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Difficulty V
Length 3 Miles
Flow Range 250 - 3000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 47 minutes ago 49 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 12/01/2009 5:13 am

River Description

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.

You can get more information from California's Whitewater Community at

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




Rapid Descriptions

Balch Camp

Class - N/A Mile - 0

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)

Chuck's Leap

Class - IV+ Mile - 0.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A large oddly textured boulder on river right signals the approach to this 8' waterfall. The main fall is generally runnable on the left edge. The reversal is backed up by a rib of rock extending from the right side. As flows rise, a sneak route opens up even further to the left. Scout to make sure you miss a boulder hiding just under the surface, below this sneak. The video above shows two boaters stuck and cartwheeling at the base of this falls. Easiest portage is on river right.

Wrapped Bridge - Goal Post

Class - IV+ Mile - 0.6

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. 


Furrow's Filet

Class - 5.0 Mile - 0.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A bouldery lead in, steepens before opening onto bedrock ledges. At moderate flows the river left route down the bedrock is fun, though Dick Furrow once sliced his hand with his paddle after flipping here. The right side of the bedrock is more conservative and is the only route at very high flows through a river wide reversal.

Dewell's Demise

Class - 5.0 Mile - 1.15
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The second of 3 long distinctive rapids visible from the road. A long bouldery lead in abruptly opens onto bedrock ledges then funnels into a short but steep sluice against the left wall into a long pretty pool. Charge down the tongue on the left and hope you flush or boof as far right as you can. A strong eddy feeds in from river right and tends to keep swimmers and boats in the pour over. Ben D. had a nasty swim here after I inadvertantly signaled him down the middle. I just stuck my paddle up straight to indicate "Come ahead", when I should have signalled either left or right! I have swam there twice, myself. The first time, I had to claw my way past my boat into the main current before I flushed. The second time, I ended up far enough out to the right that I was able to feel a rock under the surface and drag my way out against the current.  
The scout is easy from the road, but more awkward at river level.   Scout and or portage on river right.

Three Ledges

Class - IV+ Mile - 1.3

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.


Red Rocks

Class - IV+ Mile - 1.68

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.


gauging station

Class - Mile - 1.95
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An interesting class 4 rapid ends at a pool with a cable crossing and a gauging station. This gauging station is against the cliff on river right. A scale on the outside of the station shows the river level in tenths of feet. Convert to cfs with this Gauge Rating Table.

Boulder Pile

Class - IV+ Mile - 2.25
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A big rapid formed by boulders, hides where the river bends from west to south. Scout, river right. The main flow and steepest lines tend to be on the right, while shallower and more congested lines are to the left.  Boof the main openings through the boulders or bounce down further to the left.    Being a boulder pile, things move around and the routes change over the years. 
This is the last class 5 on this run, so intermediate boaters can launch below this drop to boat the last interesting 3/4 of a mile.

Olympic Slalom Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - 2.65
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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.


Confluence with main Kings

Class - I Mile - 3
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Elevation 980 feet. There is primitive (and barren) camping at this confluence. Take out here or continue down the main Kings to Kirch Flat.


Gage Descriptions

Daily Flows Realtime Flows Dreamflows Home

Show 30 Days--------No. Kings - Below Dinkey Creek----------Show 3 Years

See also: 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




Directions Description

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.  

No Accident Reports



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Sierra & Sequoia National Forest Management Plans (CA)

Theresa Simsiman

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

article main photo

AW Recommends California Rivers for Wild and Scenic

Megan Hooker

Last week, American Whitewater recommended that the U.S. Forest Service assess whether numerous whitewater rivers in California are eligible for Wild and Scenic status. The agency is currently revising Forest Plans for the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests, and this process provides an opportunity to evaluate rivers for whether they are eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. If a river is found eligible through this process, the Forest Service protects the values that could make it worthy for Wild and Scenic designation, including its free-flowing characteristics. 

Paul Martzen


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1195848 12/01/09 Paul Martzen
1190022 02/13/09 Paul Martzen n/a
1196794 12/01/09 Paul Martzen