Kings, N. Fork - Balch Afterbay to confluence with Dinkey Creek

Kings, N. Fork, California, US


Balch Afterbay to confluence with Dinkey Creek

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 1.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 130 fpm

Spill at Balch afterbay dam

Spill at Balch afterbay dam
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 06/08/06

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
cdec-NDC 2.10 - 3.00 ft V 1y216d05h38m -17.22 ft (too low)

River Description

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 gulley. 

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 running.

Paul Martzen
Fresno, CA

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-11-15 04:54:20


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.3WaterfallN/AWaterfall Photo
0.5Big SlideIVPhoto

Rapid Descriptions

Waterfall (Class N/A, Mile 0.3)


Photo of Dave Hammond by Paul Martzen taken 05/01/93 @ Medium

There is nearly continuous class 5 whitewater from the put in to here.   Fortunately there is a pretty good pool at the top of this falls.   Granite slabs on river right allow an easy take out and portage around the falls.   Many modern boaters might run the falls these days, but check the pool and runnout.

Big Slide (Class IV, Mile 0.5)

Big Slide

Big Slide
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 05/01/93 @ Medium

This spectacular waterslide is at the end of a short narrow gorge.   The slide has a short upper tier and a long lower tier with a very narrow pool in between.  The total drop is 30 or 40 feet, I think.   The slide is pretty clean, but I pitoned an obstruction on one run and bent the nose of my kayak.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
August 24 2011 (2707 days ago)
Paul MartzenDetails
The Balch afterbay dam is releasing about 250 cfs into the river continuously because of some stuck
valves. PG&E cannot repair the valves till October, so the flows will continue till then. 250 cfs
is a low but okay flow for this section, I think. I walked along the road above and the parts that
I could see looked boatable. PG&E is also doing major road work several hundred yards from the dam.
A big section of road slid out. There was no one working on the weekend so we were able to walk
through the construction zone without any problems. Getting down to the put in from the road looks
as ugly as ever. Rapping off down a cliff would be the cleanest, but needs a long rope and anchors.
February 19 2010 (3259 days ago)
nearseattle (151497)
The poison oak that lines this section is not to be believed. Not mere vines or shrubs, these are
absolute forests of poison oak, with trunks like trees. Richard