The Cosumnes has a mixture of continuous class 4 rapids, low gradient flat water, and two big portages, surrounded by great scenery.
Season: The Cosumnes River is low elevation and needs rainfall for good flows. Watch flows during the winter after large rain storms or a series of moderate rain storms. There can be a short spring snowmelt season as well.
Access Problems: Local residents and governments have done their best to eliminate any public access areas for this river. There is minimal public parking anywhere near the river. Vehicles must be parked some distance away. Loading and unloading near the river must be done efficiently and as quickly as possible, to minimize potential complaints or conflicts.
Put in: Highway 49 bridge. There is a large turnout on the south side of the bridge that appears to be legal for parking. This may or may not be legal access in the view of the county.
Latrobe Road. There is no legal parking near the river. You may be able to access the river, but you will have to park some distance away.
UPDATE AS OF 03-15-16: Recognizing American Whitewater's mutual work on other bridge projects and the value of river recreation in the area, El Dorado County Counsel had the illegal fence that was blocking access to the river at Latrobe Road Bridge removed. They also assured us if a new fence were erected that they would help the public keep the fence down permanently. This action supports the California constitutional right of the public to the use of and access to a navigable waterway (See People ex rel. Younger v. County of El Dorado (1979)).
Thanks to AW Regional Coordinator, John Simpkin for the initial ground work and to Ropes & Gray LLP for the pro bono work done on our behalf.
See American Whitewater's Letter to El Dorado County Counsel from 12-05-14.
Take Out: The Jackson Rd. / Hwy 16 bridge in Rancho Murieta has pull outs on either side, but they are prominently posted with No Parking signs. There is parking 1/2 mile to the north near a shopping mall at Murieta Drive and Jackson Road.
Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Martin, Gerald Meral
The Cosumnes River - A Guide to Kayaking the Latrobe to Rancho Murieta Section - By Steve Ruhnau
The Latrobe to Rancho Murieta run on the Cosumnes River is a beautiful run through a very scenic gorge section with fun rapids with ample wildlife, complete with bald eagles, beaver, and bear. It feels like a wilderness run up to Michigan Bar Road. We've done the Lower Cosumnes many times in kayaks and IK’s. Parking and put-in/take-out logistics are a bit of a pain but it is worth it. The upper part (especially) is a very fun class III/III+.
We generally go at 1000+cfs but have had a great run at 700cfs all the way up to 3000 cfs. At flows above 2000 cfs the Class III rapids can become more intense and continuous. This run is fed by some snow melt but mostly by rain runoff. It can run into June but often drops below 800 cfs by late April or earlier. It is estimated that ~90,000 cfs was flowing under the Latrobe bridge in January of 1997. Early rain flows often leave the water turbid while later spring flows can be quite clear.
Photos of the Consumnes River
Mile by Mile Guide
Mile 0 – Put-in at Latrobe Road Bridge. Alternative upstream put-in when the bridge put-in is blocked is 0.2 miles upstream on river left. Parking is south of bridge about 0.5 miles just past no parking signs… east side of road at an obvious wide spot. The trip usually starts with boaters collecting behind a gas station/minimart in Rancho Murieta. Take-out cars are left there and retrieved by drivers walking the half mile from the Hwy 16 bridge back to the cars. Minimal cars are taken to the put-in on Latrobe Road due to space constraints.
0 to 0.5 – Some fun Class II rapids before a portage point at a large pool before the first Class IV drop which leads to other drops and the Class V+ Cosumnes Falls. There is a class IV entry rapid (Commitment) but it is very hard to exit on river right where the preferred portage is IF you run the entry Class IV. We had to line someone up from their boat in this section, which was not fun. The portage on the right is noticeable when you see a huge house on the river right hill and some playground equipment set back away from the river.
0.5 to 1.0 – The safest portage is on river right hugging the high water line up to cliffs…then follow an historic water flume trail and drop to a pool below the last Class IV Rapid. In recent years a log has blocked the trail just after the place to descend to the river. Roping boats down the closest gully works well. Two Class IV rapids exist in the portage area below the falls:
Stumpy – named because it tends to collect trees and is hazardous; It is the top Class IV rapid.
Right Corner Pocket – named because the last drop of the rapid tends to quickly slam boaters hard to the right and flip them against a wall in a recirculating eddy.
A river left portage is possible but is a dangerous route full of fall hazards and it has you put in again above the Class IV rapids. Then takeout right above them for more dangerous and difficult river right portaging.
1.0 to 1.2 Huck & Roll (Class III) - a series of wavetrain rapids ending in a large pool at mile 1.3. Black bear scat is periodically seen in this area.
1.3 – Historic bridge cable over the river and dangling into river.
1.4 - Beautiful limestone cliffs and rock features and nice Class II/III rapids ahead.
1.5 – Holey Moley (Class II/III) a small series of pour over/hole rapids.
1.5 to 2.0 - Class II riffles and pools… first area where Bald Eagles are typically seen.
2.0 to 2.4 - Class II pool, drop, and swirl section ending in a fun “Coriolis Pool”.
2.5 – Spanky (Class II+/III)- a bumpy drop typically run far right at lower flows with an end twist and flushing tail that often spanks and flushes new boaters.
2.5 to 2.9 - Class II Riffles… lots of hawks and some eagles seen here.
2.9 to 3.7 - Ponderosa Bend… Class II riffles with a few very large Ponderosa Trees on river left… very low altitude for them and eagles are regularly seen here.
3.7 to 4.0 - Pools and Class II rapids in sharp right bend to end at Indian Creek tributary on river right. Great break spot and site of Lunch Hole that some boaters are willing to play in.
4.2 - Little Indian Creek enters on river left. A beaver was sighted on the beach in this area in recent years.
4.2 to 4.5 - Start of the Cosumnes Gorge. Class I and II riffles with rising cliffs and eagle nests visible in tall trees on top of the river right ridge. Bald Eagles are often seen here.
4.5 to 4.6 – Tongue & Groove (Class II+/III)… a big pool and horizon line… drop down the green tongue that is seen as you approach the horizon line and ride into a wave train rapid to another drop where boaters can surf at some flows.
4.6 to 5.0 – Toss Up and other Class II to III rapids that vary with flow and can include a river-wide ledge drop at lower flows.
5.0 - Ziggy (Class III) a rapid that requires a zig-zag river left path to avoid a big river center hole and lower river left rock fence.
5.0 to 5.2 - Class II pools and riffles… beautiful flowers and trees and wildlife.
5.2 – Split Decision (Class II or III) a rapid with a Class II left route or Class III boof on a right channel on the other side of the small center island.
5.2 to 5.5 - Class II water with beautiful gorge surround.
5.5 - Last Call (Class II+ / III) rapid that is similar to Ziggy with less consequences. There is often a very nice surf wave at the end with a good edge entry eddy on river left.
5.5 to 5.7 - Last of the Gorge section Class I.
5.7 to 6.1 - Class I Pool and riffle section up to Michigan Bar Road.
6.1 - Optional takeout on river right using the bridge foundation. Safe parking is at least 0.5 to 1.0 miles away towards Hwy 16.
6.1 to 6.7 - Cow Bend… a section of Class II riffles on a right hand bend with cows present on either shore. Watch for collapsing river left banks when paddling.
6.7 to 7.2 - Poppy Bend… a section of Class II riffles on a left hand bend that are often flanked by wildflowers, especially California poppies.
7.2 - Entry to Van Vleck Lake (The Cosumnes is often described as an undammed river but this lake is created by two dams).
7.2 to 7.7 - Flatwater across the Van Vleck Lake to portage island between the two dams (VVLeft and VVRight) that create the lake.
7.7 to 7.9 - Start portage at furthest upstream edge of the island and walk down the middle to the exact opposite end of the island or veer left to an entry pool below the river left dam (riskier entry but shorter portage).
7.9 to 8.4 - Class II water that winds through tree choked banks
8.4 to 8.5 - Choke Point (Class II+) rapid that has two channels… the left channel tends to get overgrown. This descends around a curve to a short Class II rapid that can have fun play features.
8.5 to 9.0 - Class I/II riffles and an occasional flushy drop brings you to the wooden foot/cart bridge over the river. Houses and golf carts are evident.
9.0 to 9.1 - Lead in to last rapid.
9.1 - Flusher (Class II) a river left rapid that has some flushy currents that have flipped the unprepared boater.
9.1 to 9.5 – Last of the run. Go under both the golf cart bridge and the Hwy 16 Bridge to a take-out spot on river left where the bank eases out a bit. Carry boats up to the road edge above… where there is plenty of space away from the road and space to pull up vehicles for a quick loading of gear.
There appears to be legal parking on the south side of the bridge.
Class 4 rapids begin immediately below the Hwy 49 Bridge and continue back to back or with short pools for one mile. These rapids lead directly into a rapid that should be portaged.
A series of 3 big waterfalls is generally portaged, though modern creekers may or may not run them. Only a short section of swiftwater separates the last class 4 rapid from this class 6 rapid.
The river runs south, then curves west (right) at the last class 4. High cliffs on the left mark the big drop. Scout and portage on the right.
Smaller but fairly continuous rapids continue below this point.
A ranch road fords the river here. It creates a small drop, but might be a hazard at some flows.
The gradient is low in this area, so long flat water sections separate occasional rapids.
Three nice rapids, one after the other, break up the flat water.
The river splits around a long island. Looks like the left channel is the cleanest.
Boaters do access the river in this area, but load or unload quickly and park vehicles at a turn out 1/4 mile to the south.
Take out on river right when you see a big house up on the hill.
This class 4 rapid at the start of a gorge leads to a class 6 rapid at the end. Only a short distance seperates the two drops. Either portage this rapid and the falls below on river right or scout very carefully to make sure you can get out when you need to.
This ugly two tiered waterfall may be run by some at some flows, but is normally a portage. Portage the drop above as well, or carefully scout the whole section.
The river turns south and drops through this significant rapid. Stumpy is hazardous and tends to collect trees.
Many people walk past this rapid as part of the portage around Cosumnes Falls.
This rapid consistently pushes boaters into a trapped recirculating eddy on the right at the bottom.
This is the easiest access back down to the river after portaging Cosumnes Falls. This also avoids the two class 4 rapids; Stumpy and Corner Pocket.
The river curves to the right then drops over bedrock shoals. This rapid breaks up a long section of relative flat water.
A series of nice rapids come at regular intervals to keep the next mile interesting. The rapids probably range from class 2 - class 3.
The land owner does not allow any public access to the river at this bridge. The river is flat water with some riffles below this bridge.
A large island divides the river. Both sides are blocked by dams. The dams create the usual death trap recirculations. Portage across the island down the middle for the easiest walking and access. The flat water from the dams extends upstream about one mile.
Rancho Murieta Community Services district has large pumps and inlets on the north side of the river here. The district diverts water from the Cosumnes River between November and May of each year to Calero, Chesbro and Clementia Reservoirs. All of the District's drinking water is treated before it is supplied to the customer.
Between the diversion dam and Hwy 16 are three or four small but interesting rapids.
Take out is easiest on river left on the downstream side of the highway bridge. There is easy access to the river at this bridge but all the turnouts have prominent No Parking signs. Do not leave cars here, but park further away in legal areas. Load boats as quickly as possible.
The flow gauge is located at Michigan Bar Road bridge, which is near the end of the run.
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.
Van Vleck Dam
Lower Cosumnes Latrobe bridge to highway 16
Fence at Latrobe Bridge
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