Stanislaus - Camp Nine to Parrot's Ferry

Stanislaus, California, US


Camp Nine to Parrot's Ferry

Usual Difficulty III (for normal flows)
Length 9.6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 31 fpm

First View

First View
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/10/14 @ 200 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Stanislaus At Camp Nine
dream-084 700 - 6000 cfs III 02h44m 1938 cfs (running)

River Description

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:
Don Briggs video from before the flooding:
Stanislaus River Digital Archive
Stanislaus River Basin pdf schematic of reservoirs, diversions, powerhouses and gauges. USGS 11299000 NEW MELONES RES NR SONORA CA
CDEC New Melones
Bureau of Reclamation: New Melones
Map of New Melones area and facilities.pdf
New Melones Lake Marina at 209-785-3300 or
Water in New Melones is used by Oakdale Irrigation District, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, and also for other downstream uses.


Permit Information

No permits are needed for this section.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-07-21 02:59:33


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Parking area near Stanislaus PowerhouseN/AAccess Photo
0.3Beach AccessN/AAccess Photo
0.3Old Pedestrian BridgeIIPhoto
0.71040 feet elevationN/A
0.9Old Camp Nine Bridge RemainsIIAccess Photo
1.9New Camp Nine BridgeN/AAccess Photo
2.21000 feet elevationII+Photo
3.3Rose Creek - 960' elev.N/APhoto
4.9920 feet elevationN/A
6.6880 feet elevationN/A
8.1840 feet elevationN/A
9.6Old Parrot's Ferry BridgeN/ATakeout Access

Rapid Descriptions

Parking area near Stanislaus Powerhouse (Class N/A)

Parking near the new powerhouse

Parking near the new powerhouse
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/10/14 @ 200 cfs

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.

Beach Access (Class N/A, Mile 0.3)

Put In Beach

Put In Beach
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/10/14 @ 200 cfs

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.

Old Pedestrian Bridge (Class II, Mile 0.3)

Old Bridge Rapid

Old Bridge Rapid
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/10/14 @ 200 cfs

An old rusted pedestrian bridge crosses the river.  A nice looking rapid runs underneath.

1040 feet elevation (Class N/A, Mile 0.7)

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.

Old Camp Nine Bridge Remains (Class II, Mile 0.9)

Rapids upstream of old Camp Nine bridge

Rapids upstream of old Camp Nine bridge
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/10/14 @ 200 cfs

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.

New Camp Nine Bridge (Class N/A, Mile 1.9)

Rapids under New Bridge

Rapids under New Bridge
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/10/14 @ 200 cfs

1000 feet elevation (Class II+, Mile 2.2)

Rapids below New Bridge

Rapids below New Bridge
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/10/14 @ 200 cfs

A series of very nice looking rapids are revealed as the reservoir drops past the new Camp Nine Bridge.

Rose Creek - 960' elev. (Class N/A, Mile 3.3)

Rose Creek streambed

Rose Creek streambed
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/10/14 @ 200 cfs

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.  

Rapid (Class I, Mile 3.7)

Clearing Silt

Clearing Silt
Photo by Paul Martzen taken 07/10/14 @ 200 cfs

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.

880 feet elevation (Class N/A, Mile 6.6)

The South Fork Stanislaus confluence is just upstream of the 880' elevation mark. 

Old Parrot's Ferry Bridge (Class N/A, Mile 9.6)

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.

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