Kings - 1. Middle, S. Fork confluence to Garnet Dike Campground

Kings, California, US


1. Middle, S. Fork confluence to Garnet Dike Campground (Kings Canyon)

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 10 Miles
Avg. Gradient 96 fpm
Max Gradient 160 fpm

Garlic Fall of the Kings River

Garlic Fall of the Kings River
Photo of Garlic Falls section of Kings by Eric Henrickson taken 05/23/07 @ 3200 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Kings At Rodgers Crossing
dream-100 600 - 2600 cfs V 00h15m 183 cfs (too low)

River Description

Overview: This is a great run with about 10 big class 5 drops and numerous class 4 rapids. It is usually run in one day, but makes a good overnight trip also. It is more often run by kayaks, but has had many raft descents. There have been a few descents by inflatable kayaks and at least one descent by open canoes. Fishermen and adventerous hikers have explored and traversed this canyon for many decades. One old timer reported that traffic through the canyon had dropped off considerably after the 1940's.  Fishermen will usually wait till flows are less than 300 before venturing far into the canyon. 

Most river runners probably neglect sidehiking in this canyon, but there are several worthy sidehikes. Exploring 10 mile creek, Spring Creek, Rough Creek and Garlic Creek Falls are all worthwile adventures.

There are several spots where the remains of the Hume to Sanger Lumber flume are still visible. This Flume was built in the 1890's to carry rough cut planks from a lumber mill at Hume Lake to a finish mill in Sanger. The lumber was from the many Sequoia Gigantea (Giant Redwoods) in the area. The loggers decimated groves of redwoods and lost money in the process. Now the whole area is dedicated to the preservation of the Giant Sequoias. The remains of the flume are a tribute to both Man's resourcefullnes and his stupidity. (Kind of like kayaking!) Shortly before Rough Creek look for apple trees on river left. Piles of lumber from the flume and a collapsed cabin can be found on the hillside above the apple trees. In 1985 I scavanged through the pile to find a rotting piece of lumber which I used as a paddle after mine was lost to a sieve just upstream! Look for cables hanging from bolts in the river left wall opposite Garlic Falls.

In nearly 20 years of paddling this reach, it has been very interesting to see the changes in the rapids. Though most paddlers do not notice, even the biggest rapids often have subtle changes from year to year. Some lines change, some dissappear, while other lines open up. The flood of January '97 created major changes when it obliterated every rapid except the class 5s with the biggest boulders. All rapids of class 4 difficulty or less were destroyed and moved somewhere else, or completely rearranged.

Put in: From Fresno, take highway 180 through Grants Grove, over Cherry Gap and down into Kings Canyon.  Highway 180 is gated in the winter at the Hume Lake Rd turnoff or just past Kings Canon Lodge.  See: CalTrans information about Highway 180 outside Kings Canyon.  About a mile past Kings Canyon Lodge, look for the Yucca Point trailhead on the left. There is a small turnout with enough room for a few cars. The trail (complete with poison oak in spots) is about 2 miles of gradually descending switchbacks to the river. Most of this trail catches full sun early in the morning and throughout the day, so it can be very hot.

Take out:  Garnet Dike is at the end of an 8 mile dirt road and the put in for the Kings— Garnet Dike to Kirch Flat section.   If you have enough energy it makes some sense to keep floating downstream till you come to paved road.   This saves a bit of shuttle hassle.   If you have a driver, it is nice to see them waiting at Garnet Dike instead of 8 further miles downstream.

Shuttle: Get a driver! Have the driver drop you off in the canyon and pick you up at Garnet Dike. Pay them money! Have them bring supper! It is worth it. Repeat after me, "I will get a shuttle driver!" If you do not get a driver out in Fresno or other parts of the valley, you might find someone willing at the commercial rafting companies (iffy). If you are at the Garnet Dike area already and have to drive to Yucca Point, you should drive back out around Pine Flat Reservoir, which is a long, yucco, tiring, but paved road.

Holbeck and Stanley recommended that you you brave Mill Flat Rd, (not paved, long, tiring and yucco) which starts on the south side of the river and provides a much shorter distance but not a shorter time to highway 180. Mill Flat Rd is only 16 miles from the river to highway 180 but is in terrible condition as of 2006, so allow around an hour and 40 minutes to drive that short distance. Take a high clearance vehicle that you do not mind scratching the paint and don't try it at night. On the plus side there are great views from this road and it can be recommended as a mountain bike ride.

Wild & Scenic River Status:  
Wild from the put in to about mile 6.  Below mile 6 the river is protected in a Special Management area with the same protections as if it was in the Wild & Scenic System. 
Federal legislation that entered part of the Kings River into the National Wild & Scenic Rivers system and a lower section into a Special Management Area was introduced and carried by then Congressman Rick Lehman in 1987. 
Text of the act.

Paul Martzen
Fresno, CA 2003

Other Information Sources:
Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Martin, Penny

Bill Tuthill's California Creekin.
Preston Holms has some nice pictures at Kayak Pictures.
Photos at

2007 High Water Trip with 3200 cfs
by    Eric Henrickson

This was our final run of a two week trip last May. We had considered heading back to the Middle Fork Feather for another trip, but decided we would like to look for something new. Eric Nies was well versed in California boating and seemed to think that the stars would align for the Kings after studying flow gauges. We arrived in the wee morning hours and got up early to try to find a shuttle. Being midweek, we were able to find some raft guides who were interested in extra cash, and for the sum of $100 we had a shuttle. Eighty-Five miles one way is a pretty hefty shuttle. The folks at the raft base were pretty surprised that we were heading up with so much water. Ignorance was bliss, and we figured that if Holbeck did it at 2500cfs, we could get through. Did I mention something about ignorance?

From the road at Yucca Point, it was obvious that the wave trains we could see had pulsatile qualities equating to big water. Still we bid our drivers farewell and sallied forth down the trail. Deciding to sneak very first rapid was an ominous sign. We soon came to a sizeable drop which may have been Entrance Exam. A powerful flume down the left with a really large hole on the bottom right. After scouting and recognizing a sizeable stretch of water for recovery we decided to run blue angel. Bracing into the breaking wave, that formed the first feature, I was completely unprepared for the power and speed of the water, and inhaled a good amount of water on the way over. Several roll attempts later, I was swimming and came up just in time to witness my line through the bottom of the huge hole. Getting to shore was quite a bit of work. I noticed that there was a boil lining the shore that readily rejected me from crossing the last five feet or so to the bank. Fortunately no gear was lost and we headed on with a new respect for what we were up against.

One of the properties of big water is for the water to boil off the shores and funnel towards the center of the streambed. This was very apparent throughout this run. We basically sneaked and portaged our way downstream. Once the gradient picked up, there were no gaps between rapids at all. The character of the run was continuous class five interrupted only by huge holes and really violent features. What pools there were had strong currents jetting through them and into the next drop. While many of these drops would have been good to go by themselves, the aspect of being flushed immediately into the next drop would have guaranteed the almost certainty of drowning should there have been even the slightest mistake.

We would basically stick to one side of the river until it cliffed out and then scout for a ferry to the other side. Ferrying by itself was a formidable task. On one occasion we had gotten our ferry line figured out and Eric N. was getting ito his boat. He looked up and said, "I'm only feeling about 90% sure about this one." With that we continued on our portage until something better presented itself. Even running sneak lines was intense. Basically we were running mostly class III-IV lines that would venture briefly into the main flow with the constant tendency of being surfed out and engulfed in the main rapids. Several times I got spun on boils and would have to commit to ferrying to small boiling eddies out in the main flow and then back. It's pretty intense to be treading water above a horrendous drop and realize that you are losing ground.

I don't know if I could relate the rapids we saw to the descriptions on the AW site. I think I may have taken pictures of The Wall and Warp 2 as well. One of the most impressive aside from Cassady Falls was the one that I think is Warp 2, a pointed smooth spout of water with 90 percent of the river's volume dropping probably fifteen feet into a huge hole. The scale of the whole river at that flow was rather overwhelming, considering we were committed to the run.

We camped on river right between Rough Creek and Garlic Falls, which is an excellent site. We were prepared for another full day of portages and sneaking, but the river mellowed out quite soon, with only a few portages. At this point we were able to relax a bit and take in our surroundings. We finished the run by floating down to the rafting base where our vehicle would be. This was preferable in my mind to setting shuttle from the earliest takeout (Mill Flats, I think). The scenery was great.

The folks at the rafting base gave us a round of applause as we walked in. They were keen to know what it had been like, and were surprised that we had gotten through so quickly. They generously fed us lunch and offered the use of their facilities. With that, we decided we had done enough boating for one trip and went off to hike in Yosemite.

I would be very much interested to return at a more manageable flow, perhaps 1200cfs. Knowing what I do from the first trip, I'd probably launch up to about 2000cfs. It would be nice to get to run more of the river. It is an impressive canyon with equally impressive logistics. Planning for a midweek run probably improved our odds of getting shuttle help from the raft guides. I think our shuttle fee was quite reasonable, being that it is a full day outing for the driver.

That's the summary of our trip. A very high sneak and portage to boating ratio. I've gotten to boat in California several times now and would consider it unbeatable from many standpoints: Scenery, water quality, expedition opportunities, sustained gradients and sunny weather. Can't wait to get back.

Eric Henrickson



StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2013-04-21 00:08:02


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Confluence of Middle & South Forks KingsPutin Photo
0.210 Mile Creek RapidIV
0.4Entrance Exam, aka Butthole Surfer5.0
2.8Big Long Rapid
3.2The Wall
3.4Warp 2
3.5Cassady FallsPhoto
3.8That's Dumb
4.4Rough CreekPhoto
4.9Garlic CreekPhoto
6.4Little Hand of God
6.4Hand of GodV
8.1Converse Creek RapidIV

Rapid Descriptions

Confluence of Middle & South Forks Kings

Kings Confluence

Kings Confluence
Photo by Eric Henrickson taken 05/23/07 @ 3200 cfs

After a leisurely two mile walk down the Yucca Point trail, the clear waters of the river will be enticing.   It is a nice place to swim with a modest sized eddy, a small gravel beach and a big smooth flattish bedrock to lay out on.   If the flow is low you can swim further out and about.   About one third to half way down the trail, there is a short side trail to swimming holes on Ten Mile Creek.   I emphasize swimming here because unintentional swimming further downstream in Kings Canyon could be much less pleasant!    There are some wonderful huge pools through out the section though, that are worth exploring if you take the time. 

Ten Mile Creek gets kayaked in the early spring at the inflow to Hume Lake and a bit upstream.  Below Hume Lake to the Kings River, Ten Mile Creek is a beautiful but relatively moderate canyoneering trip.   Ropes are not absolutely mandatory for strong climbers, but rappels in a few spots allow people to stay in the creek bed and avoid nasty thrashing in the brush and poison oak on the hillsides.  This creek is very steep and one should have good rock climbing skills before exploring very far up or downstream. 

The put in pool allows paddlers a warm up while waiting.   An easy rapid gets the arms working.   Within a few hundred yards though, at the confluence with Ten Mile Creek, the river bends right and drops over several junky ledges, creating a class 4 rapid.   The biggest hole is on the left, but smaller holes will keep paddlers busy.

10 Mile Creek Rapid (Class IV, Mile 0.2)

A long rapid that picks up speed and gradient as it curves to the right.  A large and wide ledge hole developed on the left near the bottom after the 1997 floods. 

Ten Mile Creek provides a highly adventurous side hike.

Entrance Exam, aka Butthole Surfer (Class 5.0, Mile 0.4)
The river is pinched between cliffs on the left and a debris field of large boulders on the right.    Look for avalanche signs and chutes on the river right hillsides to get an inkling of where the debris came from. 

The rapid starts off with a steep chute aimed at the left wall.   Jog to the right and then run the main drop in the center.  There is a big eddy on the right above the main drop which puts you in a good position and allows you to see the rest of the run fairly well.  The second half of the rapid consists of a bunch of hole dodging.   Running to the left of most of them seems to work fairly well.

At high flows the route is just to fight through huge nasty holes for a hundred yards or so.   Sneak routes may open up on the far right.

Scout on either side.   Portage is probably easier on the right.     

Big Long Rapid
After 2 miles of low gradient floating the first of a series of big class 5 rapids start.   Looking downstream from above, the channel is filled with large boulders.   A distinct cliff face is visible ahead indicating where the river turns to the right.  The rapid ends at the base of the cliff; a long ways down there.   The route in the upper half of the rapid tends to be on the left side, so left side scouting gives a better view than from the right.     The biggest drops await at the bottom of the rapid. 

The rapid starts off as a long moderate class 3 - 4 lead in, then suddenly drops away.    At low flows the ugly undercut boulders at the base of the main drop encourage a portage.   At higher flows it cleans up but can form a huge ugly hole or holes.    There can be a crash and bash sneak route to the right, which feeds back into the main flow just below the main ugly drop.  

Cacreeks calls this Kodiak, and others might have different names.   Grizzly is pretty good though as this is the ugliest of the drops in this immediate vicinity. 

The Wall
Boulders fill up the left side of the canyon and constrict the river against the right wall which is a large and beautiful cliff.   The main channel runs against this wall.   Boulders guard the entrance creating several steep chutes leading into the main chute.  Strong diagonal waves on the left try to push boats into the wall which is slightly undercut in spots.   Paddlers must punch two large ledges halfway through the chute.    The run out splits around some large boulders and contains further though lesser difficulties. 

Kayakers can enter on the far right at the top putting them in proper orientation to punch the diagonal and then run the ledges on the left.     Rafts have a bit tougher time. 

Warp 2
Huge boulders dam the river and form a nice long pool.    The spillway between the boulders is a big ramp and accelerates boaters to almost 2 times light speed, hence the name.   Scout from either side, but the left side is probably better for setting safety.     The base of the spillway can develop a sticky hole or boaters can flush through with minimal carnage.    The large boulder immediately downstream on the right which makes for a good vantage point is completely undercut.   It seems to be smooth enough that the few boaters I have seen go under have flushed right on out the other side. 
Warp 2 is impressive in itself but it is only the entrance drop of a long and serious class 5 section, which ends with Cassady Falls.   

Cassady Falls

Scouting Kings

Scouting Kings
Photo of Eric Nies by Eric Henrickson taken 05/23/07 @ 3200 cfs

More and more people seem to be running this drop.    At higher flows, kayaks can also sneak down the left edge.    These falls are the exit of a big class 5 section.   Warp 2 forms the entrance.   At higher flows it is just one long monster rapid.

That's Dumb
A relatively short but steep rapid ends in a river wide ledge hole that can be very sticky.    The left bank is a cliff.  You can scout on that side but you can't portage or set safety.  The right bank is boulders.   Set safety, scout or portage on the right.    Note that the right side boulder is undercut and a strong eddy feeds under it and then into the hole.   

Rough Creek

Falls above Garlic Falls

Falls above Garlic Falls
Photo by Eric Henrickson taken 05/23/07 @ 3200 cfs

The beautiful Rough Creek Falls drop about a hundred feet into a pool at the base of this rapid.    Boulders occupy the left side of the canyon and constrict the river against the right side cliff.    Boulders also block the entrance, forming a couple narrow chutes and restricting one's view until committed to the drop.    At low to moderate flows, kayakers can enter on the far right and paddle back towards the left, fighting through a couple holes.     Scout, set safety or portage on river left.  

Take time to enjoy the pool here and perhaps explore the weird geologic formation downstream of the falls.     The next quarter mile is one long class 5.     If you need to portage this section it will be over monster boulders on the left, then over boulders on the right. 

Garlic Creek

Garlic Falls

Garlic Falls
Photo of Garlic Falls from Kings by Eric Henrickson taken 05/24/07

This rapid is at the base of Garlic Creek Falls.      Large boulders create a variety of channel and drops.  This rapid has usually felt to be one of the easier class 5 rapids on this  section.  The key is figuring out which routes are good and which are dead ends.   Scout or portage on the left.      This rapid marks the end of the class 5 rapids till Little Hand of God, two miles downstream.

Little Hand of God
This can be a serious rapid.   At lower flows kayakers have pinned in here and flushed under a boulder at the end.    Scout or portage on river right. 

Hand of God (Class V, Mile 6.4)

The last of the class 5 rapids on this section.    Paddle through shallows towards the right.  Don't go to the far right though as nasty seives and pins await.   As the river drops away, cut back into the main center channel.   Deal with a series of holes and junky drops.  Scout or portage on left.


Converse Creek Rapid (Class IV, Mile 8.1)

This is the longest and most interesting rapid in the last 3 miles, though several other drops are also very fun and interesting.    Converse Creek enters on the left just upstream of this rapid.   The rapid itself has a series of ledges and chutes.   

At the headwaters of Converse Creek is Converse Basin and its large grove of Sequoia Gigantea redwoods. This was the second largest grove of giant redwoods till some 6,000 trees were logged between 1892 and 1918, by the Hume Bennet Lumber Company.

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