Hayfork Creek Lower Run


Stretch: 9 Mile bridge to Trinity Confluence at Hyampom
Difficulty: class V, harder as flows increase
Distance: 15.5 miles, 1 long day
Flows: kayaks 700 - 2000 cfs, IK minimum 300
Gauge: estimate 40% of Hyampom (USGS site)
Gradient: 51 fpm average, steeper in two separate gorges
Put-in: where Hyampom Road crosses from river right to left, 2045'
Take-out: near bridge connecting Hyampom Road to Hyampom, 1260'
Shuttle: 15 miles (30 minutes) one-way, all paved
Maps: USFS Trinity NF, AAA Northern California
Season: spring, from snowmelt
Agency: USFS, private
Notes: © 1998 Bill Tuthill, CreeksYahoo

What were we to think? Dick Schwind's guidebook claims that between Hayfork's "[9-mile] bridge and Hyampom valley, Hayfork Creek plunges thru two narrow, unrunnable gorges with gradients of 200 feet per mile." Holbek's writeup says the gradient in these gorges is only 95/65/85/85 and 105, with some “serious class V rapids” in there.

I think Schwind was closer to the truth, and Holbek misread the topo map. I'll have to doublecheck, but it's hard to believe the first gorge dropped only 330' in four miles, and the second gorge was only a mile long.

We boated on 300-400 cfs (sidestreams add considerably to the flow). Hardshell kayakers could easily cope with flows that low, or could go somewhat higher. In an IK, I wouldn't have wanted much higher flows.

It's easy to find a shuttle driver at the Hyampom general store. For $15 the fire chief agreed to drive me in his truck back to 9-mile bridge.

This section is very beautiful and should be run more often than it is, despite the portages (one quite difficult). The water is clear and green, the scenery exquisite. I'd love to hear from any boaters who have run it.

Lower Hayfork Creek CA Lower Hayfork Creek CA
One rapid in minigorge number zero Cabin at Miner's Creek above gorge #1

As usual, Holbek's description is right-on. This is a class IV-V run, and everything he says actually happens. Just a few additions:

  • There is a gorge with a class IV+ and IV rapid before Miner's Creek. A creek, cabin, and dirt road on the left beforehand make you think you have actually entered the main gorge, but you have not.
  • Some of the rapids in the first gorge are not runnable at 350 cfs, because of impassable routes among big rocks. There are about five class V rapids in the first gorge, and many class IV rapids.
  • Class IV rapids continue for a ways after Corral Creek, contrary to what Holbek says. Perhaps this is because of the 1997 flood.
  • The second gorge contains several class V rapids, a class V+ rapid (Griz Falls) that might be runnable, an unrunnable boulder sieve, and a long IV+ below the gorge proper.
  • Note: There is a horrendous looking boulder sieve below Griz Falls, probably new in 1997, which creates a tough portage (on the left). This was formerly a class IV boulder garden, according to Holbek.

Lower Hayfork Creek CA Lower Hayfork Creek CA
Going outside a major rapid in gorge #1 More class IV action in gorge #1
We lined or portaged many of the class Vs, some of which looked gnarly. All portages and lines are at river level and only moderately difficult. We ghost-boated a far right chute at Griz Falls, which turned out easy.

Below Griz Falls, make sure to get out on the left. Do not commit to running the first drop of the boulder sieve: it could turn out badly. As far as we could see, there was no alternative to a strenuous portage over huge rocks on the left.

Lower Hayfork Creek CA Lower Hayfork Creek CA
Get into this chute below Griz Falls Portage this rockslide debris and logjam

After the portage comes a long class IV+, and rapids ease to class III and then class II as you come into Hyampom valley.

The first gorge has many exhilarating drops, while the second has only a few, and several mandatory portages, making for better morning than afternoon memories!


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