20+ years of erosion and flows have begun to reshape the riverbed, following the devastating 1997 flood. Boulders have fallen to the canyon floor, and sediment has shifted. Rapids and features are once again becoming distinct, boofs exist, and eddies can be found. Every year the river improves a little, and in some ways becomes harder, in some ways cleaner. It's become a super unique run, and is great fun for a quick lap or two! Thumb shuttles are also easy here.
Rapids are starting to become more distinct, though most of the run is still one continuous section with harder/easier bits. After the pool with big tree stumps at mile 1.8, it's "game on" for about 2.5 nonstop miles, followed by more boogie/rapids all the way to Walker. Even the calmer sections will have you constantly paddling to avoid shallow spots/holes and choosing lines. Don't put on if you aren't physically fit enough to actively paddle for 45+ minutes straight! This is not a joke, even physically fit paddlers will be tired by the time they hit the crux, and this run is NOT the place to swim.
500 cfs (minimum): The run is class 4 and quite bumpy. Expect to spend lots of time smashing rocks and avoiding pins. Holes are small but may contain badly placed rocks.
800 - 1200 (optimal): Most of the run is pleasantly engaging class 4, with fun boofs and constant moves. A few badly placed rocks exist, but are mostly covered. The harder section definitely ramps up to 4+ simply because of its continuous nature and many holes which could trip you up. As flows get higher the run quickly gets faster/harder.
1600+ (gnarly): Extremely continuous with big holes, and less rocks. Water at the "tree stump pool" will be ripping downstream about as fast as flatwater can go, and the run will be one nonstop rapid once you peel out of it. The hardest section certainly borders on class V at 1600, and the rest of the run is an absolute riot. Upper limits on flow are unknown, but at 2K+ this thing probably looks and boats similarly to the North Fork Payette.
Highway 395 runs immediately alongside this run, making access/egress/shuttle quite convenient. You can also get a good feeling for most of the rapids from the road, but beware that the hardest sections are not roadside.
When the road climbs above the river (1.9 miles upstream of Mill Flat Picnic Area) its a good idea to pull off and scout the biggest rapid of the run, which is essentially just a long series of fat holes. On the river you will not be able to stop above it and scout, and if it doesn't look good to you -you'll probably want to put in somewhere downstream or wait for lower water levels.
Additional reference (a bit outdated):
Cassady & Calhoun, Holbek & Stanley, Martin
Alternate put-in, and the last calm water before the run really begins in ernest. Large tree stumps in the riverbed are left over from past drought and/or landslide events.
Putting in here ensures virtually no warm up. Upstream are a couple class 2 & 3 rapids you will skip, but not much.
The whitewater starts off with a bang! A nice boulder garden with some boofs, leads into a long and fast runout with some holes and boofs. Most lines are generally good to go, but some holes may be bigger than others.
This rapid is about 1/4 mile long before letting up into some continuous class 2 & 3.
Marks the start of the hardest section, though it feels similar to the first rapid. Description/lines are basically the same, and the river even bends the same direction with a few random holes/rocks. Hope you're feeling fresh, because from here there is no let up until you are at the bottom of the "milk" (approximately 200 fpm in the next mile of whitewater).
The river begins to steepen and gets mankier. When it makes an abrupt left turn, you will be tempted to swing wide and eddy out right. Don't do it!
The best (cleanest) line is cutting hard left at the top of the turn, boofing through several holes and weird currents to the left of a large mid-river boulder. A 1/4 mile of continued big holes and waves follow the rapid, leading to the lip of TittyMilk Falls.
Part one of "TittyMilk Falls", and the hardest individual part of the run. Scout this from the road beforehand, as you won't be stopping above it, and some parts may be junky or have big holes.
Following Side Boob, the river enters a straight away with many big white boulders and holes. Once it really steepens, you will be at the top of this rapid: the entrance of which is gaurded by a big hole, and followed by a large mid-stream boulder. Left on both is often easier, and will present you with a nice curler/tongue into the meat of the rapid. At most flows, the rest of the drop consists of a series of large holes which can be run middle/left. Stay on your toes, the last one is the biggest!
A nearly 1/2 mile long runnout follows the Titties. Although the moves are not distinct, the river remains steep and contains many back to back holes which must be punched or hit straight. At this point your arms may be burning!
Eventually the pace slacks somewhat, but be on your toes for a few sleeper holes before you pass Shingle Mill Flat Picnic Area.
Easy to scout from the road, this rapid is on a steep right hand bend. The typical line is to stay middle/left through a series of chaotic ledges and holes, punching a fat bottom hole. Ends in a small and pleasant gorge.
A nice gorge section, with some big boulders and entertaining whitewater. Nothing too hard but lots of fun little lines and some eddies.
Easily seen from the road, and recognized by big boulders and notable white cliffs.
Last section of distinct whitewater, and probably the first thing you'll notice when driving up the road. Its a small narrows with some fun boofs/weird wave features.
Below here the river becomes less distinct and is mostly a continuous wavetrain of splashy class 2 or 3. Many different takeout options exist, but make sure that there is actually an eddy where you intend to stop.
Ran this section today at a little over 1000CFS. Clean with no channels blocked with wood. Rocks were well padded and holes were mostly wave holes. Really fun run but really felt like one big long rapid. A swim would be very consequential due to the continuous nature. We put in at the bridge where the W. Walker goes under 395 and took out at the river park just south of Walker. The AW Description does not mention that Large changes occurred to the streamed after the 1997 flood and apparently much of the river was altered to give it a similar but easier character to things like the N. Fk. of the Payette.
I felt like it had bits of class IV munchiness with Class III moves but Class V consequence at this level. Higher flows would make it considerably more scary, and lower flows would make it more technical. we felt like the 1000-1200 level was optimal flows for this run.
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