Tuolumne, S. Fork - Highway 120 Bridge to Rainbow Pool Picnic Area

Tuolumne, S. Fork, California, US


Highway 120 Bridge to Rainbow Pool Picnic Area

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 7 Miles

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
cdec-STO 300 - 600 cfs IV-V 2y320d20h11m 465 cfs (running)

River Description


Despite the uninspiring description in the Holbeck/Stanley ("bible").  This is a fantastic run.  Maybe even a classic now that is has an internet guage and predictable flows. Likely a great wintertime resource in addition to spring melt.
IV - V Lo-Medium Volume Creek.  Pool drop in nature with some longer boulder gardens. Probably 20-25 great rapids, mix of boulder gardens, ledges, and even a few slides. A few good mini gorges in the first mile or two.  Run flattens out and runs thru a ~1/2 m developed area.  After the dam, the run gets a bit steeper and more frequent pool drop. Good Rapids all the way to the take-out.
At similar flows, SF T is:
1. Similar in difficulty but shorter than SF Feather.
2. Easier, more open, and higher quality than Lovers Leap.
3. Much longer and harder than Pauley/Lavazola.
Best comparision is a longer, no hike version of Canyon Creek (SF Yuba trib). 
2 Portages. 20-25' dam (looks runnable, I'll let you test for rebar) and a bigger drop multi-tier 35-40' drop somewhat similar to the "ugly duckling portage" on S Branch Feather. Do beware the obvious piton in the first significant drop of the run.
Take Out = Rainbow Pool (just off of highway 120, just west of Cherry Lake Rd)
Put In = HWY 120 bridge ~6mi upstream of rainbow pool
Recommended Flows = 300-350 is ideal for first timers and/or the faint of heart.  Likely up to 600 if you are bold.
Is this run for me?
If you want to step up to class V creeking, hone your boat scouting and have a fun adventure, go get it at 350cfs or less. Everything looked portageable. If you don't have fun on the first mile, take out at Berkeley camp.
Playground for a confident class V boater.
If you are a class V+ boater and haven't done it, it's worth it. Fun but not overly challenging.

Note: the reach ID'ed by the lat/longitude coordinates is from Rte. 101 to the campground. However, it contains some flatwater. There's some pretty honking gradient from the campground to the main Tuolumne.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-05-20 19:26:17


Rapid Descriptions

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User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 31 2011 (2793 days ago)
Ran this with a buddy 29 May 2011. Gauge 360-380cfs. Upper bit before camp was playful class IV+
boat scouting. Agree this is a good place to get out if you had enough. After the flatwater and the
dam it gorges up. Most horizon lines at that point needed one or both of us out of the boat to
scout. Many scouts were not a quick look on the nearest rock (like LL), but a fair walk each time.
Bunch of solid class Vs. Made for a long day, 8 hours say. Best with small party since several
scouting eddies are small. Disagree strongly with this being merely boat scouting in the gorged
area! Easier than Lover's Leap? We disagree. Agree it feels more open, as in a bit less canopy
cocoon and wider. The quality? Well, it is a bit different than LL but no less satisfying. More
river running feel, less technical. Which do you prefer? Suggest the Leap as the "step-up" run
instead. It stays closer to the road without canyon walls in the way of access if the need arises.
Any portages would also be easier. The class V/V+ boater comments in the description, uggh. A
playground has class V maneuvers with class I consequences. This is not that place. We saw and
waited for only one bear--not even a grizzly. If you have just come off the Stikine at high water
or some such adventure where you could be another animal's food, this may feel like a playground or
not overly challenging by comparison. But if you have, you would not likely describe this run with
those words on AWW. My buddy and I hold other runs as more satisfying and challenging than this for
whatever that is worth to you. Worth doing once sure. Need to check for wood even if running every