American, S. Fork - 5. Slab Creek Dam to White Rock Powerhouse


American, S. Fork, California, US

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5. Slab Creek Dam to White Rock Powerhouse (Slab Creek)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 7.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 89 fpm
Max Gradient 120 fpm

Slab Creek Dam spilling


Slab Creek Dam spilling
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 10/30/03 @ 600

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
So. American Below Slab Creek Dam
dream-074 500 - 3500 cfs IV-V 04h54m 35 cfs (too low)


River Description

The Slab Creek reach begins with several class IV+ rapids that are within sight of the put-in. The river has a very continuous nature for the next four miles. Many of the rapids are long and require good class IV skills.   Mosquito Road Bridge at river mile 3.6 provides alternate access options.  The most significant rapid on the run, Motherlode Falls, occurs shortly after the bridge. 

The gradient eases after this point and the run becomes class II/III in nature. There also is more vegetation, primarily Alders, in the river channel in the lower section. Rock Creek enters on river right at river mile 5.5. The Rock Creek Power House could provide a potential take-out or put-in if paddlers were interested in running the last two miles of the run down to White Rock Power House. This section is also class II/III with one rapid that is potentially class III+.

 

Put in:   From Highway 50 in Placerville, take the Schnell School road exit and go north to Carson Rd. till N. Canyon road.   Follow N. Canyon Road to Slab Creek Reservoir road and follow that to the Slab Creek dam.   Dirt roads lead to the river a short ways below the dam. 

Take out:  The road leading to White Rock Powerhouse is gated so boaters have to park outside and walk up from the reservoir.   From Highway 50 in Placerville go north on Mosquito Road.   After about 1 mile, turn left on Meadow Lane to Hollond Drive.   Search carefully for the road down to the powerhouse.

Mosquito Road Bridge is an alternate take out allows boating the steepest few miles while avoiding Morthelode Falls and the easier water below. 

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Jason Bates wrote at boof.cem,,,,,

Got in their yesterday with a bunch of folks, GREAT time had by all at about 1000cfs (falling slightly during the run). Not sure what other runs to compare to honestly, but of the runs you listed I'd say that at that flow I think Slab is a tad bit easier than Cherry Creek and the South fork of the Salmon. While none of the rapids have moves that are more than class 4 in difficulty (except Motherlode), most rapids do require some strong "read and run" skills to spot the holes and/or find the tongue or boof to deal with them.

There are a few surprises in there to keep you on your toes, but low to medium flows tend to be fairly open and forgiving while higher flows makes for a lot of very large and grabby holes. Less water things slow down a bit more, and there are more eddies to break things up but the lines get a bit more tight and technical. At moderate flows most class 5 type boaters will likely consider this run more class 4 in nature, while most class 4 boaters will likely find the run just a bit too exciting.

Taking out at Mosquito rd bridge eliminates Motherlode falls (which is a bit of work to sneak/portage). The rapid intensity builds from the bridge to Motherlode, with the last rapid or two above Motherlode being a bit of a step up from anything above the bridge. Other take outs involve more effort, in terms of hiking up out of the canyon or paddling across Chili Bar lake.

Overall I'd say this run is an a real classic: tons of fun challenging rapids, very little wood, very little "mank" or "sketch" factor, beautiful canyon, and a nice easy shuttle. It's such a shame that this canyon doesn't have flows more often, but while it does it's quite a nice treat to get to paddle it.
 

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Thomas M. wrote ot Boof.com

I think medium flows are between 900-1300. The river starts to get more difficult above 1500 and is much more technical the lower it gets like 600-800
I would rate the run class IV+ overall at medium flows with the exception of mother lode falls V which has a sneak rout on the far left and a semi difficult portage on the right. Another option if you want your shuttle shorter and to avoid portaging mother lode is to take out on river left at Mosquito Ridge rd.

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I did the run today with 1200, last year at ~3000. At optimal flows between 1000-1500 I think the best way to describe it is a notch above Chamberlain's and a notch below 49 to Bridgeport. At that level it is very clean and generally pool drop but every rapid, one right after the next, all the way from put in to (Mosquito) bridge is class IV. At 3000 it's significantly pushier but not really more dangerous (though I'd rate it higher). Lower flows would actually worry me more since it would get quite rocky in a few places.

I highly recommend the take out at the bridge. Motherlode is definitely a bigger rapid than the rest but I didn't think it was all that memorable/worthwhile. And then there's quite a bit of flat water until the long, steep hike out...

There's some video from today on my blog:
http://paddlecalifornia.blogspot.com/  
Last edited by bryant_burkhardt; 06-07-2010 at Boof.com

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Other Information Sources: 
Upper American River Project main page.
Upper American River Project Schematic.pdf
Chili Bar Reservoir Planning Unit.pdf

Boof.com-SlabCreek

Video-2009-by Bryan Burkhardt

 

 

 


A GUIDE TO THE BEST WHITEWATER IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, HOLBEK & STANLEY, 1998


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-06-14 21:20:50

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
3.6Mosquito Road BridgeN/AAccess Photo
4.0Motherlode FallsVIPhoto
6.5Rock Creek & PowerhouseN/AAccess

Rapid Descriptions

Mosquito Road Bridge (Class N/A, Mile 3.6)

Big hole at the bottom

Big hole at the bottom
Photo by Darrick Hilbert taken 05/23/05 @ 3500cfs

 the Mosquito Road Bridge at river mile 3.6 can provide alternate access and also warns of the approach to the hardest section of the river.   Below the bridge several rapids get harder, culminating in Motherlode Falls.



Motherlode Falls (Class VI, Mile 4.0)

Motherlode Falls

Motherlode Falls
Photo of Jerry Jascomb by Dave Jeffrey taken 07/15/96 @ 2800 cfs

Below Mosquito Rd. Bridge, several rapids get progessively harder as they lead towards the biggest rapid on this run.  Motherlode Falls  is an awkward portage for many boaters.   Reportedly there is a sneak line on far river left. 



Rock Creek & Powerhouse (Class N/A, Mile 6.5)

Rock Creek enters on river right at river mile 5.5. The Rock Creek Power House could provide a potential take-out or put-in if paddlers were interested in running the last two miles of the run down to White Rock Power House. This section is also class II/III with one rapid that is potentially class III+.

 

During the winter and Spring the creek and powerhouse can sometimes deliver enough water into the river to provide boatable flows.   Generally though, the additional water will be less than 100 cfs.




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