Kings, N. Fork, California, US
Balch Afterbay to confluence with Dinkey Creek
||V (for normal flows)
Spill at Balch afterbay dam
Spill at Balch afterbay damPhoto by Paul Martzen taken 06/08/06
This is a super little section that is easiest to catch with flow in January or February when
PG&E does maintanence on a downstream powerhouse. It can also flow at a reasonable level in
the spring of a big water year.
Take-out is in Balch Camp at the confluence with Dinkey Creek. Most
boaters will continue on down the NF Kings to the confluence
with the main Kings.
Put-in: Drive up a paved road on the south side of the river towards Balch Dam. Just
before the dam, there is a wide spot and a steep slope and gulley leading down to the river. It
is loose and awkward and steepest just above the water. Consider lowering your boats with ropes.
Alternatively, go a few feet past the gulley to a clean cliff dropping straight to the water.
There are huge bolts in the wall on the left side of the road for anchors. The cliff looks around
200 feet high and the landing at the bottom is large enough to accomodate several boats and
people. Rappelling and lowering down this cliff might be quicker and safer than going down the
Once on the water, you get a few eddies and a very short ways to warm up before the creek drops
down several long steep rapids. Watch for logs! You can scout or portage, but it is very awkward
because of thick vegetation.
The initial rapids end at a pool above a 25' (approximately) waterfall. It may be runnable and it
does drop into a short pool.
Immediately below is a steep sliding cascade with a congested exit. I portage on the right, then
cross the small pool to the left and finish climbing down on the left side. The portage is much
easier on the right except that it is very difficult to relaunch into the river on that
side. Check it out and decide for yourself.
After the portage, one immediately enters a short but pretty gorge with vertical walls. There is
only one ledge drop in the middle, otherwise it is flat.
Peering downstream through the gorge though, you will see the tops of pine trees. The horizon
line at the exit is the top of a 30 foot high two tiered slide. Lots of fun, but also easy to
portage on the left.
Several smaller slides follow, before the gradient eases and the character changes back to long,
rocky, narrow rapids. The rapids are tight and interesting all the way to the confluence. Logs
and trees may be a problem in any section, but seem to be worse at the end just above the
confluence. Looking upriver from the bridge in
Balch Camp, one sees the creek spread out and running through a grove of trees, but fortunately
that is not characteristic of the rest of the run.
To catch this run, you need spill from Balch Dam, controlled by PG&E. In big water years
upstream reservoirs (Wishon and Courtwright) spill, but send down too much water for this run.
For a few weeks before the main spill however, Balch may start spilling with flow from
tributaries below Wishon Reservoir. You only want a few hundred cfs.
The other way I have caught this run is when PG&E is doing maintanence on the Kings River
powerhouse and is not finished before they need to send water down. In January or February, watch
the gauge for the NF Kings below Dinkey Creek . Normally all of this water comes out of Dinkey.
If you see a sudden odd elevation of the flow for several hours followed by a sudden drop back to
normal, it is likely that the dam is spilling for that time, while upstream powerhouses are
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Last Updated: 2009-11-15 04:54:20