Stanislaus - Goodwin Dam to Knights Ferry

Stanislaus, California, US


Goodwin Dam to Knights Ferry (Goodwin Canyon)

Usual Difficulty III-IV+ (for normal flows)
Length 4.3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 30 fpm
Max Gradient 50 fpm

Looking down into Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Looking down into Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Photo of Mr. Toad's by Daniel Lundberg taken 10/22/06

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
cdec-OBB 600 - 5000 cfs III-IV+ 00h50m 82 cfs (too low)

River Description

Getting There: The take out is at Knights Ferry's Recreation Area, approximately 30 miles northeast of Modesto, CA. From this public park, drive about 2-3 miles east along Highway 120/108 to Tullock Road (a left turn). Drive another 1.6 miles to the put-in. GPS Coordinates at Google Maps. If you can see the Goodwin Dam, you've gone too far.

There is limited parking along both sides of the road. From here it is a short walk to the river.

Scouting Mr. Toad's: After turning onto Tullock Road, there is a dirt road 1.3 miles down on the left hand side. From here you can scout Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Park on the dirt road and its a short hike to the overlook. From this spot it is only another 0.3 miles to the put in.

Local Clubs:
For more information on this and other local paddling areas, please feel free to contact these local clubs:  Gold Country Paddlers.

You can get more information from California's Whitewater Community at is a website that has a lot of useful information about the river and area. They have a river map that you can print out and take with you.

There is also a write up on California Creeks.


Goodwin Dam is 80 feet high and was completed in 1913.  It is jointly owned by two irrigation districts: the South San Joaquin ID and the Oakdale ID.  Two canals lead from the dam, one on each side of the river.  SSJID supplies water to 70,000 acres of farmland in the Manteca, Escalon, Ripon area.  Oakdale ID supplies water to about 20,000 acres of farmland on either side of the Stanislaus river in the Oakdale, Riverbank area.  Both districts also supply domestic water.  They also produce electricity at their various dam projects and recently from solar projects.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-04-07 18:17:19


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Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Goodwin DamIPutin
0.2Laundry ChuteIII
0.4Surf CityIII
0.6Mr. Toad's Wild RideIV+Portage Hazard Video
0.8Willow RapidIII
0.9Matterhorn5.0Portage Hazard Waterfall Video
1.9Upper PinballIII+
2.0Lower PinballIII+
2.3Haunted HouseIV+Hazard Video
2.9The NarrowsII
3.2Air MattressIII+
3.7The ShallowsII+
3.8Knights Ferry Covered BridgeTakeout
4.3Knights Ferry Public ParkTakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (Class IV+, Mile 0.6)
Click Here For Video
GPS Coordinates at Google Maps.
This is the first Class IV rapid, and it comes up fast! This rapid is a possible portage and hazard. However, if you run it correctly you'll have a ton of fun! The rock wall on river right is under cut, and the far left side of the rapid has some dangerous rocks.

This is the horizon line right before the rapid begins. Notice the rock wall on the right.

Best to start on river right in the last eddy against the larger rock. Begin this run by sliding down the tongue that is just to the left of the rock, and paddle toward the left. You will encounter two diagonal waves that you'll want to be paddling into, because they will be trying to flip you and force you into the rock wall on river right.

At the bottom, is a small hole that will also try to flip you and pull you into the right wall.

Matterhorn (Class 5.0, Mile 0.9)
Click Here For Video
Hazardous Rapid, Portaged at most flows!
This is the only Class V-VI rapid, and its portaged at most flows. If portaged on river left, you'll have a great view of the rapid, but have to seal launch to get back in. River right would be easier to portage if you have a raft. But we'll let you decide...

Upper Pinball (Class III+, Mile 1.9)

Lower Pinball (Class III+, Mile 2.0)

Haunted House (Class IV+, Mile 2.3)
Click Here For Video
Haunted House was tricky, it drops into a hole, and then has a very strong flow that pushes you into "The Wall of Pain."

This is "The Wall of Pain," a rock slab that everything was getting washed into. Its a tight rock crevice with strong boils and surging water levels, that made it extremely difficult to paddle out of. Only one of us was able to paddle out after putting up a strong fight.

Paul Martzen writes, “This reminds me of the time that I flipped a raft in Haunted House rapid. I came up underneath the raft and I had a moment or two of thinking I should get out from under there, until the current sucked me deep and the raft was no longer a concern. I remember being stable for a while and swimming up towards the surface, but not making any progress. It was very puzzling. I was not being tumbled or anything. I was suspended vertically. I could not see the surface, but I knew it was up. I was not swimming hard, but taking long strokes. Nothing seemed to be happening. So I thought that maybe, I should conserve oxygen and not swim at all. Worrying about oxygen always sort of detracts from these experiences. I try not to, but it seems hard to help. Any rate, swimming definitely was not helping so I stopped and just hung there, trying to think deep Zen, hibernation sorts of thoughts. I can't remember exactly what I felt as far as the current, but it seemed like I was shuffling sideways. After a little while I was shuffled sideways far enough and I felt myself rising and saw the water getting brighter. Then I allowed myself a stroke again and I surfaced without any more delays. I assume that I was floating down in the room of doom area. The current drops over a wide ledge into narrow channel between the ledge and a wall. There is no room for the current to resurface so it goes deep then moves sideways out to the main channel. I was probably floating above the main sideways flowing current at a level where my lifejacket and neoprene buoyancy were just equal to the downward flowing current. It was an interesting sensation, though I suppose, I should not recommend repeating it.”

Air Mattress (Class III+, Mile 3.2)
The last significant rapid on the Goodwin Canyon Run.

Knights Ferry Public Park
GPS Coordinates at Google Maps.
A public park that has an easy takeout on river right. There is free parking, port-a-potties, hiking trails, boat launching areas, and picnic tables. The Army Corp of Engineers also maintains a free visitor center at Knights Ferry, (209) 881-3517.

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