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Nearly 100 Miles of Whitewater Re-opened in Far Northern California Today!

Posted: 02/01/2022
By: Scott Harding

Today in far northern California, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest re-opened public access to nearly 100 miles of whitewater runs on six different rivers that had been closed since last summer’s wildfires. American Whitewater advocated for the re-opening of these rivers, and we thank District Rangers Tara Jones and Chris Losi for meeting with us and for recommending that the Forest Supervisor re-open the rivers and the surrounding 395,000 acres of National Forest land. These rivers and land had been closed to all public access since early August 2021. Scroll down to see a full list of re-opened rivers.


The 11 newly re-opened whitewater runs range from a wilderness hike-in packraft run to classic Trinity Alps creeks to the most popular roadside runs in northwest California and range in difficulty from class II through V+. All of the rivers are in the Trinity River system, a tributary to the larger Klamath River and includes 30 miles of the Trinity River itself. A significant part of the local economy depends upon whitewater rafting and other outdoor recreation in the national forest, and the area is used by local residents and indigenous people for a variety of purposes. 


This area of the Klamath Mountains, halfway between Redding, CA and the Pacific Ocean, was simultaneously impacted by the Monument Fire and the River Complex, both of which were ignited by lightning in late July 2021 and grew to become the 14th and 16th largest wildfires in California history. The two fires nearly merged in the headwaters of the North Fork Trinity River, and together they spanned a north-south distance of 78 miles. The tiny riverside town of Big Flat sustained considerable damage, including the loss of a whitewater outfitter.


As is typically the case, the fires burned at lower intensity along creeks and rivers than on the steep slopes and mountains above. For example, 16% of the area burned in the 226,000-acre Monument Fire has high severity fire effects (all trees killed) while the riparian area along whitewater runs affected by the fire typically have less than 2% high severity effects.


The exception to this is Coffee Creek, a 9.7-mile continuous whitewater run that burned at high intensity in the River Complex and has nearly 33% high severity fire effects along the creek. The nearby town of the same name was heavily damaged in the fire, and fall rains triggered debris flows that have clogged Coffee Creek with logs and rocks, making it essentially unrunnable for the time being. Although it is now open to the public, it is wise to skip this run until the situation stabilizes in coming years.


For a detailed look at fire effects data for these rivers, see American Whitewater’s interactive Monument Fire and River Complex river map. We use this fire severity data and GIS mapping tools to analyze rivers after fires and advocate for sensible re-openings of closed rivers based on current data and on-the-ground information.


Wildfire-related public land and river closures are now commonplace. While land management agencies lift most closures within a reasonable time following a fire, other closures are long duration, even when the rivers and land are safe to access. This is the case on the Middle Fork Feather River (Plumas National Forest, California) and the Clackamas River (Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon). We are continuing our data-driven advocacy work to re-open these iconic Wild and Scenic rivers to the public.


Re-opened Whitewater Runs

Coffee Creek (NF Confluence to Hwy 3) *contains significant hazards

EF NF Trinity (Todd’s Cabin Run)

NF Trinity (Wilderness Run)

NF Trinity (Hobo Gulch to EF NF)

Trinity (Pigeon Point, Big Flat, & Hayden Flat runs)

Trinity (Burnt Ranch Gorge)

New (Lower Gorge)

Hayfork Creek (Middle Run)

Hayfork Creek (Lower Gorge)


Map of Re-opened Rivers

Download a high resolution PDF map.

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