The "Banzai" run on the Kings is big, wide, and usually very forgiving. There are no permits needed, no fees for camping or launching, and not much traffic on most days. Weekdays you might have the river to yourself. Peak use tends to be on Memorial weekend and the week or two before and after when the river is mobbed, traffic on the one lane dirt road is heavy and every flat spot in the area has somebody camping on it.Getting there: From Fresno, drive east on Belmont Avenue which eventually turns into Trimmer Springs Road. Stay on Trimmer Springs Rd all the long tedious way around Pine Flat Reservoir to Kirch Flat Campgrounds. Going through Fresno from freeway 99, take freeway 180 east till it turns into Kings Canyon Avenue. You can stay on 180 till it crosses the river, then you must take Piedra Road north to Trimmer Springs Road.
Fresno locals sometimes go up Highway 168 to Sample rd, to Pitman hill rd. to Watts Valley Rd. to Maxon Rd to Trimmer Springs rd. Study a map.
Coming from the south up Freeway 99, take cutoffs through Dinuba or through Kingsburg to reach Pine Flat Lake.
Note that there is no gasoline available near the river. There may be gas at some of the marinas on the lake, but otherwise the closest gas will be near Sanger or at highway 180 and Acadamy Ave. If coming from the north, last chance is in Clovis or a detour south to Shaw and Acadamy.
Take Out: Drive into Kirch Flat Campground and turn right to a parking area. Leave cars in the parking area. A spur road leads down to a loading area close to the river.Put In: From Kirch Flat Campground, continue driving east on Trimmer Springs Road. Cross the concrete bridge to the south side of the river. Drive a mile and cross the steel bridge back to the north side of the river. Turn right onto a dirt road and travel 7 or 8 dusty, bumpy miles to Garnet Dike. There is an unloading area close to the river and parking nearby. It is also very common to launch a mile downstream at Hermits Hollow to avoid Banzai rapid. There are numerous alternate launch points along the dirt road which provide shorter runs and shorter shuttles.Season: The Kings is boatable starting in winter after several decent size storms. Kayakers can often boat it for most of the winter. Flows are usually dependable by February and definitely by March. In drought years flows taper off by the end of June. In statistically average years, flows last to mid or late July. In wet years decent flows last into August. Summer thunderstorms can occasionally bring flows back up for a few days even in August or September.Character: Big, wide, with mostly long gravel bar rapids. The few boulders here and there are notable and often have names. Most of the run can be seen and scouted from the shuttle road.Play Spots: Since this is a natural flow river, it changes level from day to day and from hour to hour. The river channel has changed steadily from year to year. You need to search and experiment with different spots. Many of the best surfing waves are in the middle of rapids and are one shot affairs. Boaters who can catch their play spots on the fly will have a blast, especially at medium to high flows. There are strong eddylines throughout the reach so modern playboats have no shortage of entertaining locations. Locals often just boat short sections of the river before exhaustion sets in.Hazards: At low and moderate flows this seems to be a very safe section for river runners. However, at high flows the rapids become very long and the river spreads out into trees and brush along the sides. Boaters should expect a 1+ increase in class above 10,000 cfs and again above 20,000 cfs. Serious holes develop at unexpected places. Mule Hole is a famous hole near the middle of the run, which develops at moderate to high flows and hides in the tail waves of an easy rapid. Mule hole is not hard to avoid, but it takes many boaters by surprise. Another low wide rock sticks out of the pool between Wild Wolf, the first rapid below Garnet Dike and Banzai, the second rapid. This rock forms a huge hole and becomes a frequent raft flipper once flows rise to cover it. Boaters excited by Wild Wolf and thinking ahead to Banzai drift into this big, wide hole, flip and end up swimming Banzai and further. There have been a few deaths of rafters at very high flows from flush drownings/hypothermia and from entrapment in brushy side channels. It is difficult to rescue swimmers at very high flows when it only takes 45 minutes to flush from the put-in to the lake. Other Information:
Local boaters and the commercial outfitters tend to be very friendly and helpful at the Kings. Ask questions and get advice on flows, where to camp and where to run the rapids. If you are single boater or a single raft crew, team up with other boaters for safety, especially at high flows. Don't be shy.
Cell phone reception is good for most phones at Cottonwood Ridge, the high point on the way in, but is non available past that point. Emergency phone calls can be made from PG&E offices in Balch Camp. PG&E also makes available the large parking area by the Whitewater Voyages and Zypher camps. Sierra Nat Forrest rangers regularly patrol the area. Fresno County Sheriff officers also patrol at times. Any rescues are usually performed by the Sheriff's department if not handled by boaters on the scene.Wild & Scenic River Status:
Most of this section of the Kings is protected in the Kings River Special Management Area, as if it was part of the Wild & Scenic Rivers system. Although from the Bailey Bridge downstream to the reservoir the river is not protected as a concession to the KRCD in case they choose to raise Pine Flat Dam in the future.
Paul Martzen, 2005
Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Martin, PennyLocal Clubs:
For more information on this and other local paddling areas, please feel free to contact these local clubs: NEW Kayak Club, Gold Country Paddlers, California Floaters Society, SJPaddlers.Online:
You can get more information from California's Whitewater Community at boof.com.Other Information sources: Cacreeks.comKRCD is the local entity which contracts with the US government for irrigation water and then provides that water to individual irrigation districts, such as Fresno Irrigation.Friends of the South Fork Kings
Land Stewardship Council: PG&E lands proposal
This research paper describes and discusses the astounding California flood of 1862. This flood was so big that the entire central valley was flooded and became a lake/river 300 miles long by 40 to 60 miles wide. Part of the problem was caused by hydraulic mining which released so much debri that the river beds in the valley were raised abnormally high. But the main cause was simply the incredible amount of rain and snow; such as 72 inches of rain in two months at Sonora. It seems possible that such volumes of water could far exceed the capacity of our present reservoirs and of any additional reservoir that men could build. One implication is that our flood control systems can decrease the frequency of floods by controlling the little and medium sized floods, but that there can be unimaginably big floods that will periodically overtop our dams and levees as if they were not even there.
The names of the rapids in the Rapids tab are from the original YMCA Kings River Expeditions in the early 1970s.
There are a number of interesting hiking trails in the area.
The Spring Creek Trail starts at Garnet Dike and follows the river upstream to Spring Creek. This trail deteriorates past Spring Creek, but it climbs the hill to the top of Garlic Falls where it offers fantastic views of the Kings River Gorge between Rough Creek and Garlic Creek.
The Bear Wallow Trail is marked by signs about half way up the shuttle road to Garnet Dike. This trail was a traditional pathway for Native Americans between the Kings River and the higher Sierra.
South Side Trail starts at the Mill Flat Campgrounds and follows the river upstream. (I don't know how far it goes or what its actual name is, but it is a pretty nice trail as far as I have taken it.) The Mill Flat Creek Road is a popular hike for those taking a break at the mouth of Mill Flat Creek. People walk up the road to access the nice swimming holes along the creek.
Several PG&E access roads offer interesting hiking near Kirch Flat. They climb high up the hill to access either power towers or the top of a penstock. They offer nice views of the canyon and surrounding hills. There is little shade, so these are nicest when it is cool.
A long island divides the river. The standard route is the left channel past big laterals coming off the left bank. Conservative boaters stay middle.
A large round boulder rests in the pool where the two channels merge. At flows above 5,000 cfs this boulder forms a big sticky, raft flipping hole, "Train Wreck", that catches the unwary. Swimmers here will tend to flush on through Bear Wallow. The commercial rafters tend to run a right side chute at high flows to avoid any possible "Train Wrecks".
A wide entry is guarded by numerous large rocks or holes. The river then funnels towards Banzai Hole. Boaters paddle to the left to miss the hole. Banzai Hole is worse at about 1,500 to 2,000 cfs. At higher flows it forms a wave. Class 4 above 10,000 cfs. A huge ledge hole forms at the end of the rapid on the right. Commercial rafters run a left side chute at these flows. Class 5 above 18,000 cfs. Most boaters launch at Hermits at these flows and above. There is nice camping on the terrace next to Bear Wallow rapid and boaters can launch just below this rapid.
Strong hydraulics down a straight section.
River left channel carries the main flow. A right channel is available at higher flows. River curves to the right at the end past several holes along the left wall.
Right channel is Bump City Rapid, a sharp left at top of the rapid and big rocks and holes on right side of the rapid. Left Channel is Bump City Bypass; a steep narrow entry into a long shallow chute. The bypass is only available at higher flows.
A rapid that changes from year to year. The river drops over several channels across a gravel bar.
A large boulder sits in the middle of the current after a right hand turn. Boats can go to either side at most flows, but the main channel is to the right. The left side becomes rocky at low flows. At high enough flows this boulder forms a wrap spot or flipping hole.
A steep drop that funnels down then curves sharply left. At moderate flows enter river right and move left to avoid the large pour over, Raft Ripper, at the bottom on river right. At higher flows do not go left high in rapid, as a large hidden hole will flip rafts.
The river gradually curves to the right, then down a moderate drop with a nice wave train that leads into a large keeper hole. May be the best raft flipping trap on the river as it is difficult to see from upstream in the rapid until you are staring into the maw. Oops! At higher flows a seperate channel opens up on river right, avoiding the hole.
A straight chute with often very big waves. Tends to have the steepest waves at lower flows 1,400 cfs.
A long sweeping right turn with a big wave hole is called Upper Wild Cat. This leads to a steep funnel chute called Lower Wildcat. Big waves form at the bottom of the funnel and extend around a bend to the left. At some flows the waves of lower Wildcat provide spectacular surfing. A large eddy on river left provides service to the surf waves.
The river drops down to the left then bends sharp to the right, past large boulders on the left and middle. Boaters are forced to enter in the middle at the top of the rapid, but must work hard to get right as soon as possible to avoid the pour overs on the bottom left. There are narrow and exciting routes through the rocks on the left at most flows, but a mistake will lead to carnage. Scout from river left.
Immediately after NF rapid there is a short drop on river left, "The Falls". Just below is a semi-truck sized bedrock formation, "50-50 Rock", which guards the left side. Water flows over 50-50 Rock at around 15,000 cfs, forming a huge hole. Boaters can safely run the wave train down the center past these two formations, or explore the left side possibilities. Sidewinder proper is a wide bouldery shoal with numerous routes. The easier routes are to the right and the more exciting routes are to the left. Scout from the road.
The river funnels steeply down into a narrow violent wave train. Rafts and kayaks are often and easily flipped here, especially at low flows when the rapid is more violent. Also at low flows swimmers or kayakers who flip have often hit rocks hard. This rapid is easier at higher flows. Roostertail Video
Graph courtesy of dreamflows.com
Check Dreamflows.com for the Kings River at Rogers Crossing upstream of the North Fork. See also the Army Corp Pine Flat hourly report or CDEC: Kings Near Trimmer, both of which show flow below the North Fork Kings, plus other information.
High flows of over 20,000 cfs occur every few years and create awesome wave trains. However the difficulty and seriousness of this section is much greater at such flows. The class is at least 4+ at high flows. On the low end most rafters quit boating around 1,000 cfs, but kayakers can scrape down quite a bit lower.
Check these graphs of Snowpack information for the Sierra. Realtime raingauge and temperature information is available for Cedar Grove and Big Meadows on the South Fork Kings, for Balch Camp and Fence Meadow, on the North Fork Kings
Permits are not required for this reach.
The map below now shows the correct route on the road next to the river. From Kirch Flat to the put in, continue driving east on Trimmer Springs Road. Cross the concrete bridge to the south side of the river. Drive a mile and cross the steel bridge back to the north side of the river. Turn right onto a dirt road and travel 7 or 8 dusty bumpy miles to Garnet Dike. There is an unloading area close to the river and parking nearby. It is also very common to launch a mile downstream at Hermits Hollow to avoid Banzai rapid. There are numerous alternate launch points along the dirt road which provide shorter runs and shorter shuttles
Rattle Snake Trench
Inspecting Raft Ripper
Widow Maker Rock at low flow
Lower Skunk Pit
White Wolf Chute
Big Waves in Roostertail
Boofing Sidewinder at low flow
Sidewinder at low flow
Rafters in Swimmers Eddie
Gary and the Mountains
Below Crazy Horse
Doug's Crew on Rooster Tail
Almost all out
Kings River View
Banzai at high water
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The U.S. Forest Service recently released the revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and Draft Forest Plans (DFP) for the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests. As part of this process, National Forests are required to identify the eligibility of rivers for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Once a river is found eligible it is managed to protect the values that support their inclusion. To that end, American Whitewater has identified recreation as an outstandingly remarkable value on many iconic whitewater rivers within the Sierra and Sequoia National Forest and is advocating for their inclusion into the inventory of eligible Wild & Scenic Rivers. Dinkey Creek Photo by Daniel Lundberg
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