Willow Creek, NF - 1. Grey Mt. Campground to Chilkoot Campground

Willow Creek, NF, California, US


1. Grey Mt. Campground to Chilkoot Campground (upper)

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 300 fpm

Last Drop

Last Drop
Photo of Daniel Lundberg by Ian Buckley taken 04/08/07 @ 40 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
No. Willow Creek Near Sugar Pine
dream-270 75 - 200 cfs V 01h09m 39 cfs (too low)

River Description

This is an interesting creek with some big, and steep bedrock sections.

Take-out: Take highway 41 to the Oakhurst area and to the Bass Lake road. Go to Bass Lake and take Beasore Rd to Chilkoot campground. There are other spots where the creek is semi-close to the road, but you will need to study a map to figure them out. Chilkoot ought to be good enough. Hike down from your car to scout the creek wherever you decide to exit, so you recognize the right place. topozone map, google map.

Put-in: Drive about a mile past Chilkoot and turn left onto a gravel road going 3 miles to Grey Mt Campground. Put in at the bridge crossing the creek. topozone map, google map.

The flow will seem pitiful at the start, but within a few hundred yards or so, you will hit bedrock dropping away and then the flow will seem just fine.

This creek has long sections of beautiful, steep bedrock slides and falls which are mostly runnable. All of the major drops have been run, but many people will portage some of them. Portages around big drops tend to be across steep dirty slopes on small trails.

Alternating with the nice bedrock sections are fairly long sections of steep, technical slalom boating. Much of these technical sections are still boat scoutable, but there will be many places throughout the run where one person will need to scout from rocks or shore and decide for the other boaters as to route or whether to portage.

In the middle of the run there are also long sections of junk; as in irrigated rock piles. Most of the junk sections are sort of boatable and boat scoutable, but with great risk of pinning and broaching. There are a few portages around siphons, or similar, and lots of portages around logs. Logs and log jams are an issue throughout the run. Portaging tends to be fairly easy overall though, so that compensates somewhat for the number of portages.

Nathan Hunkapiller writes:

N. Willow (from Grey Mt to Chilkoot) was an interesting run but by no means a favorite of mine. I enjoyed the first mile with it's nice granite bedrock drops. The middle miles were exhaustingly crappy with many log portages and junk that is runnable but not altogether worth it when considering the fun factor vs. piton/broach factor. I was pleased that it opened up again in the end with a few more nice bedrock drops. Great take out drop!
May 2, 2005

The Lower Willow Creek section is considered to be a higher quality section with much less junk and more clean drops.
When in the vicinity, also check out Upper Big Creek and Lower Big Creek near Wawona in Yosemite.

Here is my Story on how not to run this creek, or any other.

http://www.myvideo.de/watch/3319299   NF Willow video:from May 2006

Other Information Sources:

Land Stewardship Council - PG&E lands proposals



StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2009-01-28 14:30:30


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Grey Mt. CampgroundPutin Photo
0.1Clean BreakIVPhoto
0.2Back ScratcherIVPhoto
0.2Land MineIV+Photo
0.3Whack Whack5.0Waterfall
0.5Split Wheel SlideIV
0.7Rocket FlumeIVPhoto
0.8Broken ElbowIVPhoto
0.8Skull Crusher5.0Photo
1.0Junkie SectionPortage
2.3Paddle Snatcher5.0Waterfall Photo
3.0Chilkoot Creek Falls5.0Takeout Waterfall Photo Video

Rapid Descriptions

Grey Mt. Campground



Primitive campground and bridge across the creek. Gauging station upstream of bridge.

Clean Break (Class IV, Mile 0.1)


Photo of Evan Lloyd by Dan Hogg

Steep slides and ledges begin immediately and curve out of sight to the left. Worth looking at.

Back Scratcher (Class IV, Mile 0.2)

Back Scratcher

Back Scratcher
Photo of Daniel Lundburg by Dan Hogg taken 04/07/07 @ 45

This is another sweet slide. There are multiple lines to choose from. All can be boat scouted.

Land Mine (Class IV+, Mile 0.2)


Photo of Evan Lloyd by Dan Hogg

Boulder garden with a small slide into a 3 foot drop.

Whack Whack (Class 5.0, Mile 0.3)
A short section of easy water is followed by this big waterfall. Scout or portage on river left.

Split Wheel Slide (Class IV, Mile 0.5)
Charge out onto the slab to avoid the undercut boulder in the center.

Rocket Flume (Class IV, Mile 0.7)

Blast Off

Blast Off
Photo of Ion Berkley by Dan Hogg taken 04/07/07 @ 45

The river constricts into a small V slot with the right wall overhanging. Hang on for the ride and the ejection into a pool at the end.

Broken Elbow (Class IV, Mile 0.8)

Ion splits the gap

Ion splits the gap
Photo of Ion Berkley by Dan Hogg

This small drop takes you through a narrow chute. Elbow pads will keep you safe on this one.

Skull Crusher (Class 5.0, Mile 0.8)


Photo of Evan Lloyd by Dan Hogg

This rapid has 3 drops. The 1st on can be run center, or far right. Be careful that you don't get sucked under the water fall. The 2nd drop should be run far right down a narrow slot that slides into a pool. The 3rd drop is best run on the right with a right boof stroke. This rapid has a sticky hole at the bottom that will keep you and your boat for quite some time.

Junkie Section
This part of the run is a real bummer. The creek constricts into a series of log portages and manky drops. This section goes on for almost a mile. Make your way through it and keep your head high. Good things will follow.

Paddle Snatcher (Class 5.0, Mile 2.3)

Mega splash

Mega splash
Photo of Evan Lloyd by Dan Hogg

The creek drops through a narrow defile into a small pool. Paddlers then have to climb the eddy fence to boof over a very narrow slot into a narrow pool. The recirculation in this bottom pool could be bad, so set a safety next to it on river right.
The whole drop plus 3 smaller drops can be portaged on the river left side. The best scout is on the right and the only safety spots are also on the right side.

Chilkoot Creek Falls (Class 5.0, Mile 3.0)
Click Here For Video

First Falls

First Falls
Photo by Daniel Lundberg taken 06/25/06 @ 50 cfs

A very distinctive rapid is just before Chilkoot Creek comes in on the left. A long slide suddenly drops 10 feet into a pool with an angular boulder. The trick is to avoid smacking the boulder. Scout or portage on left. Then follow the trail around to the left up and across Chilkoot Creek, then up the hill to the campgrounds.

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