Silver Creek - Camino Reservoir to SF American to Slab Creek Reservoir

Silver Creek, California, US


Camino Reservoir to SF American to Slab Creek Reservoir

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 9 Miles
Avg. Gradient 120 fpm
Max Gradient 160 fpm

River Description




6 miles of Silver Creek + 3 miles on SF American (Golden Gate run)


This is a high quality classic class V Sierra run.   It would definitely be on the list of any class V kayaker in California, if flows were more readily available.  If you get the chance to run Silver creek take it, it is likely to be a once in a decade event. Majority of rapids are clean bedrock with some boulder gardens mixed in. There are many multiple move rapids. No single drop over ~10 feet vertical.  Lots of great boofs.


Comparisions: Similar but easier than golden gate or SF Merced.  Similar but harder than 49 to Bridgeport on SF Yuba – Silver creek is smaller and steeper than SF Yuba below 49.


Most groups should budget about 5-7 hours of river time.



This section rarely has boatable flows and it is diffucult to know what the flow is when it does have water.  If Union Valley Reservoir spills into Silver Creek, those flows will pass through two small reservoirs befor passing through this reach.  Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) controls the reservoirs and powerhouses and monitors flows in this section.  Find flows by having connections at SMUD, or drive to the put in and look.

Typically flows only in high water years based on dam releases. Flow into this stretch comes from releases from Camino Reservoir. Note: this dam chooses to release water and does not "spill" (there is no spillway). Flow into Camino comes from Jaybird Power House (estimated capacity of up to 2000 CFS),  releases from Union Valley Dam (~6 miles upstream), and some natural accretion.

Ideal Class V flow judged to be ~600-800cfs.  Most rapids consist of water features at this flow. In between pushy and padded. 



3 -4 rapids are commonly portaged on Silver Creek proper. Some boaters may not have any.  All portages were simple and easy.  Note there is one "mandatory" portage below the confluence w/ SF American ( “F-111”)

1)      First Portage: ~1/3 of a mile from the put in. ~50 yards below the gauge. Majority of the river pushes into rocks. Portage left
2)      Second Portage (Fondue Pot): ~3 mi from the put-in. Strong recirculating backed up hole. Portage left along a wide flat bedrock bench.
3)      Third Portage: ~4 mi from the put in. Strong recirculating hole on the river right channel. Pin rocks in the river left channel. 
4)      “F-111” (SF American). ~1 mile from the confluence. Strong recirculating hole. Portage right (beware the rapid above that leads into F-111 pretty quickly)
Lack of Access: This is a wilderness run. Exiting the gorge outside of the river corridor would be very difficult.


Shuttle is long and the only major drawback of the run -- but worth it! All roads are paved and kept clear of snow by SMUD.
Take out: Same Take out as Golden Gate. From Hwy 50, take the Sly Park road exit to Pollock Pines. Go North toward Pollock Pines for 1/8 mile. Turn left on to Pony Express Trail. Go ~1/8 mile turn right on Forbay road. Stay right at the obvious fork to stay on Forbay road for ~8 miles to cross a bridge over the SF American river. Turn left after the bridge. Spacious parking.
Put In:  Camino Reservoir. From Hwy 50, take Ice House Road ~6.5 miles, turn left on Peavine Ridge Road. Go ~3.7 miles. Turn left on Jaybird Power House Rd. Go ~8.5 miles to Camino reservior
When you arrive at Camino Reservoir, walk on the flat dirt road ~3/4 of a mile to the dam, check flows, continue across the dam and follow the trail/roadbed down to the river.


Other Information Sources:
The Best Whitewater in California, Holbeck & Stanley, 1998   -   Reports a descent in 1983 with good quality and around 7 or 8 portages.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2011-04-12 04:32:49


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

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