The access paddle down the Hemlock River has a good number of short rocky stretches. At high water, a few of these may be mildly entertaining rapids. At low water, they will all be (varyingly) boney, frustrating boulder fields to pick your way through, knuckle-walk your boat through, or get out and drag/carry your boat through.
Very shortly after the last (and worst at low water) of the boulder-garden drops, you reach the Paint River. Just downstream of the confluence, you'll encounter Hemlock Rapids (about 1/3 mile long), a brief flatwater stretch (about 1/3 mile long), then Lower Hemlock Rapids (again, about 1/3 mile long). These two rapids contain some pretty fair action, and (at moderate-to-high levels) could be a real hoot. A few spots could develop wicked holes.
Once that action subsides, you are left with about two miles of flatwater to the take-out. Note: DeLormes and topo maps show a road extending upstream from 0.7 miles north of the listed take-out, extending upstream all the way to the end of Lower Hemlock Rapids. Unfortunately, the road and all property along it is privately held, making access via this means extremely unlikely -- count on paddling the flatwater all the way to the listed bridge, where there is plenty of parking and great easy access to the river.
As listed here, the suggested put-in is on the Hemlock River, and the take-out is at the bridge on Bates-Amasa Road. Using this combination makes the shuttle as short and simple as can be -- just follow Bates-Amasa Road for 3.5 miles.
Alternative access points do exist, and may be advisable for low-to-moderate water-level runs to avoid the grungy access on the Hemlock River. Specifically, it appears (I have not verified) one should find reasonable access at a location marked on TopoZone as "Paint Dam (Abandoned)". Total river miles are changed very little (you get about 1.8 miles of flatwater on the Paint instead of about 2.1 miles of flatwater interspersed with very likely grungy boulderbed rapids on the Hemlock River). This does, however, more than double the shuttle length (to at least 8.5 miles).
USGS lists a site on the Hemlock just above our put-in and cites drainage area of 53 square miles. (For the access paddle-in to the Paint.)
Using this access point changes the length of river trip only slightly (actually about 0.3 mile shorter), but doubles the length of the shuttle. Nonetheless, it may be advantageous to use this access when Hemlock River is rather low (I.E., when it will be a bump-and-scrape to get to the confluence). You will have 1.75 miles of flatwater (on the Paint), versus 2.15 miles of bump-and-scrape boulderbed (on the Hemlock).
By my best reckoning, drainage area at this point is in the neighborhood of 412 square miles. Hemlock will add its 53+ sq.miles in before the rapids begin.
From our listed take-out for this section, there is nearly 22 river miles to the put-in for the Horserace Rapids section of the Paint. There is s dam about 12.5 miles down from the take-out (just upstream of Crystal Falls, at Fairbanks Road) and there may be a stretch of swiftwater/whitewater (perhaps up to a mile) downstream. The remainder of the 22 miles is flatwater.
FWIW, regarding the comment below, their access (put-in) was an additional 8 miles upstream from the reach as listed here. In concert with the low summer flow, that accounts for the duration of their trip. The listed reach should not take anywhere near that length of time.
I did an extended trip that included this stretch in the summer of 2005 when water levels were extremely low. We dropped in at the campgound off of FS-347 and ended at Bates-Amasa bridge (CR-643). It took around 5 hours (aside from the rapids, we floated most of the way) but would be much quicker at higher water. The two sections of Hemlock Rapids were a blast and in the Spring would be great.
Gauge shown is for a larger, parallel watershed, and should be considered only a rough indicator. Both rivers have a fair degree of regulation (I.E., dams).
Permits are not required for this reach.
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