Stanislaus, Middle Fork - 2. Clark's Fork bridge to Donnells Lake

Stanislaus, Middle Fork, California, US


2. Clark's Fork bridge to Donnells Lake (Donnells)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 115 fpm
Max Gradient 140 fpm

Donnells Reservoir

Donnells Reservoir
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/05/05

River Description

Great late season run due to the high watershed. Beautiful granite boulders and prestine forest if you can pause the action enough to enjoy the scenery. Run is 4 miles long with an extremely scenic 2 mile lake paddle out.   You can add a few more miles of excellent rapids at the beginning by launching upstream below the highway 108 bridge.

"The run itself is pretty fun. Lots of read and run Class IV and a few bigger drops. There are a lot of rapids, it's pretty cool. You can boat scout most of the drops, but you may want to look at a few. Typically, one drop is portaged. There may also be wood portages. Depending on the level of Donnells Reservior/log jam at the res., there is an awesome or a terrfying drop right into the lake." new Randolph on in 2009.

Put in:  The Clark's Fork bridge is the furthest downstream public access and is listed as the end of the next run upstream (The Dardanells).  However, launching here puts one in the middle of a steep rapid and misses out on a few miles of excellent class 4 rapids upstream.   If you would like to get more warm up and paddle some really great rapids,  put in anywhere below the highway 108 bridge.  There are a number of decent options such as Boulder Flat Campground.

Take out:  Paddle 30 or more minutes across the reservoir to the dam.  It is reported to be a much easier take out on the right side of the dam rather than on the left.  Walk across the dam to the roads on the left side.

Donnells reservoir is notoriously difficult to get to and the shuttle is a long round about drive from the put in. Randolf reports in 2006 that from Highway 108, take the paved road to Beardsley Reservior for 1-2 miles to FR 5N95, turn right. Go 2-3 miles to FR 5N09X and turn right. This 4WD road leads to the Donnell Lake dam in approx 10 miles. However, this road can be gated, restricting drive in access.   Call the Summit Ranger District at (209) 965-3434 to find out road conditions.

Kurt Angle reported in 2006 that one can hike up an old closed road from Donnell reservoir in about 2 hours and thus avoid the very long shuttle from Beardsley reservoir. Chris Tulley provides the following detail on the hike out. From Hwy 108, the access road is an unmarked dirt road located .8 miles east of turn off for Mill Creek Campground and 1 mile West of the turn off for Eagle Meadow. Turn left at the first fork and drive strait ~.75 mi to a dead end w/ sizable parking area where you can leave a vehicle.

At the end of the run, paddle across the reservoir to about ~1/4 mile before the dam.  Take out on the left where several fishing boats are locked to trees. Follow a cable up the steep bank to the old road bed. Hike up at every juction until you get to the second concrete foundation. Find a faint trail off to the left up hill from the foundation. This leads to an old road bed. Follow this to parking area. Hike is approximately ~1500 vertical feet over mostly well graded terrain (exception being the first 200meters from the lake shore. taking 1-3 hours, based on your portaging endurance and stamina.

Other Information Sources:
Chronicle Story about getting to Donnells reservoir.    Donnell Reservoir Stanislaus Nat Forest info page 
AW-PG&E flow page  Realtime flow information should be available in the future.
1-866-629-3925 AW-PG&E Flow Phone



StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2011-08-23 17:07:01

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
4.0Reservoir RapidVPortage Playspot

Rapid Descriptions

Reservoir Rapid (Class V, Mile 4.0)

As the reservoir level drops a very large rapid appears.   It is reported to be a great rapid at some levels, but it gets too extreme as the reservoir drops even more.   Log jams can also form in the reservoir at the base of the rapid, so scouting is important and portage is appropriate at lower reservoir levels. 

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