||Yankee Jim Road to Clementine reservoir
||Class II+ with hardest rapids at the start
||9.5 miles, 1 day
||rafts (500) 900 - 3000 cfs, kayaks 500 - 4000, IK minimum 400
||measured near take-out
||19 fpm, pool and drop
||Shirttail Canyon bridge, 900'
||Clementine reservoir, 715' (closed until mid May)
||17 miles (30 minutes) one-way, mostly dirt road
||Delorme N California, AAA Lake Tahoe Region,
||March possibly into June, snowmelt
||Auburn State Recreation Area
||© 1998, 2000 Bill Tuthill,
thanks to John Lester
This is a very scenic beginner run thru a deep forested canyon.
All the toughest rapids come right at the beginning
and near the halfway point, so be prepared.
If you do this run in conjunction with the Bear River,
make sure to do the Bear first, so you have some practice under your belt.
Superb wilderness camping is available below the halfway point,
if you are willing to carry overnight gear.
Be sure to jump on this run when the flow is right,
because snowmelt gives out at some point in early summer.
At lower flows the water has a beautiful green color, but progress can be slow,
and below 400 cfs you will need to drag your boat thru some shallow rapids.
Unfortunately the Upper Clementine take-out is closed for the winter
(thru April), so in that case you either have to take out at Ponderosa Way,
or paddle 2.5 miles across a reservoir to the Lower Clementine access.
Upstream is the Chamberlain Falls run,
a popular raft and kayak trip that sometimes finishes
at Yankee Jim Road bridge, your put-in.
Usually commercial rafters continue down to Ponderosa Way bridge.
The Chamberlain Falls run is not recommended for inflatable kayaking
because of its many rock strainers and entrapment points.
- Put in upstream of the Yankee Jim Road bridge. A trail leads from the
bridge down to the river near Shirttail Creek. The river has finished
transitioning from class IV to III, but not quite yet to class II.
There is a fun class III- at the mouth of Shirttail Creek, just above
put-in. The first rapid below the bridge contains some big waves.
- Rapid 1½ is easy, and visible in the distance of the first picture
below. Rapid 2½ presents you with a left-to-right diagonal rock
cluster, forcing you to choose either the left route (most turbulent)
or the right (a sneak, except at low flows, when it is too shallow)
as the rapid splits around the cluster.
- Rapid 3½ drops steeply as it splits around a brush-covered island.
It is usually easiest on the right, where it verges on class III.
- Where the river turns right into a horseshoe bend, a dirt road
reaches a large boulder bar, and gold mining activity is common.
- Bend & Brake, class II-III
A series of rapids that becomes the hardest section at high water.
The river comes out of the horseshoe bend, turns left, then back right
and eventually left again, into a minigorge. The fourth or fifth rapid,
a series of standing waves with a rock hiding in the final wave, can
really jolt you at medium low flows. At higher flows there is a big
hole on the left at the final left turn. Above 2000 cfs, this is the
most difficult section on this run because all the smaller rapids
- Ponderosa Way bridge, alternate take-out. Just downstream on the
right, a trail leads to a beautiful waterfalls up a sidestream.
Shortly below the bridge is a rapid with decent size surfing hole.
- A hiking trail follows the right bank for about a mile. Shortly
below there is a class II passage, most challenging on the left.
Remaining rapids on the run are less than class II in difficulty.
This part contains the deepest wilderness along the lower north fork:
excellent scenery and solitude in a seldom-run section. In the last
mile or two, you might enounter hikers from upper Clementine.
- The river flattens out and flatwater paddling becomes necessary.
Some people consider this the principal defect of this beautiful run.
- Take out on the left where the dirt road reaches a large parking lot
just above the top of the reservoir. No paddling on a reservoir!
On warm days you will encounter scads of sunbathers and beachcombers.
To reach take-out, turn east from interstate 80 onto Foresthill Road and cross
the high bridge, built years go for (hopefully now defunct) Auburn reservoir.
Drive 6 miles from Auburn, past Old Auburn-Foresthill road, which descends
to highway 49 and the middle fork canyon. Turn left onto a dirt road marked
Upper Clementine, which descends to the head of Clementine reservoir.
This gated access is open only during summertime, starting in April or May.
If closed, you must take out at Ponderosa Way or Lower Clementine.
The gate closes at dark, but I don't believe cars will be towed or ticketed
if parked overnight.
To reach put-in from there, return uphill to Foresthill Road, then return to
interstate 80 in Auburn. Go north about 12 miles, take one of the Weimar
exits, and drive north on Canyon Way to its intersection with Yankee Jim Road
(a sign reads “Foresthill 13 miles”) where you turn right. Descend steeply,
soon on dirt road, to a narrow bridge across the river. (It is also possible
to reach the put-in by means of Spring Garden Road and Yankee Jim Road on
the south side.) Ponderosa Way can be reached from Canyon Way, south of the
Weimar business district.
To find nearby food and lodging, type Auburn into the box and click Search.
Map of Rivers