This is a pretty run with many bedrock drops, especially in the upper half. It has a long and dependable season from mid winter to memorial weekend or even mid June. Kayakers will sometimes run the NF at very low flows early in the winter before other runs in the area get going. Large winter rain storms will often bring the NF up to medium or even high runnable levels. Normally all the water in this reach is supplied by Dinkey Creek, so most years flows may not go above 600 to 1,000 cfs.. In big years, Dinkey gets bigger and upstream dams on the N. Fork spill, so flows can climb to 2,000 or 3,000 cfs. Above 2,000 cfs the run is huge, with monstrous ledge holes. It is still mostly runnable but some of the lines are pretty sneaky over shallows, or worse, insanely narrow in the midst of the killer holes. Most of the rapids are visible from the road, but a few are hidden by trees. Everything is scoutable or portagable at river level. Last few hundred yards above the confluence with the main Kings was the site of the 1972 west coast Olympic slalom trials. This channel is an excellent technical slalom course even without gates and is worth a look by intermediate boaters not interested in the upstream class 5 rapids. Every group seems to come up with their own names for rapids, but a few seem worth passing on. Driving upstream from the main Kings, the NF runs straight then bends sharply east. The rapids in this straight section are easy, but "Rock Pile" (4+) hides in the corner. A nice class 4ish rapid ends at the gauge in the middle of the straight section going east (driving upstream). "Red Rocks" is the obvious reddish ledge rapid where the river bends north again. "Three ledges" is an obvious name for the next big drop upstream. "Dewell's Demise" and "Furrow's Filet" are local names for the big drops continuing upstream. Chuck Stanley wrote about getting stuck in "Chuck's Leap" but I have never figured out for sure which rapid that might be since there are several reasonable candidates that will hold boats or swimmers. If your group has different names or additional names please write a comment in the comment tab. Shortly into the run watch for a large oddly textured boulder on river right. It marks an 8 foot waterfall (perhaps Chuck's Leap) which is not visible from the road. Also in this section look for the steel bridge wrapped around a boulder. It was trying to make a highwater descent of this reach one year but just did not have the skills to pull it off unscathed. It should be a lesson to all of us. This section of the N. Fork is often boated in combination with the short Dinkey Creek Balch Camp section, just upstream. The NF flows into the class 3 Main Kings: Banzai section so groups with both experts and intermediate boaters can camp together while paddling different sections. The Balch Afterbay section is also nearby. It often has boatable flows for a few weeks in January and sometimes in the spring.
Getting There: From Fresno take freeway 180 east, to its end, jog to Belmont Avenue and continue east. Belmont will curve and become Trimmer Springs Rd. Stay on Trimmer springs road all the way around Pine Flat Reservoir. As you go around the reservoir you will pass several marinas, and cross bridges over large two inlets formed by Sycamore Creek and then Big Creek. Eventually you will reach the Kings River and you will go past the Kings River Powerhouse with its large pipe carrying most of the water from the N. Fork Kings. Continue past Kirch Flat Campground, cross a concrete bridge to the south side of the river, then cross the noisy steel Bailey Bridge back to the north side of the river. Stay on the paved road going left at this bridge. In 100 yards you will reach the canyon of the N. Fork Kings.
Take out: You can leave a car at the NF and main confluence or downstream anywhere along the main Kings. google map. Put-in:Continue 3 miles along the paved road and you will reach Balch Camp, a PG&E residential camp for workers who run the nearby powerhouses and dams. You can park before you cross a bridge and carry a short ways along the river left to the nice pool at the confluence with Dinkey Creek. There are nice flat slabs on the left side of this pool. Alternatively drive across the first bridge then turn left down into a clearing between Dinkey and the NF. This gives a much shorter carry but more awkward put in. google map.
Local Clubs: For more information on this and other local paddling areas, contact these local clubs: SJPaddlers, NEW Kayak Club, or Gold Country Paddlers. Online: You can get more information from California's Whitewater Community at boof.com. FERC information: The Balch Project, #175, licensed 4/18/1980 to 4/30/2026 Haas-Kings River Project, #1988 , licensed 3/6/2001 till 2/28/2041
Put-in: Elevation 1260 feet. Either park on the road next to the NF Bridge and walk down on river left to the pool at the confluence. Alternatively drive across the bridge, turn left towards the Dinkey Creek bridge and immediately left down into a clearing between Dinkey and the NF. There is a nice sized pool, but class 4 bedrock drops begin immediately downstream. (Class 5 at high flows)
This rapid is not visible from the road though you could hike down to it.
The bridge is wrapped around a huge boulder in the middle of the river. The left side drops into a big pothole. Center routes pass close to the undercut boulder and the jagged metal of the bridge. The conservative route is to drop down a chute on river right over a ledge or two. Eddy hop down below and right of the wrapped bridge then work your way to far river left, before cutting back to the center and ski jumping off of junky boulders. (The GoalPost). If you miss the last cut, then you crash down the shallows on the left which is no big deal. At higher flows there is a fine center chute on the bottom, but it has severe pin potential at lower flows.
If you scout you might see lots of interesting lines to run.
The bottom ledge is typically run on the right edge, or sometimes by ski jumping off the rock on the left. At lower flows the reversal in the bottom ledge is not super sticky for which off line boaters can be thankful. Naturally as flows rise the consequences get more severe. At very high flows this drop becomes a river wide reversal and is often portaged.
The obvious and pretty rapid where the river makes a 90 degree turn from south to west. The river left chute is standard at moderate and low flows. As flows rise, the middle and even the right side routes open up.
A long interesting, technical rapid leads from a nice pool (with cliff) down almost to the confluence with the main Kings. This was the location of the 1972 west coast Olympic slalom trials.
Show 30 Days--------No. Kings - Below Dinkey Creek----------Show 3 Years
See also: Dreamflows.com NF Kings below Dinkey, for convenient real time information. The data comes from CDEC - NKD where you can find 15 minute numerical data, historical data and information about the gauge.
Runnable from 200 or 300 cfs (hey we get desperate around here!) up to several thousand.
300 cfs is very bony and rocky, but the big drops are easy and still fun.
600 cfs is pretty clean but still without much push.
800 to 900 cfs and everything is clean. The easier rapids get really fun and the big ones are developing some kick.
In January, PG&E has a pattern of doing maintanence on the Kings River powerhouse. This can lead to spill from Balch Dam for a few hours each day. Look for a sudden increase then a sudden decrease in flows at similar times each day.
Realtime rainfall and temperature information is reported by an automated weather station at Balch Camp
Permits are not required for this reach.
The paved shuttle road follows the river from the take-out to the put-in. You can see a lot of the rapids from the road, so expect to stop frequently to enjoy the view. The road is fairly level, so it makes an easy and very nice bicycle ride or shuttle.
The map below sends you off on an all day journey instead of the 4 minute drive on pavement next to the river. It seems that a short section of the paved road from Kirch Flat campground to a short ways up the NF Kings, must not show up in the google road database.
Paul Martzen with the field goal
May 1976 NF Kings
May 1976 NF Kings Red Rock
Red Rocks from the road
Portage at Dewell's
Put in between Dinkey & NF
Happy Bunch of Paddlers
Near the End
Red Rocks Run
Dewell's: final drop
NF Kings- Red Rock
Red Rock- NF Kings
Red Rock Rapid
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