The fight to stop the construction of New Melones Dam and to save this section of the Stanislaus failed, but it did lead to the founding of Friends of the River and a strong river conservation movement in California.
When the reservoir drops low enough to reveal parts of this river, it is worth paddling again to experience the beauty that is still there and to contemplate what it was once like. Monitor the reservoir levels at New Melones on the CDEC website. Compare the reservoir elevation with the elevation markers on the map tab, to get an idea of how much river you can paddle at that level.
Put in: Elevation at the powerhouse is about 1080 feet. There is plenty of parking at the end of the road near the new powerhouse, however access to the river in this area could be difficult for rafters. There are use trails that provide reasonable access for kayakers. There is an old railing system for sliding rafts down to the water next to the remains of the old Camp Nine bridge. This is about 1 mile downstream of the end of the road and there are several rapids in between.
The Camp Nine road is a one lane, paved, heavily patched, twisty road that is not county maintained. Allow extra time for this drive. The junction with Parrot's Ferry road is not well marked.
Take out: The old Parrot's Ferry Bridge is just above 800 feet elevation. However, this road is gated at the top, so it is about 3/4 of a mile to hike up from the reservoir to the highway. There is space for quite a few cars near the gate at the junction of the old road with the new road. The old road down to the old bridge is reported to be in very poor condition due to lake wave action. The chief park ranger at New Melones wrote, "Paddlers may hand carry boats and equipment from Parrotts Ferry up to the road, but the access gate will not be open to vehicular traffic this season due to safety concerns surrounding the current state of deteriorated road conditions. We are currently exploring the options associated with improving the road condition if the drought will be long term. It may be suitable for kayaks to carry out, but rafts would be quite the chore as the distance is considerable. I recommend that rafts be towed out by motorboat to either the Glory Hole Boat Ramp or the Mark Twain Day Use Area. New Melones Lake Marina may have rental motorboats available in order to help facilitate rafting party tow outs."
Silt: Each year that the river is underneath the reservoir it fills in with sand and silt. Each day that the river flows and is exposed above the reservoir it steadily erodes the sand and silt. With time, the streambed is cleaned out, though terraces of sand will remain on the each side. However, all the sand and silt that are erroded from the streambed are deposited where the river meets the reservoir. So, as the reservoir drops, the last mile or two or more of river will have a shallow sandy bottom rather than a deep rocky bottom. Generally, the closer to the reservoir you get, the more spread out and shallow the river will be. The last few hundred yards will be the worst. As the current slows down, the sand and silt drop out forming a watery mud. If your boat gets stuck, you can't really stand in the muck to push as much as anchor yourself. Then you have to kind of swim/crawl to move along. If you pick the right currents to follow and stay in deep enough water, you might get through with out getting stuck. But odds are you will get stuck a few times before reaching the lake water.
FERC Information: The Stanislaus powerhouse, is part of FERC No. 2130, Spring Gap-Stanislaus Hydroelectric Project. The FERC license issued April 24, 2009 requires that PG&E publicly post flow information for the river below the Stanislaus Powerhouse.
Other Information Sources:
See Bill Tuthill's CA Creeks page: http://cacreeks.com/stan-c9.htm
Don Briggs video from before the flooding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ-UM6Gzz7c Stanislaus River Digital Archive
Stanislaus River Basin pdf schematic of reservoirs, diversions, powerhouses and gauges. USGS 11299000 NEW MELONES RES NR SONORA CACDEC New MelonesBureau of Reclamation: New MelonesMap of New Melones area and facilities.pdf
New Melones Lake Marina at 209-785-3300 or http://houseboats.com/new-melones-lake/.
Water in New Melones is used by Oakdale Irrigation District, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, and also for other downstream uses.
Just before the gate to the Stanislaus powerhouse, there is a fenced area with lots of parking. There is also a building with pit toilets nearby.
Steep use trails lead down to a nice beach. Looks like the easiest put in spot at this time. There is one rapid just upstream.
An old rusted pedestrian bridge crosses the river. A nice looking rapid runs underneath.
Compare this marker with reservoir elevation to estimate how much river is exposed. When the reservoir is this high, storage is 1,867,000 acre feet.
Concrete abutments on each side are all that remain of the old Camp Nine Road bridge. There is now a nice rapid at this location. A low head dam that used to be just upstream is now also gone. This allows boaters to float nearly an extra mile of river upstream.
On the downstream side of the bridge remains, are 3 raised rails leading down to the water. These look like rails for sliding rafts down to the water.
A series of very nice looking rapids are revealed as the reservoir drops past the new Camp Nine Bridge.
Elevation of the river is about 960 feet at Rose Creek.
The Camp Nine Road is still close by, but about 600 feet up a very steep hill.
This is the last rapid that is visible looking downstream from high on the Camp Nine Road. It shows that the river has mostly cleaned out the silt from the channel up to and past this point in 2014. When the reservoir is low, the river will steadily clean silt out of the channel.
The South Fork Stanislaus confluence is just upstream of the 880' elevation mark.
This bridge is submerged in the reservoir and only appears when the reservoir drops to about 800 feet elevation. The old road down to the bridge is in rough shape and is gated at the top. The hike up to the gate from the bridge is about 3/4 mile.
Monitor the reservoir levels and inflow to New Melones on the CDEC website. Compare the reservoir elevation with the elevation markers on the map tab, to get an idea of how much river you can paddle at that level.
The chart below compares New Melones reservoir elevation and storage.
The new FERC license issued April 24, 2009 requires that PG&E publicly post flow information for the river below the Stanislaus Powerhouse. That flow information became available in 2010.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Camp Nine Rd signs
Rapids under New Bridge
Rapids below New Bridge
Rapids upstream of old Camp Nine bridge
Rapid upstream of old Camp Nine bridge
Old Bridge Rapid
Put In Beach
Access Potential Near End of Road
Parking near the new powerhouse
Rose Creek streambed
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