Dinkey Creek - 3. Ross Creek Trail to confluence of NF Kings

Dinkey Creek, California, US


3. Ross Creek Trail to confluence of NF Kings (Waterfalls)

Usual Difficulty V+ (for normal flows)
Length 6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 275 fpm
Max Gradient 450 fpm


Photo by Taylor Robertson taken 07/01/05

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Dinkey Creek Above North Fork Kings
dream-453 250 - 550 cfs V+ 1y273d07h48m 643 cfs (too high)

River Description

This section is now boated each year by expert boaters and is considered to be an outstanding run.  Dinkey has become a favorite for many.  Canyoneers will find this section fun and plenty challenging at low flows in the late summer.

The defining character is big pools seperated by large waterfalls and slides.

Two rapids are still considered mandatory portages while all other drops are regularly run. When you do portage and if you portage more drops, you must be creative. You may need to lower boats and rappel, provide pendulum belays or just toss the boats and jump after.

The main difficulties are early in the run, dealing with huge drops and several difficult portages. After the first .8 miles the walls open up but rapids remain big. Past Bear Meadow Creek but just before the creek turns south is a second serious, though smaller and shorter gorge. Big drops and/or difficult portages await. The last several miles are much easier, and all rapids have been run. Any portages are easy compared to the upstream problems.  The last 1.5 miles to Balch Camp is tight boulder slaloms. 

Put-in: Tricky! And a lot of work.  Find your way to Ross Crossing either from below along Big Creek Road or from above past Shaver Lake (depending on your shuttle) Drive past Ross Crossing about 1 mile on the east side of Dinkey. You will have to find a tiny overgrown trail that goes to the confluence of Dinkey and Ross Creek. It is part of the remains of a trail shown on some older topos.   Rockwork in some sections shows that it was a developed trail at one time.  The 'trail' was marginal in 1989 and has gotten worse.  Prepare for major bushwacking.    In 2008 the start of a trail appeared to be in excellent condition as someone did major pruning and trail work.  
Googlemap of trailhead area This trail or route follows a ridge down, then traverses south across one or two small drainages before mostly fading out. Once it reaches areas of oak trees, the underbrush is less thick. Once it reaches Ross Creek, you can walk on open granite slabs. Follow open areas down along Ross Creek to the confluence with Dinkey.

If you desire an early spring run of this section, check the Sierra Forest Roads page, or call the Sierra Forest, Prather office at 559-855-5355 to see if roads are open to Ross Crossing from Pine Flat reservoir.   In recent years this route has been closed through the winter into late spring preventing access while flows are low enough to do the run.   The Dinkey Creek road from Shaver to Dinkey Creek campgrounds does remain open through the winter.  Perhaps someday boaters will launch there and travel all the way to Balch Camp.  They will have to know when to abandon the creek bed to portage on the roads and trails and perhaps cut new trails (reestablish old trails) above the creek to Ross Crossing.

Take-out: Balch Camp is a small PG&E residential area at the confluence of Dinkey Creek and the NF Kings. From Fresno take Freeway 180 to Centerville, then take Trimmer Springs north to Pine Flat reservoir.  Or jog north to Belmont earlier and follow Belmont east. Belmont becomes Trimmer Springs road and goes around Pine Flat Reservoir to the Kings River. Follow signs to Balch Camp. Figure 1.5 hours from Fresno driving time.

Shuttle Drivers can often be found at one of the camps of the commercial river outfitters on the Kings River near Balch Camp.  

Though few have talked to me directly, the consensus seems to be that the recommended flow range is about right, that the run is a spectacular section, and that the run can beat you up. It seems that almost all rapids are now being run, though two difficult portages are still unavoidable. Several parties have had sufficiently serious injuries that a member was helicoptered out. Be careful and conservative down there, even if it is not careful and conservative to go in there.

Escape on foot from this canyon would be miserable as the hillsides are thick with thorn bushes and poison oak. Easiest travel will be at stream level, even on foot. Soon after you exit the first gorge look on the river left for bed springs and similar trash. It marks the bottom of a road/trail that leads out to the south (river left). This road is on some maps and is clearly visible in google earth aerial photos. In 2008 I hiked up this road after a canyoneering trip from Ross Crossing.  The trail was in fairly decent shape and easy to follow.  There were a few trees fallen across and spots of thick overgrowth.  Overall it was okay hiking.   It is about 3 miles and gains maybe 2,000 feet of elevation.   It took us 4 hours after a long tiring day of low water canyoneering.  

If you do paddle this section, please post comments and pictures back to this river page.  

Dinkey Cascades: 
A short ways down from the put in trailhead, there is a wonderful view of the Dinkey cascades.   The newly maintained trail (2008) veers to the left and misses this overlook.  To find this spot head approximately straight down from the trailhead and try to find the older trail.   The overlook is not very far from the trailhead and is worth a side hike.   In these cascades Dinkey drops 1200 feet through a narrow chasm below Ross Crossing. Unboatable, I am afraid, but worth rappelling and downclimbing in the late summer. Which is, in fact, how I first explored this canyon on August 20 & 21, 1988 with Barry Chambers. I had naive high hopes that there would be huge clean slides below Ross Crossing. There weren't any viewpoints, so it was impossible to know without going in. Once committed, a 150 foot rappell and numerous other features made it obvious that kayaking was not feasible. My notes state, "Very dangerous and difficult hike. Many jumps but too many were choked and unjumpable and had dangerous downclimbs. We placed 3 bolts but might place many more on a return. Many siphons, some caves, long rappels and rappels through waterfalls." We camped upstream of Ross Creek on a huge ledge that Kings River Conservation District hoped would be the site of a powerhouse. We hiked and swam from there out to Balch camp the next day.

In 1989, I got access to stereo aerial photos and saw the put in trail. My memory had faded sufficiently to make my dream of boating this section once again seem realistic. I was able to talk Phil Martin, Bill Vogler and Steve Harris into coming along. Bill and Steve came up but wisely backed out at the last second. I was sure it would only take a day, so Phil and I went in with no bivy gear and minimal food. We spent a cold, tired night while our friends worried and waited in Balch Camp.   Our bivy site underneath a big boulder was just past the exit of the main gorge.  I think it was only a rapid or two away from the spot now commonly used as a campsite.   I remember falling asleep on my feet looking at a nice sandy campsite below a big rapid with no obvious portage.  In the morning, I just ran the first drop cause I did not want to think about it any more.   I got a pretty wild ride but came out the bottom still in my boat.   My pointy boat had a bent nose for the rest of its life.   From below, I found a safer route so Phil ran part of the rapid and portaged the lower half on the left.  For the rest of that day, when ever one of us would scout, the other would fall asleep without getting out of their boat.

Paul Martzen Fresno, CA


Other Information Sources:
Darin McQuoid Photography
Dunbar Hardy
Video by Taylor Cavin, June 2008
Video by Ben Brown with Charlie Center and Rush Sturges
Heroes on the Waterfalls of Dinkey June 14, 2008
Doubler on the Dinkler  July 1, 2008 - Photos
California 2009 video with Dinkey footage in the first half.
Jamie Garrod, 2010 trip report blog

Bradley Lauder, 2010 trip report blog
California Trip Report: The Dinkey Creek  May 2009
Sierra Forest Roads page
Sierra Forest, Prather office 

A Dinkey Creek Reservoir   has been proposed several times.





StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-07-07 16:07:42


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Real Put InN/APutin
0.4Willie Kern RapidVPlayspot
0.5Phil's FallsVWaterfall
0.6Sieve FallsVWaterfall
0.740 Foot Boulder SieveVIPortage Hazard Photo
0.7PendulumVPortage Hazard Waterfall
0.8Dinkey Creek HotelN/APhoto
1.4Bed Springs TrailN/AAccess
3.5Hellicopter, aka Nikki KellyVWaterfall
4.4Funky ChickenV

Rapid Descriptions

Trailhead (Class N/A, Mile -1.0)

Google Earth has high resolution images of this area which can greatly help locate the easiest way down the hill. From the road hike down through an open area to find the faint trail through the bushes. It quickly leads to the top of a small cliff overlooking the creek. From there it traverses the cliff top south aiming for trees with less undergrowth and the granite slabs of Ross Creek. Once on the slabs, enjoy the easy progress. There will probably be a last bit of bushwacking at the bottom of the drainage before it reaches Dinkey

Real Put In (Class N/A)

The hiking trail reaches Dinkey Creek at the confluence of Ross Creek.  There is a nice pool, then the first big drop.

Willie Kern Rapid (Class V, Mile 0.4)

A fifteen foot drop onto low angle slides, leads to a steep 40 foot slide.  This is the entrance drop to the first major gorge.

Phil's Falls (Class V, Mile 0.5)

A short falls onto a sloping ledge into a clean 30 foot falls.

Sieve Falls (Class V, Mile 0.6)

Paddle off the left side as the right side goes into a sieve.   Avoid piton rock on left side.  35 feet aprozimately.   Awkward and dangerous portage on left. 

40 Foot Boulder Sieve (Class VI, Mile 0.7)

D. Beitler, Jump Portage

D. Beitler, Jump Portage
Photo by Taylor Robertson taken 07/01/05

Mandatory portage as the flow goes underneath a boulder.    It can be fastest to throw your boat and then jump after, if flows are low enough.   At optimum flows look for ways to lower boats and gear.  One group reported being able to lower to a ledge and then seal launch. 

In 2011 at 450cfs several boats filled with water and flushed into the next rapid.  Danielle Tira lost his life in the next rapid below while trying to rescue one of those boats.


Pendulum (Class V, Mile 0.7)

This rapid is immediately below the 40 Foot Boulder Sieve portage.    Danielle Tira lost his life here in 2011 when he flushed into a sieve. 

The portage on river left is technical and can require a pendulum or delicate friction climbing. 

Dinkey Creek Hotel (Class N/A, Mile 0.8)

Dinkey Creek Camp

Dinkey Creek Camp
Photo by Taylor Robertson taken 07/01/05

A big slab on river right at the end of the gorge is a popular campsite.

Bed Springs Trail (Class N/A, Mile 1.4)

At one time a 4 wheel drive road came down to the creek here.   An old truck, a refrigerator, bed springs and other artifacts remain.   The road is not usable by vehicles, but for the most part, is in good shape for a trail.  There are plenty of areas with brush and downed trees, but it is mostly clear, as of 2008.  The trail climbs 2,000 feet in 3 miles.   The route is visible in aerial photos and on some topo maps.

Hellicopter, aka Nikki Kelly (Class V, Mile 3.5)

The last of the really really big drops on the run.  Below this are a couple of really big drops and a bunch of really cool big drops!


There is an easy portage on right if you choose not to run this drop. 

Funky Chicken (Class V, Mile 4.4)

A long steep boulder slalom leads to bedrock slides.

This rapid marks the transition point from the Waterfalls section to the Balch Camp Hike in section.   Below this point the rapids are mostly boulder slaloms.

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