Canyon Creek.  This 20' falls Rapid, Canyon Creek looks quite interesting, but needs a bit more h2o.  These next two rapids Rapid, Canyon Creek and Rapid, Canyon Creek looked very runnable but no-one in our group ran them.  The next rapid is straight-forward, following the main flow Rapid, Canyon Creek and boofing the left side of the rock at the bottom Rapid, Canyon Creek.  After a short pool is an 8' entrance to a 20' falls Rapid, Canyon Creek.  Next is the best slide on the run Rapid, Canyon Creek (Faucherie Lake is in the background).  It starts with a 25' slide Rapid, Canyon Creek and Rapid, Canyon Creek into a hole that laid me out on my back deck (the others didn't get their faces wet, go figure).  Immediately downstream is a curler Rapid, Canyon Creek followed by a boxed-in hole with an undercut wall Rapid, Canyon Creek on the right.  The paddle across Faucherie Lake is .3 miles, not enough time to take in the beautiful granite surroundings.  The spillway is to the right and can be paddled over.  Shortly below here is an impressive drop Rapid, Canyon Creek that none of us decided to run that day (it was run on the first descent).  Once again, just a wee bit more water for this one Rapid, Canyon Creek.  Shortly below here is a road crossing that I will use next time for the take-out.  I found the rest of the run to Sawmill uninteresting.  A group that kayaked a few days prior to our trip, told me that the section from Sawmill to Bowman has a long portage and just one good rapid, although now seeing photos of that drop maybe it is worth it.

All in all, this creek is WELL worth the time and energy.

Based on the photos from an earlier descent I'm guessing they had 10-15 cfs more, I think a more optimum flow.


French Lake to Weil Lake:
6655' to 6445' in .5 miles
Weil Lake to Faucherie Lake:
 6445' to 6135' in 1.4 miles
 .3 miles to cross Faucherie
Faucherie Lake to Sawmill Lake:
 6135' to 5875' in 1.85 miles
 .75 miles to road crossing (bridge)
 .5 miles to cross Sawmill:
Sawmill Lake to Bowman Lake
 5845' to 5565' in .85 miles
 .5 miles to cross Bowman:

Take-out - Take 89 North from Truckee ~14.5 miles.  Turn left at a well-marked sign toward Jackson Meadows Res.  Drive 17 miles to Jackson Meadows Res.  Drive across the dam.  Follow signs to Bowman Lake.  After 5 miles you will see a small sign for Sawmill Lake, turn left (or continue straight to take-out at Bowman Lake).  Drive 1.1 miles to Sawmill Lake.  A shorter day alternative is to drive 2.5 miles to where the road crosses Canyon Creek (downstream of Faucherie Lake) and take out here.

Put-in - Drive 1.1 miles back to main road, turn right (left is toward Bowman Lake).  Drive 3 miles to Mirror Lake sign, turn right.  After 4 miles turn right on an unmarked road.  Continue 0.3 miles to locked gate.  Hike in from here on a dirt road ~2 miles to the dam.  Trail on river right from the dam leads to the creek.

Narrative and the above photos all copyright 2002.  Contact Justin States

More recent (2008) photos at 120 cfs: Greg Didriksen and Chris Zawaki.

This page was last updated Sep 12, 2008.