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Difficulty IV-V
Length 6.9 Miles
Gauge So. San Joaquin Below Florence Lake
Flow Range 350 - 1500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 3 hours ago 39 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 06/07/2011 6:49 am

River Description


Elevations:
Put-in at Florence: 7200'  google map.
Gauge below Hooper: 6980'
Take-out at Mono; 6560'  google map.

Average gradient, Florence to Mono = 91'/mile

Florence to Mono Hot Springs is a great run and not just because the scenery is about as good as it can get. The whitewater is continuous and challenging.

The run starts out meandering through a meadow for over a mile. It is very similar to floating through the meadows of Yosemite Valley. If the whole run were that way, even the most rabid whitewater buff might not mind, as the scenery is stunning. It is almost a pity when the meadow ends and the river drops away.

One's attention is quickly captured by the demands of whitewater churning downhill at a steady angle for as far as one can see. This first mile is only about 90' per mile but it seems incessant. A short slower section is a relief and a time for assessment. The next mile is steeper and seems to have no end with a gradient of about 130' per mile.

The first several miles are extremely continuous, with no pools and mostly tiny eddies. Instead of pools there are a couple of short sections of slower water after the first half mile or so. The gradient steadily steepens towards the confluence with Hooper Creek. Near this confluence there is a gauging station and a weir. The hardest part of the run is probably the last 1/2 mile or so down to this gauging weir. Scouting or portaging is fairly easy on fisherman trails on the river left side. There is also a dirt road an river right leading from Florence to the gauging station. At lower flows this section may be more defined with pools and larger eddies.

Below the gauging station the continuous nature eases somewhat but the gradient is actually 170' per mile. Somehow it seems a bit easier than the section above the gauge. At 750 cfs the rapids are still long and challenging, but in between there are sections of slower water and larger eddies.  This creates some breathing room. Approaching the end of the run, the river enters a low granite trench. Then, at Mono Hot Springs the river opens out into a meadow again.

Logs and jams in the river can be a problem at any time. During the 2003 flow study, kayakers were able to sneak past several log jams while rafts had to portage two spots because of logs. The two worst spots were above the gauging station.

Mono Hot Springs has campgrounds, a store, restaraunt, pack station, cabins and hot springs.

Below Mono Hot Springs the river is relatively mellow for almost 9 miles, but then it drops into a deep granite gorge. The topo map shows trail crossings at two points in the mellow section, but no easy exit past them. One might be able to continue down the South Fork at some perfect flow all the way to the middle fork, but then one would have to deal with a much higher flow in the middle fork canyon. In the past, the only people to travel through this section all the way to the middle fork do so by hiking and swimming at the very low flows that Edison is required to release to keep fish alive.   In 2008 a group of paddlers descended down Mono Creek to the SF San Joaquin, to the middle fork and on to Mammoth Pool.   See:  San Joaquin, S. Fork  Mono Hot Springs to Middle Fork, to Mammoth Pool

Driving Directions: From Fresno, take highway 168 to Huntington Lake,(1.5 - 2 hours), turn onto Kaiser Pass road to Mono Hot Springs, (40 minutes). Kaiser Pass road is narrow, windy and slow. Highway 168 is excellent and fast. Kaiser Pass road is also closed during the winter and tends to open in May or by memorial weekend. Call Sierra Nat. Forrest for road info. (559) 855-5360


John Gangemi writes:

Picture yourself paddling in a world of smooth Sierra granite. The Florence to Mono Hot Springs run puts you smack in the middle of the high Sierra with spectacular granite peaks and domes of granite. The put-in at Jackass Meadow starts at 7200 ft. The first mile with a 40' gradient allows you to enjoy the scenery as you meander through Jackass Meadow. You won't have much time to look at the scenery in the next couple miles as the San Joaquin drops precipitously with steady steep gradients. Eventually the gradient tapers off, allowing you to start relaxing again with views of Bear Dome. The continuous section culminates with a left hand corner taking you over Hooper Diversion. The non-stop action has you dodging holes, avoiding the occasional log and for those comfortable in Class IV+ creeks grinning ear to ear. Everything is runnable. You might want a creek boat on your first run to learn the lines but you'll likely gravitate to a play boat to capitalize on the infinite playable holes and waves. To top it off, the run ends at Mono Hot Springs so you can finish with a hot soak.

American Whitewater and San Joaquin Paddlers are working hard to establish a predictable schedule of whitewater flows on this run. Southern California Edison (SCE) divert water out of the S. Fk. San Joaquin at Florence Dam for hydro generation. Water rarely spills into this run. American Whitewater and San Joaquin Paddlers are involved in the relicensing of this and seven other hydro projects in the San Joaquin drainage. American Whitewater and San Joaquin Paddlers conducted a whitewater flow study June 8th on Florence to Mono Hot Springs reach. The team of nine kayakers and two paddle rafts boated 750 cfs. This flow padded most of the rocks with soft pillows although the lack of eddies in the continuous Class IV+ section had the rafts running blind. Your membership and donations help support American Whitewater's efforts to restore flows to this reach.

Directions: Driving to this area is as much fun as paddling the whitewater. Florence Reservoir is exactly 99 miles from Fresno, California. Take Highway 168 out of Fresno to Shaver. Highway 168 turns into Tollhouse Rd. Follow signs to Huntington Lake. Once you've arrived at Huntington Lake, check to see that you have plenty of fuel for your car, because Rancheria Marina is the last place to get it (closes at 7 pm).

At the junction of SR 168 and the Kaiser Pass Road is the Eastwood Ranger Station if you need info. Drive up the nice two-lane road for about 5 miles, and you'll come to the one-lane portion. Relax, it's only another 12 miles to Mono Hot Springs Resort. It is a rather narrow and winding, but paved road that takes approximately 40 minutes to drive (No steep cliffs!). On the way, you'll pass the last Ranger outpost, the High Sierra station. A mile past that is the turnoff to Mono Hot Springs and Edison Lake. Just after crossing the bridge over the river, you will turn left into the Mono Hot Springs Resort. There are campgrounds along the river and dispersed camping near the trailhead for Doris Lake. Travel time from Fresno takes 2 to 3 hours.

Amenities: The paddling is fantastic but don't travel here with the single focus of whitewater paddling because you'll regret you did not bring your other toys. This area is an outdoor playground offering great mountain biking, rock climbing, fishing, hiking, soaking and dispersed camping. In all your activaties, please tread lightly so we can protect this granite sanctuary for future generations.
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Gasoline is available at Huntington Lake at rancheria marina, at Shaver at several locations. Gas is not available after you turn onto Kaiser Pass Rd., at Mono, Florence or Edison. Make sure you have plenty. Restaraunts and some groceries are available at Mono, Vermillion Valley Resort and Florence. Information is available at the Sierra National Forest office in Prather. Phone (559) 855-5360

ABC channel 30 weather cam at Huntington Lake.

A GUIDE TO THE BEST WHITEWATER IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, HOLBEK & STANLEY, 1988

Rapid Descriptions

Start of Rapids

Class - IV Mile - 1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

After a scenic float through a meadow, the river runs next to the granite cliffs of Jackass Dike.   Once the river starts dropping, it does not stop.

Hooper gauging Weir

Class - IV+ Mile - 2.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

A steep continuous rapid curves gradually to the right, piles up against a cliff on the right then bounces left and drops over a 6 to 8 foot high dam.    At 750 cfs in 2003 all boaters ran the weir, but it looked sticky in spots.  Good eddies await below the weir. 

Many boaters will want to scout this whole section.

Comments

Gage Descriptions

Southern CA Edison is now posting flow information for S.F. San Joaquin below Hooper Creek as well as for several other sections in the basin. Click on "Show List" and you can see flows in the other reaches and reservoir elevations also.   If the links above do not work try:
Big Creek Hydro; Recreation      or   Flow and Reservoir Elevations  

This section of river only has boatable flows when Florence Reservoir spills. This happens in June or July of big water years, or sometimes in average years with unusually hot conditions in spring. The reservoir elevation has to be near 7,329 feet before spill will occur.   See Florence Reservoir Elevation.

After a single flow study in this reach at a flow of 750 cfs, strong boaters reported that 750 cfs was an excellent to optimal flow and that flows up to 1,500 or higher would also be excellent. Some felt that flows down to 350 or 400 cfs would also be good and would be easier, though more technical. Two paddlers in 2006 reported a good boatable range after a trip at around 1,250 cfs. They also reported that it might be good even a little bit higher. They did report a lack of eddies and concern about whether they could stop if they encountered logs in the river. They also suggested that most boaters might prefer a lower flow than what they had.

Historical data for this reach can be found at:
USGS 11230215 SF SAN JOAQUIN R BL HOOPER C NR FLORENCE LAKE
USGS 11230000 SF SAN JOAQUIN R NR FLORENCE LK CA
USGS 11232000 SF SAN JOAQUIN R NR HOFFMAN MDW CA

Flow information is provided by SCE as part of a FERC license.   Edison Big Creek Office phone# is: 559-893-5611   If the online gauges are down, you can report that problem here and the secretary will usually find out the flow for you.

 

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Directions Description


The roads between Mono Hot Springs and Florence are paved, but mostly one lane and slow.   The Kaiser Pass road from Huntington to Mono Hot Springs is 4 lane for a few miles, then one lane, windy and slow for the rest of the distance.    (At one time there was hope and money to build a 4 season trans Sierra highway on this route.)   The highway from Fresno to Huntington is excellent and fast for the most part. 

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No Accident Reports

Alerts

News

article main photo

New Flows For the San Joaquin

2007-04-19 00:00:00-04
Dave Steindorf

American Whitewater has signed another important settlement in California.  This agreement will restore flows, remove small dams and provide public flow information on the San Joaquin. 
article main photo

AW Recommends California Rivers for Wild and Scenic

2016-02-09 12:45:00-05
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. 
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Help Protect S. Sierra Whitewater Rivers (CA)!

2016-08-04 14:30:00-04
Megan Hooker

This summer the Sierra, Sequoia and Inyo National Forests are seeking feedback from the public on their update and revisions to Forest Management Plans. These plans set the stage for how the forest will be managed for the next 20 years. Unfortunately, the agency's draft analysis on Wild and Scenic Rivers has largely neglected whitewater recreation values of classic whitewater rivers, including Dinkey Creek. Paddler's voices are important in this process! The deadline to comment is August 25th.

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Paul Martzen