Difficulty IV-V
Length 24 Miles
Flow Range 400 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 67.8 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/14/2019 11:51 pm

River Description

Deer Creek has the lore of the Ishi Wilderness hemmed in by basalt and poison oak. The rapids are tasty and the window on this run is limited which is best enjoyed as a multi-day expedition. Deer Creek flows through the land of the Yahi Yana people cutting into some beautiful remote areas with thick chaparral vegetation and mini-canyons. Deer Creek sits in the Lassen National Forest and holds some unique geology and whitewater.

This lower section of Deer Creek starts off with a bang, with several Class IV rapids that start about a half mile below the bridge. After the first mile and a half of Class IV you will find miles of boat-scoutable class III and easy IVs.  The one exception is the Black Tower.  This rapid has changed over the years and has become a jumbled up mess that is notorious for collecting wood. There are several incidents of boats being pinned in this rapid  (see reports below). The rapid is very recognizable by the large black lava rock tower in the river. 

The crux of the run is Ishi Falls at river mile 8. A straight forward river-wide ledge is just above Ishi Falls.  Be careful not to get tempted into the falls before scouting. From here to the take-out are miles of very pleasant, mostly boat-scoutable class III and IV rapids.  One rock jumble, Camp Rapid, is often run on the right, but even that line is junky.  

Gradually, the run transitions into an open lava-cliffed canyon, with several narrow lava channels. The cliffs build until you break out into the valley. The hour and a half of flat braided channels in the valley is not the best part of the run, but a small price to pay for an amazing experience.

Be advised that most of the lower part of this river runs through private property.  Please be respectful.  Also be advised that an  easement allows public access on either side of the Leininger Road bridge.  Paddlers have been challenged when using this access in the past.  Be polite but clear that you have the right to exit the river at that location.

Rapid Descriptions

Amazing Race

Class - IV Mile - 0.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A half mile below the put in the river picks up with a series of Class IV rapids.


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Chris Tulley
14 years ago

DANGER -- PIN SPOT: Our group experienced almost the exact same scenario as described below. On 5/26/06 flow ~500 CFS@ Vina.

First boater went down to the right of log. Log underwater and not visible as a hazard from water or shore.

Second boater went down the *cleaner looking* line just to the right of the large boulder (river left). Stern caught and boat backflipped at 45 deg off vertical. Larger paddler was able to escape with significant effort. This may not have been possible with a near vertical pin. Boat was recovered with aid of raft and large team of coordinated effort.

Based on my recollection, this drop is ~4 miles from Pondorosa way and the drop is a boulder drop of 10-15 vertical feet. Flow is from river right to river left. There is a large (~20 foot diameter rock) on the far left. and a smaller (~10 foot diameter rock) on the right. The log is along the left most 8-10 feet of channel between these two rocks. Drop is easily walked on river right.

Be safe out there.


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Thomas O'Keefe
14 years ago

Submitted by Jon Hindman:

Location: Lower Deer Creek, definitely below the Ponderosa Way Bridge, but above the last three more challenging drops in the lower section. Party launched at Potato Patch Campground for three-day trip. Launch date: late Saturday afternoon, May 20. Guage level was holding at around 4.13 the last time we checked flow. Was 3.95 when we floated past gauge on Tuesday afternoon. Group was very experienced, two of us were on our 4th trip down Deer Creek, and have tons of other CA runs on our resume, including multiple upper Mill Creek, Devil's Canyon Middle Feather, Bald Rock Canyon, and S. Fork Merced trips.

This drop looks like virtually nothing. I boat scouted it from the top, and elected a straight line down the right side, away from the large overhanging boulder in river center. Run was uneventful, and nothing in the water's surface characteristics indicated possible problem. Second paddler more or less followed my line, maybe two or three feet left at most, and was straight on and paddling easily. From my view position, it appeared as though the boat stalled in a small pillow wave, and suddenly back-endered as the water caught the back end which was loaded with self-contained trip gear. Boat slid under the submerged log and was pinned vertically immediately, with less than 1 foot of bow visible. Paddler was submerged for approximately 10 seconds and then emerged on downstream side of log, swam last part of drop into pool below.

Boat proceeded to sink further until just 6" or so of bow was visible. We were able to use a long tree limb with carabiner/ throw rope taped to it to clip in to bow grab bar. Subsequent attempts to free boat toward river right were unsuccessful, including a 3-pulley z-drag. This in fact may have wedged boat further into a tightening slot at river right end of log. Boat was left as darkness fell, and we camped above on a bench. Short work next morning with different z-drag pull from the top of the large boulder in center of river freed boat, although getting back up and out to boulder required considerable effort. Boat was badly bent, but not broken, and there was no loss of gear.

This log appears to be quite well "seasoned." It is approximately 16-24" in diameter and quite smooth, probably 10-12ft long and dead perpendicular to the current. At the level we were on, it was completely invisible. At higher flows, it probably does not pose a threat, and at lower flows may be visible and well-known. It caught us completely by surprise, and could be a death trap to a larger paddler unlucky enough to experience the same pin.

Hope this helps others. Email me if you have any other questions. Jon Hindman riverrrunnr@hotmail.com Jackson, WY

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Craig Irwin
14 years ago

Extrusive basalt towers rising from verdant volcanic loam, a few blind lead-in rapids, poison oak a-plenty, this run is committing.
Note: parking a car at this takeout can likely earn a broken window/break in theft
hell, same thing applies to the put-in

Gage Descriptions

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Directions Description

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No Accident Reports




Thomas O'Keefe


Matt Muir


Craig Irwin


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1212351 05/14/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated description
1212355 05/14/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated stats
1189970 10/23/06 n/a n/a
1210508 11/10/18 Craig Irwin 1
1212041 04/26/19 Craig Irwin updated image position
1210509 11/10/18 Craig Irwin 2
1212348 05/14/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated name
1212349 05/14/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated description
1212350 05/14/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated description