Putah Creek - Lake Berryessa (Monticello Dam) to Lake Solano

Putah Creek, California, US


Lake Berryessa (Monticello Dam) to Lake Solano (Lower)

Usual Difficulty I-II(III) (for normal flows)
Length 4.7 Miles

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-11454000 300 - 1600 cfs I-II(III) 01h30m 97.4 cfs (too low)

River Description

Aaron Rough recommends Putah Creek:
"Lower Putah Creek has... lots of wildlife, lots of cool "creekin" scenery, and several spots for playing etc... Too boot this thing pretty much runs year round! It was only at a flow not runnable (300 cfs and below) for a month or so this year so far.....  I just did from the bend (on the map called Strainer Danger) to Lake Solano and it was fantastic! I saw no less than 8 river otters, some of them actually were checking me out and not just swimming off like normal. The waterfowl are in full force but from a cool standpoint. Some cool migratory ducks I haven't ever seen local before, tons of cranes, etc... Coulmn Drop is a true drop right now at this flow and is smooth into a nice wave train. Skin Deep isn't all that shallow and there were some changes in the stream flow but still a clear easy channel to get through. Even this short section was fun and has some fun playspots at ~1600 CFS." I

Ted Tarver does not recommend this creek for kayaking. 
"I worked for four years as a ranger at Lake Solano and would warn anyone trying to run Putah Creek that there are three chutes that have trees across them. Earlier in the year I went with a group who wanted to try it after Cache and on the third one a hard shell got trapped after trying to limbo under the third tree, spun sideways and the kayak was trapped in a strainer under the surface. Luckily he pulled his skirt and was able to get out while trapped underwater. I had to climb out on the limb and divert water flow to pop out the kayak. By fishing access three where the the creek splits there is a limb running completely across the creek where it splits on the left channel. Most people would run the right split. While the water is shallow getting pinned there could be fatal in the right conditions and water flows. I would avoid any runs from fishing access 3 4 and 5. The island right above Lake Solano has some mild whitewater to run and you can keep dragging your kayak around and run it. Cache Creek is simply much safer for whitewater and Lake Solano is perfect for flat water kayaking. Oh and going down to the island above Lake Solano, watch out for the rattly snakes who have a den nearby.  Lastly if you take your kayak in Putah Creek you will need to clean your gear to make sure you do not transport the New Zealand mud snail to other bodies of water since it was one of the first California waters infected with the mud snail."   
Ted Tarver via cfsrivertrips@googlegroups.com, July 30, 2013

New Zealand Mud Snail:  Putah Creek and Lake Solano are infected by this invasive snail.  All boats and gear which contact these waters must be cleaned thoroughly to prevent the spread of this damaging pest.  Boats must be completely dried and cleaned.  Clothing can be frozen to kill these tiny snails.   Dept of Fish and Game information.  

Other Information Sources:
Lower Putah  is Aaron Rough's website about boating this section.
Lake Solano County Park  has a $5 parking fee.  There may also be a boat launching fee. 



StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-08-20 05:56:06


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Put InN/APutin
0.1Highway 128 BridgeN/A
0.5Right side channelN/A
0.6Tree hazardN/A
1.3River AccessN/AAccess
1.6Trees N/A

Rapid Descriptions

Put In (Class N/A)

On the south side of the Highway 128 bridge is a turn off leading to  a large dirt clearing.  Trails lead directly to the river or upstream towards the dam.   

Highway 128 Bridge (Class N/A, Mile 0.1)

Swiftwater starts just upstream of the bridge.  Below the bridge the creek bends right through a line of trees.  Pick an opening between the trees.  Then the creek bends left and narrows into a whitewater chute.

Rapid (Class II, Mile 0.2)

Below the bridge and past a line of trees growing across the channel, the creek narrows and forms a whitewater chute.  Past the chute, the creek widens into a long stretch of flatwater.

Right side channel (Class N/A, Mile 0.5)

The main channel is on the right side of what may be an island.  The channel narrows and swiftwater starts immediately. 

Tree hazard (Class N/A, Mile 0.6)

Whitewater starts at a smaller island.  The right side channel appears to be the better one.  Trees loom overhead and may block the channel. 

Rapid (Class II, Mile 0.7)

Appears to be a fairly large rapid at a left then right turn.

Trees (Class N/A, Mile 0.7)

More trees hang overhead and some may fall underfoot. 

Rapid (Class I, Mile 1.1)

After another stretch of wide flat water, the channel narrows into short distance of swiftwater and whitewater.  Possible tree hazards at the end. 

River Access (Class N/A, Mile 1.3)

There is a public parking area with pit toilets and short access trails to the creek. 

Trees (Class N/A, Mile 1.6)

Best route is not clear

Rapid (Class II, Mile 2.1)

Trees and a bit of whitewater.

Rapid (Class I, Mile 3.3)

Short rapid.

Bend (Class I, Mile 3.4)

The main channel bends sharply right, then gradually left.   Swiftwater starts at the right hand bend and continues through the whole left bend.  The creek is flat past here to lake Solano. 

A left channel appears to be infested with trees, but there is a parking area with river access close by.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
August 10 2013 (1991 days ago)
gaetano76 (155444)
Ran it yesterday at ~600 CFS. The rapid immediately following the Otter Pool (the rapid is called
the ''Long Arm of the Law") after Fly Fishing Rapid is a a definite hazard at this level and needs
to be noted. The right channel is mandatory, and once you get on it you'll see there is an old Oak
Tree branch about 1-1/2" ft in diameter that grows over the entire right channel and at this flow
it is overhanging just high enough for your kayak to clear under but not your body. We tried to
duck under it with no luck. Hit my (helmet protected) head on the branch and knocked me off my boat
immediately. I was able to grab ahold of the right bank to safety right after the branch but my
buddy had no such luck. Instead of ducking (like I tried), he attempted the limbo under the tree
and still hit his head, knocking him out of the boat and he ended up swimming the entire rapid. He
took a beatdown from the numerous rocks down the rapid and his boat was pinned against a rock at
the bottom. This is NOT a Class 2 rapid and needs to be upgraded at this flow rate (anywhere from
~500-900 CFS) because of the hazard and the long length of the rapid. Here is a photo of the rapid
at ~480 CFS and you can see it's barely just low enough to possibly clear the Oak Tree branch on
river right ( http://cacreeks.com/photos/putahl05.jpg ), and it would still need to be a quick
maneuver. This rapid is a mandatory portage at just a bit higher flows than pictured.
March 28 2006 (4683 days ago)
Aaron RoughDetails
Ran it at ~1850 CFS yesterday. Bigger and a little tight under some of the trees that normally are
about 6 feet overhead. Lower section had some great play spots.
February 4 2006 (4735 days ago)
Aaron RoughDetails
Ran it this morning at ~1100 CFS and it was great! Fun boating on a cool section of river.