Dinkey Creek, California, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||90 fpm|
|Max Gradient||125 fpm|
|Dinkey Creek At Dinkey Meadow|
|dream-454||180 - 500 cfs||IV-V||192d15h41m||354 cfs (running)|
|Range is an initial rough estimate|
Getting there: From Fresno, take highway 168 to Shaver Lake. When just entering
the Shaver Lake community, turn right onto Dinkey Creek Road and drive about 8 miles to Dinkey
Creek and the campgrounds. Ross Crossing road, which goes towards the take-out, is on the right
about a mile before Dinkey Creek.
Put-in: Launch anywhere in the Dinkey Creek Campgrounds area. Lots of people just launch at the highway bridge or at the Redwood Truss Bridge a short ways upstream. There are two options to get the maximum distance. google map
1) After the middle of May the campground opens to the public and you can drive the nice paved road to the end or to Honeymoon Pool just downstream. In 2002 the campground hosts charged us $3 to park at Honeymoon Pool.
2) If the campground is closed, you canfind roads heading upstream on the east side of the creek. There are several dirt roads on the left. One goes to Camp Fresno. Take the next one past . This road climbs a bit, but not a lot while traversing back into the canyon. You can not see the creek, so be prepared to scout a bit. This road fades out even with or even a bit past the end of the paved road on the other side (as I recall). It is a relatively easy hike through mostly open forest a hundred yards or so down to the creek.
Take-out: Backtrack to Ross Crossing Rd. Drive about 3.5 miles south on Ross Crossing Rd and look for a small dirt road dropping steeply towards the creek. Condition of this spur road can vary but has usually been okay for 2 wheel drive vehicles. The bushes on the side though may scratch the paint on your car. From a clearing near the end of the road find a trail leading slightly north, then down, then back south to the creek. The condition of the trail has deteriorated in recent years. SCOUT this TAKE-OUT!! Immediately after this take-out, the creek drops into a gorge with huge drops and steep walls. google map
Alternate Take out: Four wheel drive vehicles can usually reach the creek at Sheriden Mine which is only a half mile or so above the standard take out. Look for this road about 1/4 mile past the Camp El-O-Win turn off. This take out avoids the hike to the logging spur road, but it also misses the last half mile of really fun rapids.
Overview: From the end of the campground road to Honeymoon Pool is an impressive narrow and difficult gorge. It is easily scouted. From Honeymoon to the main road is a variety of bedrock and rocky drops. Technical but generally not super steep or difficult. Below the highway bridge the creek is cobblestone for a short ways.
Then it drops into a beautiful bedrock gorge. Captain Nemo is the last big drop in this gorge.
Wonderful ledge drops follow till the creek flattens out past the Girl Scout, "Camp El-O-Win". Soon, ledges and slides lead into the second gorge.
Cherry Bomb Falls is where the right wall turns into a steep dome. You can scout and portage the falls, on the left. Scout everything as you get close, so as to not miss the small eddy and to correctly run the ledge holes immediately upstream.
Max Headroom is an interesting single drop shortly after Cherry Bomb. The creek opens up again but remains serious till the end. A ledge hole at the end of a long class 3 run has captured several boaters at a time on high water trips. LA Riot is a long bedrock chute that ends at Sheriden Mine. Moderate but interesting drops extend from Sheriden to the last take-out. Make sure you have marked the take-out!
From the take-out down to Muley Hole may be somewhat boatable by a strong enough team at just the right flow, but scout it carefully or better just hike it in late summer to see. It is a nice short canyoneering trip at low water. From Muley Hole down to Ross Crossing is also an excellent though more serious canyoneering trip at low water. There would be some beautiful boating in there, at least for the first 1/4 mile or so. From about Deer Creek confluence on down, the creek bed is filled with monster boulders undercut with large siphons and caves. They are fun to crawl and swim through at 5 or 6 cfs. Canyoneers will want to bring a short rope for lowering and such.
Dinkey has often been boated at very low flows, 200 cfs or less, because the bedrock drops are still excellent. At flows high enough to clean up the gravel bar rapids, 400- 600 cfs, the bedrock drops get much more serious and many should be scouted.
Cherry Bomb falls and the 3 ledges immediately upstream should always be scouted. They are especially dangerous at high flows. I had become complacent here, till I lead my friend Walt Shipley into the first ledge and it took his life. The hole at the first ledge can be a keeper that will not release boat or swimmer.
Services: Free, primitive camping is allowed almost anywhere in the vicinity. Developed camping is of course available at Dinkey Creek Campgrounds Dinkey Creek Inn offers cabins, showers, and a small store with a resteraunt. Across the creek Camp Fresno offers very rustic cabins at very reasonable prices, but you must typically reserve cabins far in advance.
Other Information Sources:
California Whitewater Bible: Best Water in the State of California, Holbeck & Stanley
Stories and memories of Walt Shipley:
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Road's end Gorge||V|
|1.5||Redwood Truss Bridge||N/A|
|2.5||Drop before Nemo||IV|
|3.3||Camp El-O-Win footbridge||II|
|3.6||Dinkey Meadows Gauge||N/A|
|4.3||Cherry Bomb Falls||IV+|
If you drive through the campgrounds all the way to the end of the road, you can boat a narrow gorge with the most difficult rapids of this whole section. The gorge extends from the put in to Honeymoon Pool. It is easily scouted from above, before you launch.
Stone stairs lead down to this pretty pool which makes a good put in. The rapids below this are fairly continuous rock slaloms intersperced with occasional bedrock drops and short pools. Several of the bedrock drops develop serious holes at medium to high flows.
This historic bridge is fun to check out and is easily accessible without going into the campgrounds. You can drive to and park near the bridge on either side of the creek, though I recall that river left has more parking options. In some ways this is a nicer put in than the highway bridge, because nhe creek is immediately busy and there is one big drop between the truss bridge and the highway bridge. .
The highway bridge is a common put in. A painted gauge is on the river right bridge foundation. A reading of 2 is boney but pretty fun, while 3 to 4 is clean and exciting. There is lots of parking in the vicinity of the bridge. Camping is not allowed here. Dinkey Campgrounds offer developed camping for a fee. Drive further east or back to the west to find free primitive camping areas.
Below the highway bridge the creek is shallow and rocky for almost 1/2 mile. A couple rapids are long and fairly steep. The gorge entrance rapid is long shallow, rocky and drops very steeply at the end. The current funnels down in the final steep drop, then suddenly hits bedrock at a narrow slot between a large boulder on the left and the wall on the right. The drop aims straight into the boulder, but it seems to have a good cushion and kicks boats to the right.
The little gorge is very pretty and relatively easy till the last two drops.
The canyon turns right and a horizon line hides a short drop. An easy scout on the left should reveal a clean but turbulent line on the right, either against the right wall or a boof off a rock just a few feet out.
A steep, impressive, bedrock drop. Scout on river right. I don't recall why we called it Captian Nemo, but it is too shallow to submarine!
From a small eddy at the lip on river right, drop down a steep, left ward tongue, then cut back hard to the right. The most common problem in this rapid is when boaters overpower the steep entrance. They (we) overshoot up onto the left wall and get turned backwards. A light touch in the entrance helps the cut back to the right, and down the channel.
In this one section, the creek really spreads out, while willows and such grow across the channel. A few small openings allow passage by kayaks through the 10 to 30 feet of brush. Then it opens up again. The creek takes a bit longer to converge back together with decent flow. In 2010, several of us took the right most tunnel and that was pretty clean as far as bushwacking goes.
Small rafts will have to work a bit to get through this area.
Camp El-O-Win has buildings on both sides of the creek. An arching footbridge used to cross the creek but is gone in 2010. I assume the bridge will be rebuilt.
The creek in this area is mostly wide and shallow, but bedrock drops await not far downstream.
A corrugated gauge tower is visible on river left. A staff gauge, showing the level was on river right, but I did not see it in 2010. It is likely that I just forgot where to look as it is in a protected place.
Links to historical data are shown in the Flow tab.
A pretty big drop waits just after the gauge. Drop down ledges on the left. Scout either side.
I used to think this was a pretty big slide, but I still think it is pretty fun. On my last trip several people ran it twice. There is an easy carry up the slab on river left. Easiest scout is from river left as well.
Since it is a distinctive rapid, it is a good sign that you are approaching the heart of the Cherry Bomb Gorge.
It seems odd that a drop that looks so innocuous at low flows could be a keeper hole at high flows. The next few drops come quickly. A big river wide ledge must be run on the right edge, before catching a small eddy on the left to scout Cherry Bomb.
A small but intimidating waterfall in an impressive gorge. Scout on river left. At lower flows at least, it is a fun drop. In some years it collects trees, so must be portaged no matter what.
Portage also on river left with some difficulty if need be. The left side portage requires hiking up steep dirt and rocks. Then traverse easy ledges to a brush filled gulley. Nice slabs at the base of the gulley allow easy lanching.
Confident rock climbers can also traverse the steep slabs on river right side. Climbers can get to the eddy at the lip of the falls to set safety or line boats and such.
A very appropriately named rapid. A large boulder pinches the creek against the left wall. The water slides down the wall, then drops under the boulder. I have not seen anyone actually smack their head on the roof, but I have seen them piton the wall and the bottom if they enter a bit from the right.
Enter hugging the left wall and it is generally a clean drop.
A group of friends all blundered into this hole at high flows once, with ensuing carnage. At low flows you tend to blast through. I forget where it is easiest to punch, maybe on the right edge. I generally forget where I am til the last second and frantically charge off the left edge as the current tends to put you over there.
The rapid is a long, fast, shallow rocky rapid that steadily steepens then suddenly turns right and drops over a small bedrock ledge.
This is a fairly long bedrock rapid that ends in a pool next to the Sheriden Mine. There is 4-wheel drive road access to the Mine on river right. Scout or portage the rapid on river right. There can be a pretty good hole at the bottom of the rapid.
Past the LA Riot Rapid/Sheriden Mine area is a bit more than a half mile of fun and continuous rapids. The very last rapid is quite distinctive and provides a good way to recognize the take out.
After a half mile of really fun read and run rapids, the stream appears clogged. Large boulders tower over and block the right side. The left side looks like the only way but also looks junky and is junky. Drop carefully down the center then paddle right through a gap in the big boulders. The gap can't be seen from upstream and is only visible when you are even with it.
It is a fun and elegant finish to a fun section of paddling.
This take out is pretty non descript, so it is best to mark it somehow. The very last rapid before is distinctive. Downstream the creek turns to the left and quickly gets much steeper. Small slabs at the waters edge provide an easy exit from the water. A trail runs along the hillside on river right from the Sheriden Mine to Muley Hole. At this point the hillside flattens out near the water and so the trail comes down next to the creek.
In 2010, the trail looked well used, though there were some trees across it. Head upstream along the trail. Where the trail crosses a small gulley, two large logs are down. The trail just goes on top of the logs. A steep grade follows. When the trail levels out look for a side trail heading uphill to the logging spur road parking area. It is a popular trailhead for fishermen, but the trail was overgrown right at the parking area.
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