Willow Creek, NF - 2. Chilkoot Campground to Bass Lake

Willow Creek, NF, California, US


2. Chilkoot Campground to Bass Lake (lower)

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

The Granite Gorge Section

The Granite Gorge Section
Photo by Daniel Lundberg taken 06/25/06 @ 50 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
No. Willow Creek Near Sugar Pine
dream-270 40 - 150 cfs V 01h16m 24 cfs (too low)

River Description

This lower run is better than the upper section because it has a lot less junk, has more big drops and has many bigger drops. The run starts off with a 7' waterfall into a small pool. 


Chilkoot Falls


From there, the river is tight and technical rock bashing.  One must negociate dozens of rocky rapids that often have wood in them.  Most of the drops are read and run, and generally the cleanest line is where the most water is flowing. After a mile or so you will see granite on the right bank, you will want to boat scout here, for this is the first large drop. 


 Cave Man


After the aforementioned drop, the run opens up into small slides and boofs.


Dead End Slide


After a few fun rapids, you will see a bus size rock on river left.  This rock is the midway point of the run.  Following the rock, the creek flattens out and the scenery is quite pretty.  In 2008, there was one log portage and several log limbos, before the creek opened into the gorge section.


Halfway point 


The Gorge section consists of several slides and small drops.  The entire gorge can be scouted on river right. None of the drops are bigger then 5-7' but the entire section is boxed-in, so swimming would be bad and rescue would be tricky. Below the last drop of the Gorge, the current dies down and you can slowly paddle into the last eddy.  This is a no-stress move, but don't miss the eddy.  The drop that follows is big and can be scouted on the left or the right.




The Willow Gorge


The following drop has been dubbed Mike's Drop.  Partly because a Mike got the first D, and another Mike sprained his ankle in the pot hole.  If you run it on the right, you will slide 20-30+ feet and land in a large pot hole.  Then you come rushing out of the pot hole, hitting a rooster tail, and slide into a small pool.  The rock wall on the bottom right looks sketchy but generally is not in play. Other lines can be run on Mike's drop, but they are much more dangerous.



Broken Ankles


After Mike's drop there are 3-4 long slides that can be boat scouted.  Once you hit the bottom slide, you will see a large rock in the middle of the creek.  Beyond this rock is the horizon line of Devil's Slide.  Devil's is the largest drop on the run, and consists of five distinct drops.  It's hard to estimate the gradient of Devil’s slide, but over one hundred feet would not be an exaggeration. If you are not up to run the entire section, you can hike down on river left and seal launch into the last slide.


Devil's Slide


After Devil's Slide, there are a couple more read and run slides and then the creek flattens out again.  Keep paddling until you come upon another granite gorge.  This gorge is a Mandatory portage.  If you've come this far, this gorge will look fairly easy, however what you can't see is that much of the creek flows under a boulder in the last drop.  One boater got sucked into this sieve and was barely able to crawl out of his boat before his boat was completely sucked under the rock.  It took multiple attempts,  over several days, to retrieve the boat.  The retrieval required two come-a-longs, and several broken ropes.  The boat was folded and had a crack along the stern.  Please walk this one.

A little ways after the portaged gorge, you will see Angel's Falls.  This is a large slide into a pool.  The slide is straight forward, just be sure to avoid the piton rock on the left.  The landing zone is a small pool above an unrunnable rapid.  Be sure to set safety, so that no boater gets washed into rapid that follows the slide.


Angel's Falls


There are several drops below Angel's Falls.  Some runnable, some not so much.  From Angel's Slide, there is a trial on river right that will take you back to your car, if you choose to portage the remaining drops. 


Bleeding Pit Of Death 


Happy Endings


A trail follows this creek for the lower half of the section on the river left, though it is often high on the hill. Logs and log jams can be a problem anywhere in the run, so always be on the lookout.

Take-out: Take highway 41 to the Oakhurst area and to the Bass Lake road. Go to Bass Lake and veer left to the east side of the lake. The highway crosses the creek within a mile or two. There is parking on the river right side near the bridge. There is also a lower road that gives access to the lake if you run the final waterfalls into the lake. Trails lead upstream on both sides of the creek. The river left trail is shown on maps, but the river right trail is more direct and has easier access to the Devil's Slide pools. Above the Devil's Slides there is a log crossing connecting the two trails. The river left side trail continues upstream.

Put-in: Continue on the highway past the creek to Beasore Rd. Take Beasore to Chilkoot campground and hike the short ways down to the creek.

Google earth has fairly high resolution images of this area, so one can distinguish many of the bedrock sections. One can also see potential access points, but it is difficult to see where Chilkoot campground is.

Here is a video rundown of Lower Willow Creek.  The flow was between 48-55 cfs. The video starts at the top of the run and sequentially takes you down the rapids. 


More footage can be found here.


Other Information Sources:

Land Stewardship Council - PG&E lands proposals



StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-04-15 19:00:55


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Chilkoot FallsIVPutin Waterfall Photo
0.7CavemanWaterfall Photo
0.8Dead End SlideIVPhoto
1.9Willow GorgeIVPhoto
2.1Broken AnklesWaterfall Photo
2.3Devil's SlideWaterfall Photo
3.1Toilet Bowl GorgePortage Hazard Photo
3.4Angel's FallsHazard Waterfall Photo
3.5Bleeding Pit of DeathPhoto
3.6Happy EndingsIV+Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Chilkoot Falls (Class IV, Mile 0.0)

First Falls

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

First Rapid of the day


Portage Falls

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

River drops several feet into a shallow pool. Rock is slightly undercut on bottom right.

Dead End Slide (Class IV, Mile 0.8)

a rapid

a rapid
Photo by Daniel Lundberg taken 06/25/06 @ 50 cfs

Slender slide that takes you into a wall unless you turn left halfway down.

Mushroom (Class III, Mile 0.9)


Photo of Evan Lloyd by Daniel Lundburg @ 50

This is a auto-boof rock.

Willow Gorge (Class IV, Mile 1.9)

The Granite Gorge Section

The Granite Gorge Section
Photo by Daniel Lundberg taken 06/25/06 @ 50 cfs

Multiple drops and slides over a 200 yard distance

Broken Ankles

2nd falls we walked around

2nd falls we walked around
Photo by Daniel Lundberg taken 06/25/22 @ 50 cfs

Large slide into a pot hole. Height is around 65 feet according to Google Earth.

Devil's Slide


Photo of Gene Hacker by Christen Hacker taken 05/10/08 @ 43

Huge drop. Class VI. Possible class V option is to seal launch into the last slide in the sequence.

Toilet Bowl Gorge

Toilet Sieve (No water)

Toilet Sieve (No water)
Photo by Dan Hogg taken 05/19/08 @ 10

Nasty sieve in bottom drop. Do not run.

Angel's Falls

Angel's Falls

Angel's Falls
Photo of Evan Lloyd by Christen Hacker taken 05/10/08 @ 43

Big slide into a small pool. Be careful not to wash into the next rapid, it is likely to cause bodily harm or worse.

Bleeding Pit of Death


Photo of Gene Hacker by Christen Hacker taken 05/10/08 @ 43

This drop starts with a slide, into a 8-9' drop, with a hole at the bottom.

Happy Endings (Class IV+, Mile 3.6)

Happy Endings

Happy Endings
Photo of Evan Lloyd by Christen Hacker taken 05/10/08 @ 43

Flume slide on river right. Beware of the concrete walls.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 11 2008 (3908 days ago)
Evan LloydDetails
Dan Hogg reports: Well Paddlers, Another great Adventure with Evan and Daniel. No injuries, not
counting sore thumb from previous weekend that I hit on a rock again, good paddling, good rapids,
and great company capable of rescues. Evan says there were no swims on the lower run, but he's not
counting the hike up-creek to run the final drop of upper run. He didn't swim, again, but I did.
And since bad things run in series of three's, I should be done( at least for a while; final
score...Dan-0, Willow creek-3). The writeup is correct. There is less "junk" on this run and the
rapids we ran were beautiful with some technical & tight lines. We had approx. 4 portages due to
logs, and 4 due to potential bodily damage from gravity vs. rocks. Once we reached the "Devils
Slide" area. Recongnizable by ; nudists, fence on river-left side w/easy trail, horizon line with
only tree tops in the distance(biggest hint), continuous granite slide/rapids to last pool, with an
eddy and view of Bass lake. Unfortunately, we didn't get to paddle too much after that. Each time
we made it to the creek, we didn't get far w/o having another portage. Plus time/fatigue (at least
for me) was becoming a factor. After Devil's Slide, there were two more big drops/slides. We
scouted the first and after seeing logs/rocks in the last drop of three(once you did first drop,
you were committed to run all three) we easily portaged. Once on the trail down( we knew from
hikers that we were close to the road) we basically didn't stop till we reached the road, took a
swim, and just I hiked down the rest of the way w/o kayak to save time/energy to get the car.
Without a doubt, the gem of this run is a 200-300 yard granite gorge with 25ft slide into and 8-9
more drops before smooth narrow deep chanel ending with our 2nd portage of the day due to big
drop/slide with rocks, and tigers and bears, OH MY! Well, actually it was about a 40-50ft slide
with drops mixed in for good measure! Evan and I were really thinking about this one, but you know
what they say about "the longer you look at a rapid, the more time you'll spend in it when you run
it". The deciding factor was lack of rescue points, which were about nil. So we hiked. The scenery
on this run is awesome. In a few tranquil areas, you felt like you were hours from civilization.
The lightning and thunder as we were leaving for home was incredible as well. As with most of my
recent trips, I will be sore for a few more days and ready for more adventure real soon. Thanks
again to Evan and Daniel for making this another successful run. Without them, my kayak would still
be bobbing around behind the waterfall of Chilkoot Falls at the end of the upper run. What a way to
start your day, a swim and tough boat rescue on the first drop! Happy paddling all! Dan June