McCloud, California, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||60 fpm|
|Max Gradient||85 fpm|
|McCloud Above McCloud Res|
|dream-042||600 - 2000 cfs||III-IV||00h40m||530 cfs (too low)|
Beautiful scenery and cold water. Most rapids are long.
All of the run past the put in is bordered by private property owned by the Hearst Corporation.
The distance, starting at the boat launch area downstream of Lower Falls, is about 7.5 miles of river, plus 3 miles of lake paddling. Starting near Lower Falls adds another half mile of distance.
During late summer and fall, launching on this run involves boat dragging or such till you get to Little Springs. These springs add just enough water that boaters can scratch down the creek the next mile to get to Big Springs where a lot of water comes into the river.
The first rapid below Big Springs is the steepest of the run with multiple rocks and pourovers to avoid. In 2009, this rapid ended with a river wide log. The right side of the log was submerged enough to allow a narrow passage.
Below the log, the river eases for a ways then picks up with a very long section of continuous class 3. The gradient eases gradually as the river goes downstream creating longer sections of slower water, between the mostly continuous 2 rapids. A few steeper rapids appear along the way.
Near the end, it is a treat to float past the exotic buildings of Wyntoon, the Hearst Corporation's private resort.
Getting There: The town of McCloud is about 10 miles east of Freeway I-5 on highway 89. The take out is about 10 miles south on Forrest Rd. 11. The put in is 5 miles east of McCloud on highway 89, then about a half mile south to Fowlers Camp.
Put in: On Highway 89 there will be signs to Fowlers Camp and the McCloud Loop drive. Turn right (south) and drive about 1/2 mile. Just befor Fowlers Camp turn right again at a fork towards the Lower Falls picnic area. A gravel road leads to a designated boater launching area. It is just a dirt clearing in the woods for parking up on a bluff above the river. A trail leads down to the river and a small somewhat less bushy area suitable for launching. This launch site is best when flows are higher in the spring and early summer.
A rough and dusty, dirt road leads past the designated launch area to the boundary with the Hearst Corporation property. Steep user trails lead down the bluff to the river to bushy launching areas. During low water season, this put in will reduce the boat dragging distance to Little Springs.
During spring high flows one can launch anywhere convenient below Lower Falls, or upstream of Lower Falls if one wants to boat that vertical drop.
Take out: Tarantula Creek boat ramp is the furthest upstream public access on McCloud Reservoir. Roads do extend up around the reservoir but they are private property and gated. The Hearst corporation owns all of the property along the river and reservoir between the take out and put in. When the reservoir is full, there is about 3 1/4 miles of flat paddling to the boat ramp. When the reservoir was at 24,000 acre feet, the lake elevation was about 10 feet below the high water mark. The flat water paddling distance was only reduced by 1/3 to 1/2 mile.
Camping: Fowler's Camp has 39 campsites and costs $15 per site per night. There are water faucets, picnic tables, pit toilets and campfire grills. There are several other campgrounds along the river, a short ways upstream. All the campsites are first come first served. There is a good hiking trail that leads upstream from Fowler's camp to the other campgrounds, to various picnic sites and to viewing areas for middle and upper falls. The area is called the McCloud Loop.
Talking to the camp host and other campers may uncover friendly shuttle drivers and lots of information about the area.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|1.0||Furthest downstream put in||N/A|
|2.4||Big Springs Rapid||IV|
|4.1||Mud Creek confluence||N/A|
|5.0||Mud Wall Rapid||III|
|6.3||Angel Creek confluence||I|
|8.0||Huckleberry Creek confluence||I|
|8.5||24,000 acre/feet level||N/A|
|11.3||Tarantula Boat Ramp||N/A|
Mileages to landmarks along the river are measured from this point simply because it is an obvious landmark. Lower Falls is runnable by some at some flows. There is a bit of a cave behind it and the cliff to river right is severely undercut.
From the lower falls picnic area follow signs down a gravel road to a left turn and a parking area on the bluff above the river. A gradual trail leads down to the river in a short distance.
Follow a rutted and dusty dirt road to the National forrest - private property boundary, then follow side roads towards the river. User trails lead down to the river. A fence line is visible in spots allowing people to stay on public property.
If you have been dragging your kayak or IK over rocks up to this point, these springs should provide enough flow to scrape down the rapids to Big Springs. They don't provide a lot of water, but just enough to allow boaters to sort of boat.
Several hundred cfs are added to the river at this location. Some of the springs cascade down from above the river, but a lot of springs flow up out of the ground just above river level. From here on down the river usually has boatable flow all year round.
The steepest rapid of the whole run starts immediately past Big Springs. The rapid is a long fairly steep slalom, past (depending on the flow) rocks and pour overs, or big holes and big waves. A big log was across the river at the bottom of this rapid in 2009. The left end was high with very low clearance above the river, while the right end was submerged enough to allow boat passage without stopping.
Mud Creek comes in from the right. I think this is an area of lower gradient following a particularly long section of continuous class 3. There are a few spots in this area to pull over and take a breather.
Mud Creek has its headwaters near the summit of Mt Shasta. It is said to be much more prominent during high flow periods, when it lives up to its name. It runs silty year round, but during low flow periods most of the flow is diverted into a ditch several miles upstream near highway 89. The ditch empties into Huckelberry creek near the reservoir.
The gradient gradually lessons below Big Springs. After a long section of somewhat easier water you will see the first bridge of the Wyntoon property. The rapid beneath the bridge is a bit steeper than just upstream or immediately downstream.
A short ways past the bridge the river bends to the right and drops down a steep and wide rapid towards a distinctive wall. At the bottom the rapid bends sharply left. The distinctive cliff on the right has a layer of volcanic basalt resting on top of a thick layer of mudstone or sandstone material.
I don't know what name the locals may call this rapid.
You may not notice the creek coming in on the left, but the amazing challets on the right will certainly catch your attention. Several, including the Cinderella cottage are built on the edge of the river. Murals decorate the sides of some buildings. Around the right hand bend, a steeper rapid flows underneath a bridge.
A couple hundred yards past the last of the Wyntoon buildings, Huckleberry Creek comes in from the right, carrying a load of gray silt. Huckleberry Creek is naturally spring fed so its flow should be crystal clear. The silty flow is from Mud Creek which has been diverted into a ditch and directed to Huckleberry Creek. This confluence also marks the high water level of McCloud reservoir. Flat water paddling starts here or a short ways downstream.
When McCloud reservoir is around 24,000 acre feet of storage, riffles extend to this area and the river current extends a bit further.
This bridge across the reservoir serves as a distance marker. From here it is about 1.7 miles across the lake to the Tarantula Boat Ramp.
There is a large parking area here, with picnic tables and pit toilets. The boat ramp is a self servic fee area and costs $5.00 to park. The locked gate on the road marks the boundary with the Hearst Corporation property.