San Joaquin, California, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV+ (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||55 fpm|
The short Squaw Leap run is just the tail end of the Patterson Bend run, but
unlike the rest of that section which seldom has boatable flows, Squaw Leap regularly has
boatable flows every Fall and also frequently during peak runnoff in the Spring even if upstream
dams are not spilling. Typically, the Squaw Leap season is 4 weeks in late October into November,
when the Kerchoff #2 powerhouse is shut off for maintanence and Kerchoff #1 powerhouse operates
instead. Flows are not guaranteed, but usually do happen. See: Kerchoff #1
Powerhouse to look at historical records.
Getting there: From Fresno, take highway 168 into the foothills. Turn left on Auberry Road to the town of Auberry. In Auberry, veer left onto Powerhouse Road at a fork next to the school. From Auberry, follow Powerhouse Rd. just a few miles to a left turn onto Smalley Rd. There should be signs for the "San Joaquin River Gorge Recreation Area" (SJRGRA) which is owned by the BLM. Follow Smalley Rd. to the very end which is the take-out. A gate and some parking areas indicate that you are on top of the underground Kerchoff #2 powerhouse. Walk down the gated road down to the river at the powerhouse outlet, or find the trail (lately overgrown) to the same spot, if you wish to inspect the end of the run.
Put-in: From the end of the road, backtrack 1.5 miles and turn left at a junction. Immediately park at a parking area as the road is gated just beyond. From here you must carry down to the old powerhouse. Carry around the first gate and follow the road towards some sheds, (1/4 mile). Just before the sheds another gate blocks a narrow road dropping off to the left down to the powerhouse (4/10 mile). From the parking lot at the powerhouse climb down an awkward 50 feet to the river.
Take-out: Drive to the very end of Smalley Rd. and park outside a gate. The transformer station and high tension lines indicate that you are on top of the new underground powerhouse. On the river, paddle a last long class 4ish slalom and eddy out on river left in the channel below the outlets from the underground powerhouse. Carry up to the left of the outlets and look for a trail heading steeply up the hill, or just work around a fence and follow the paved road a gradual but long way up the hill.
General description: For a warm up at the put-in, paddle upstream past the
powerhouse till your path is blocked by boulders. Paddling downstream, pass under a bridge and
then enter a fairly long class 2-3ish rapid. The horizon line of a steep class 4, follows
immediately. Worth scouting to see the best lines. A nasty hole is at bottom left. A long pool
and big boulders follow. Next rapid is a narrow chute on river right. Stay on the tongue. The
right side hole and eddy seems to keep boats and swimmers. A long pool leads to upper Squaw Leap
Falls, a huge boulder blocking the entire channel. Scout or portage on river left. Run a tight
creekish route on far right. Scout lower SL falls on river right. Portage is very difficult. Run
or ski jump a center falls, then run the chute down the left wall. A nasty hole blocks the center
and right side at the bottom of the chute. Sends you very deep. A long pool allows you to pick up
any pieces. (the right chute has been run I think, but looks uglier and the bottom center boulder
is massively undercut on that side.) Several short but interesting class 3 - 4 rapids occupy the
remainder of the gorge. The river bends to the left and opens up, then a wonderful long class 4
slalom finishes the run. Boaters can continue down into the Millerton Bottoms run if
they are willing to deal with the take-out issues of that section.
The parking area at SJRGRA is about 1,000 feet elevation, with lots of Oaks, grass, brush, and a few pines. There are toilets, picnic tables, and now, even potable water. Camping is free. It is a popular area in fall, winter and spring, for horse back riding, hiking and mt. Biking. Groceries, gas and food are available in Auberry and Prather.
For more information about the SJRGRA see: SJGRA
Information about Millerton Reservoir State Rec Area is available at Millerton SRA
PG&E Kerchoff Project - FERC Relicensing:
Flows for this reach come from the PG&E Kerchoff #1 powerhouse. The PG&E Kerchoff Project, FERC project No. 96 was last relicensed on Nov. 8, 1979. The license expires on Nov. 30, 2022. The project consists of the small Kerchoff dam &reservoir, and the two powerhouses. The generators at the two powerhouses have a combined rated maximum capacity of 174,075 KiloWatts. Search for FERC documents related to Kerchoff at http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/search/fercgensearch.asp In the Docket Number box, write P-96-* to do a wild card search for any documents related to Project 0096.
The relicensing process typically starts about 4 years ahead of time, so will likely start in 2018. In this process, AW will advocate for scheduled releases from Kerchoff Dam to facilitate whitewater boating in Patterson Bend and Squaw Leap. We will also advocate for real time flow information below Kerchoff #2 when Millerton is low enough for boating in the Millerton Bottoms section.
Temperance Flat Dam:Temperance Flat Dam
This area of the San Joaquin is presently under study for a large dam and reservoir. See: Upper San Joaquin Basin Storage Investigation Three sites were under serious investigation. As of 2014, the final selected site is about one mile upstream of the confluence with Finegold Creek and would have a maximum size of around1.4 million ac/ft. Despite the large size maximum annual yield is around 100,000 ac/ft. This reservoir will bury the Patterson Bend, Squaw Leap and the Millerton Bottoms sections. The study has maps and updates on the proposal.
Friends of the River Letter to Governor Schwarzenneger opposing new dams.
For more information on this and other local paddling rivers, please feel free to contact these local clubs:
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Kerchoff #1 Powerhouse|
|0.7||1st Squaw Leap||5.0|
|0.8||2nd Squaw Leap Falls||5.0|
|1.8||Kerchoff #2 powerhouse|
The tailwaves of the first rapid extend very close to a big wide horizon line above this short but steep drop. The right and middle tend to be blocked by barely submerged rocks, or not submerged rocks at 900 cfs. A deep hole blocks the bottom left.
at 850 cfs
at 4200 cfs, the rapid is still pretty meaty!
Float through a pleasant maze of huge boulders till you come to an intimidating horizon line. Boulders block the channel, leaving a steep narrow chute on river right. Scout from river left. Run the middle of the tongue through the chute. Holes lie on both sides. The right side hole and eddy can potentially trap swimmers and gear. Rescue by rope can be necessary
at 850 cfs
A huge boulder blocks the channel. At typical Fall flows of 1,800 cfs or less it is possible to scout and portage on river left. A tight tricky line can be boated around the right side of the boulder. The left side is a nasty siphon.
at 4300 cfs
If Patterson Bend is running, it will be necessary to scout or portage on river right with much greater difficulty. Both sides of the boulder will have large holes, but boaters can boof off the boulder to skirt the edge of the right side hole.
at 4300 cfs
A cluster of boulders block the entrance to this long rapid. Scout river right. At typical Fall flows, it is fairly easy to get out and scout, but portage requires climbing over boulders, and then along an awkward cliff. The portage route basically ends a few feet before the rapid ends, so it takes creativity and courage to reenter a boat.. Good climbers can help others across to a ledge in the pool below. You should consider this rapid a mandatory run. The entrance is a short waterfall in the center. You can boof the left edge, but old timers just ran down the tongue and got away with it. There is a strong boil and outlflow which shoots you to the left.
850 cfs vs. 4500 cfs
Paddle across a short pool to the left channel and charge over a series of ledges. A very sticky hole occupies the right side of this channel at the bottom. Hit it on the left or swim. The right side channel looks ugly but has supposedly been run. The huge boulder seperating the channels at the bottom is completely undercut. The room visible underneath at fish flows is very big. If Patterson Bend is running it will not be easy to exit a boat and scout, so it may take a team effort to get one person out to where they can see the routes. Fortunately, at high flows, a clean route opens up against the left wall. Just stay in the chute against the left wall through the whole rapid.
at 4700 cfs
Boat scoutable. A relatively long and straight chute piles into a big jagged boulder. It is easy to stay to the right, but exciting anyway.
A cluster of boulders block the view, causing worry. Paddle to the first eddy and the rest of the rapid becomes visible. There can be some good play spots at the bottom of this rapid even for long boats. A small but retentive hole is on river left. The left edge of the nearby rock can provide nose stands for big boats.
Flat water leads around the corner towards Slalom rapid, but a little ways before there is a short drop past two holes. At some flows there is a decent surf wave below.
The last rapid in this section is a long slalom that weaves between several large holes. It finishes with a nice wave train ending at the slackwater from the Kerchoff #2 powerhouse. It is pretty easy to carry back upstream and run this rapid as many times as you want. Also, one trail up to the parking area starts near the top of this rapid.
American Whitewater Opposes Temperance Flat Dam (CA)
October 30, 2014