Bear Creek drains a high Alpine valley deep in the John Muir Wilderness and is overlooked by spectacular 13000 foot peaks. The run is a formidable undertaking due to tough hike in at altitude and the demanding paddling and portaging to complete the run. Technically an overnight trip on Bear creek requires a Wilderness permit for which there is a quota (and a fee only if it is reserved in advance). The creek cuts through classic Sierra granite terrain scattered with groves of Pine and Aspen and presents many challenging rapids and portages, not to mention a very significant amount of wood.
A shortish class IV warm up with one short portage leads quickly to the sight of rapidly increasing gradient, minimal eddies and continuous white water so get out to scout and set safety. This is the top of "The Big Lebowski", a 3/4 mile slide of substantial gradient and some significant consequences. Below this and without pause lies a large and stout rapid, so be sure to identify an exit point as most will portage river right.
Further hazard laden rapids quickly lead to the top of a mandatory portage river right around a spectacular cataract. A spirited seal launch immediately below this (and above the next waterfall) is required as the portage route now changes sides. The 20 foot vertical waterfall immediately below appears to have a shallow landing and has yet to be run. Further bushwacking allows the river to be regained once the gradient has become sane again.
Many smaller rapids, some clean, some mank, continue until another well concealed unrun waterfall is again reached as the river suddenly turns to the left. Further portaging river left leads to a good route into this new gorge. More good rapids lead to Twin Falls, where two slides drop into a scenic pool (an ideal camp site for the ascent and good place to leave overnight gear).
The nature of the creek changes subtly here and now long easy pools are interspersed by fierce mini-gorges, stout drops, and never ending wood portages. Many drops still remain unrun here, partially because they are wickidly stout, partially because some drops need different waterlevels to be safely runnable and partially because many are full of wood. Nearing the end of the run, some sections clear up and become more continuously runnable with some great slides.
The first descent was done in June 2007 by Culley Thomas, Macy Burnham, Amanda Maruich, Roman Nelson, Shawn Hartje and Ben Hawthorne, and it was paddled again several times in summer 2008
Other Information Sources: Video by Hartje First Descent 6-3-2007
There is a stick gauge a quarter mile upstream of the takeout. The gauging station is clearly visible 150 feet below the trail. An optimium level to run the most rapids might be XXX on this stick gauge. On the 15 June 2008 the water was high, on the 23 June 2008 and 3 June 2007 the water level was close to ideal. Comparable gauges might be SF Merced In Wawona and SF Kings.
Permits are not required for this reach.
Getting there: From Fresno, take Highway 168 to Huntington Lake. Take Kaiser Pass road towards Edison Reservoir. Vermillion Valley dam forms Edison reservoir. Highway 168 is excellent and fast. Kaiser Pass road is narrow, pot-holed and slow, but very scenic. From Fresno, figure 1.5 - 2 hours to Huntington Lake then another hour to the Trail Head for the Bear Creek Diversion which is clearly signposted off the Lake Eidson Road. Park here if you have a low cleance vehicle, and hike an extra 1.5 miles uphill. However if you have a high clearance 4x4 then continue slowly up the rocky road to the Bear Creek Diversion dam, staying left at the one intersection encountered, until the true trailhead and wilderness boundry are encountered on a large granite slab parking area.
Putin: Simply hike 8 miles and 1500 feet up the river right trail until the putin is reached or your heart explodes. A good strategy is to hike the first 4 miles to Twin Falls where the trail leaves the creek for 4 miles and beocmes steeper. Camp here on granite slabs ad leave heavy overnight gear stored here to be collected as you pass again on the creek.
Take Out: Simply scramble a 100 yards up he easy rock slabs from the Diversion Lake to your vehicle...unless you left it at the road...in which case start walking.
Bear Creek, CA
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This summer the Sierra, Sequoia and Inyo National Forests are seeking feedback from the public on their update and revisions to Forest Management Plans. These plans set the stage for how the forest will be managed for the next 20 years. Unfortunately, the agency's draft analysis on Wild and Scenic Rivers has largely neglected whitewater recreation values of classic whitewater rivers, including Dinkey Creek. Paddler's voices are important in this process! The deadline to comment is August 25th.
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