The river right bank is a county park and campground along a section of flatwater. The name, "Choinumni" comes from the local indian tribe that inhabited this area.
Islands divide the river into left and right channels. The left channel is narrow and shaded. Near the end this channel drops steeply to the left then curves around to the right. The right channel is wider and more open but less interesting.
Immediately below this bridge the river splits into 3 short but steep chutes. The chutes are straightforward, but the currents are boiling and turbulent where they come together. Many a beginning kayaker is tipped over at this spot. Play boaters will enjoy the strong eddy lines and whirlpools.
Alta Weir is a low dam structure that diverts water into an irrigation channel to the left. The main hazard is concrete dividers spaced every 8 feet across the river (and the trees that sometimes snag on those dividers). The drop itself has had no reversal for many years and does not now pose a major hazard. Many paddlers do run this weir, but it is also very easy to portage on river right. The dividers in the weir are designed to hold boards in place that further dam the water. When the boards are in place they create a steeper and more awkward drop. The boards are needed to dam the water at very low flows, but the irrigation district has gotten into the habit of leaving them in all year long no matter what the flow. Alta is popular for its river wide surf wave which forms just below the drop. Many groups also take-out just upstream of the weir on river left. There is a steep bank, but the road is next to the river and there is a large parking area. Stay out of the river left channel above the irrigation gate structure. Water is sucked down and through the bottom of the gates.
A high voltage tower is on top of a hill on river right. A trail leads up this steep hill to a big turnout on the road.
The river splits again, but at lower flows, most of the water goes down the right most channel leading to Gould Weir. Portage on river left starting a ways above the weir. The bank is mostly concrete riprap near the weir and so it is awkward to take out. Close to the weir the banks are steeper and the current faster. A dirt road leads around the weir and to a nice put-in below. At medium and high flows it is easy and best to avoid this channel. At low flows the middle and left channels can get too low so that paddlers are forced into the Gould Weir channel.
Just after the Gould Weir Channel rejoins the center channel, a private road crosses both branches of the river via metal bridges. The bridge over the main/right channel is very low and blocks passage at higher flows. At 6,800 cfs kayaks can barely slip under, but rafts and canoes must portage. It is a short but awkward portage with lots of stinging nettle. The bridge over river left channel is high up and never presents a problem for boaters.
Portage river left. This is a 6 to 8 foot high dam is about 3/4 mile past the fancy Harris Ranch Mansion. White fences on river right continue a ways past the mansion. Just after the fences end, a thick telephone cable passes over the river and the river curves right, then left. Looking downstream boaters will see a small building atop a concrete wall. This wall is the right bank of the dam. There are no other warning sign and the dam itself is visible only as a horizon line. The river curves to the left enough that it is impossible to see the portage till you are on top of it. Once you see these structures hug the left shore and get ready to portage.
There are two options for portage on the river left. The most common option is to slink, one at a time, past the berry bushes to a narrow hole in the bushes about 20 feet from the lip of the dam. If you have beginners somebody should stand in the water and drag them into the hole so they do not drift past. Only one boat at a time really fits. Fortunately the current tends to be relatively slow as the dam is very wide. At high flows, however, this option can be scary.
The second option is to take out upstream of the berry bushes and drag boats 50 yards or so behind the berry bushes. This is a much safer option but is less obvious and gets little to no use, so the trail is usually overgrown and the take-out is not obvious. The local paddling club has discussed putting a sign at this take-out, but has not yet done so.
The land at this portage is public; Bureau of Reclamation upstream, and Fresno County downstream, so it is a legal stopping and picnicing spot in this lower section.
Take out under the bridge on river right or around the corner at Pierces Park. There is also an awkward take up a steep bank just past Pierces Park on the right. There is a large turnout for parking and a large tree next to highway 180. County owned land on river right, upstream of the bridge is being developed for fishing and boating access.
Flow information comes from the Army Corp of Engineers Pine Flat.
Dreamflows.com, posts flows for this and many other rivers.
Kings River Water Association: Hydro Page shows a variety of flow, storage and snowpack data.
Daily Regional Sierra Snowpack Graphs, show graphs for the current snowpack in comparison with mean, high and low years.
Flow RangeThere is no upper limit of boatable flows in this section since it is pretty much flat. However, there is a legal upper limit. The river is closed to swimmers and floating aids above 7,000 cfs and closed to boating above 10,000 cfs release from Pine Flat. On the low end, 1,000 cfs is getting pretty low and below 500 or 600 cfs is probably too low for anyone but the most desperate and paddle starved. You can still paddle at flows as low as 100 cfs, but you will probably hang up and have to push your way down about 50% of the riffles. Amazingly, the other 50% are still relatively clean at 100 cfs.. 200 cfs may be fine.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Kings River aerial view
Kings: second islands
Kayak class near Pine Flat
Piedra Bridge #2
First Islands: Right Channel #3
Fresno Weir Portage Entrance
Approaching Fresno Weir
Alta Wave: Sort of Surfing
Gould Weir on Kings River, CA
Alta Weir diagram
Alta Weir Wave - Low Water
Fresno Weir - Play Spot
Alta Weir Wave
Killing Machine 3
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!