The EF Carson is a popular and scenic class 2 stretch, but it is more difficult in two respects than the rating can indicate. The water is very cold, so swims could lead to hypothermia. While the rapids are not difficult, they are non stop in the early miles. The current constantly pushes towards one bank or the other and those banks are undercut cliffs in many areas. Constant manuvering is required to stay in the center of the channel.
People often take two days and camp at hot springs, but one day runs are also feasible.
The run is popular for boaters with whitewater open canoes with float bags.
To reach put-in, drive south on highway 89/4 to Markleeville, and continue about a mile past town to Hangman's Bridge, where there is an outhouse. You can find better put-in spots upstream between the highway and river. Even on Friday nights, campsites are often available at a USFS campground down a dirt road before the bridge. Shuttles are readily available by inquiring at stores in Markleeville.
To reach take-out, drive north to highway 88, turn right, and descend into Nevada. You can take a shortcut by turning right on Centerville Lane, and left across a bridge before Dresslerville, although going all the way to Minden and turning right on highway 395 thru Gardnerville works too. On 395 just past the Lahonton Fish Hatchery, turn right onto a dirt road where the highway starts climbing a hill. The BLM parking lot is uphill at the end of the dirt road. This take out has a reputation for overnight vandalism.
In years past, good shuttle service has been available near Markleeville. Paul and Gloria Washam operate a long-time company, Family Shuttle Service at 530-694-2966. The Markleeville General Store recommends River Rat Shuttle Service at 530-694-2448.
There are toilets at Hangman's Bridge put in, at the take out and one pit toilet about halfway down. Those camping on the river should bring their own toilet systems, though they are not required.
Other Information Sources: Description in Bill Tuthill's California Creekin.
Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Gerald Meral.
If the main put in is too busy, there is a large access next to the river a bit over a half mile upstream.
There is a convenient ramp down to the river on the downstream river right side of the bridge.
This rapid formed in the winter of 2017. The right side of the island may have the cleaner line, though perhaps also steeper.
The take out is on river right at a wide gravel beach. Carry boats up a steep hill to the large parking area. There are toilet facilities at this location.
After running this again on April 22 @ 1250cfs I would definitely suggest scouting as this feature continues to change. The Right channel now has a center fang rock and what looks to be a big hole in the middle (see photo). We ran Left channel again w/o incident.
A Heads Up: Winter storm’s have washed out Sidewinder rapid and there is a new 3' drop formed where the two channels meet just above it…
I did a day trip Mar 19, 2017 with some friends @12-1300 cfs and as I passed the first two hot springs (mile 8.8ish) and entered the usual left channel run I noticed a horizon line where there used to be a boulder bar that swept left (just
above Sidewinder). I back paddled to get a better look and ended up choosing a
narrow slot in the middle to run the newly formed 3’ drop (in my IK). The left side is fenced off and the right side was run successfully by my friends in their 10’ raft and 12’ cat. (Note: Others report running this @600cfs and having problems resulting in high-sides, a broken oar, and a swim: ie, more exposed boulders and a longer drop)
The RIGHT channel run joins in adjacent to this with a 3’ drop as well.
Just below this, Sidewinder Rapid no longer exists and it is an easy float around the corner. I suggest a quick scout from the campsite on river left before the river splits (ie., the one with the river-level hot spring).
Being the first (that I know of) to run this new II+(III) rapid we suggest the name of “Rattlesnake Drop” ?
6 years ago
CDEC Snowplot graphs show this years snow pack in comparison to last years snowpack plus mean, highest and lowest snowpack years. USGS #10308200 provides the data for the graph below. Historical data can also be searched for this gauge. NOAA 5 day flow prediction Dreamflows.com 3 Year plot compares flows for the most recent 3 years.SNOTEL site Monitor Pass Check snowpack, precipitation and other sensors, plus historical data.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Rattlesnake Drop Diagram
Lower East Fork Carson
Hangman Bridge River Access
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