Kaweah River North Fork Lower


Stretch: Park boundary to Paradise beach or Bailey bridge
Difficulty: Class IV-V with possible portages, then class III with brush
Distance: 3.7 or 5.8 miles, 1 day
Flows: kayaks 1.2' to 3.0', rafts 1.9' and above
Gauge: stick gauge on Bailey Bridge left (painted gauge 1' higher)
Gradient: 140 fpm average, or 133 fpm average
Put-in: Sierra National park boundary at Yucca Creek, 1720'
Take-out: Paradise beach 1200' or Bailey bridge 950'
Shuttle: 7 miles (15 minutes) one-way, partly on dirt
Maps: USFS Sequoia NF, AAA Sequoia, Topo
Season: spring, from snowmelt
Agency: National Park, private, BLM
Notes: © 2009 Bill Tuthill, CreeksYahoo.

This run, or combination of runs, has both access and brush problems, but is still worthwhile for creek boaters who don't want to carry four miles into the upstream run, described here. In dry years, the ideal flow window comes early, but in wet years, good flows might last into June.

You can park vehicles at the put-in, which is inside Sequoia National Park. The intermediate take-out at Paradise beach is on BLM land, but the shuttle road near there is infested with No Parking signs. You have to park at the top of a grade and walk uphill after the run to retrieve your take-out vehicle, then load quickly and vamoose. Alternatively, you can continue another 2.1 miles to Bailey bridge, although both banks are private property much the way, and parking is not allowed near Bailey bridge, either.

The flow gauge is located on the downstream left side of Bailey bridge. When driving to put-in, you might want to check the flow.

Bill Pooley has written photo-guides of two sections, Yucca Creek to Paradise Beach and Paradise Beach to Bailey Bridge. The Holbek/Stanley guidebook contains a description of both sections together.

mile 0
Put in below the grassy area downstream of Yucca Creek.
Chicken Hero, class V-
The left channel is a chicken route (although given the height of this drop not much of one) while the right channel offers two more heroic routes.
Accelerator, class IV+
One recommended line is to use the initial hydraulic to move your boat into the right channel, then try to stay upright.
Right Side Leap, class IV
At lower flows the water moves boats into a pinning spot on the left. Stay right and boof the 6' final drop.
The next mile drops 180 fpm. Most people portage Cherry Falls, the first major drop in the steep section.
Cherry Falls, class V, possibly portage left.
A river-wide hydraulic 6 meters above the falls makes it hard to enter correctly. The portage is on steep and slippery granite, so take care with boat handling.
Twisted Sister, class IV+
In the first section, you negotiate a big curling wave. In the second section, start right and work left to avoid rocks on the right.
Crackerjack Surprise, class IV+, not bank scoutable
This is the old diversion dam that Holbek mentions in his writeup. A new breach in the dam opened up sometime around the turn of the century. Now instead of boofing off a rock left of center, enter even further left with a slight right-to-left angle to avoid the surprise rocks.
Trinity Ranch on left bank, private property.
Diagonal, class IV+, scout left
Start from the right side eddy and try to stay far right at the bottom to avoid getting rammed into boulders on the left.
Up Against the Wall, class IV+, hard to scout
Class III+ rapid before the final drop, which twists left to right and piles into a recirculating hole against the right wall. Harder above 1.6' on the gauge.
Advance Site, historic colony of Kaweah pioneers.
Afterwards, two fun drops are followed by continuous rapids for a distance.
Blue Pool, a summertime swimming hole,
Chutes and Ladders, class IV
The usual route is to take the right slot at the top, and stay right. At low flows a pin-rock appears on the left.
Paradise Beach, intermediate take-out. If you take out here, you can carry back to the road, climb uphill to where parking is allowed, and return with your vehicle for a commando gear-load.
Over the next two miles, the river often splits, making it difficult to intuit the correct channel. Brush problems increase as well.
Bailey bridge. If you take out here, you probably need a shuttle driver because parking is not permitted anywhere near the bridge.

Shuttle Directions

To reach take-out, drive east from Visalia on highway 198 past Terminus reservoir. In the town of Three Rivers, turn left onto North Fork Drive, cross the Kaweah river on a high bridge, and proceed up the North Kaweah valley about 3 miles to Bailey bridge, where you can check the flow. The upper take-out is about two miles further. If you choose the upper take-out, park your vehicles up a grade where the No Parking signs end.

To reach put-in, continue driving uphill about seven miles past Bailey bridge. After climbing the road stays well above the river, except in the last mile, where you take the left fork, not the right fork that climbs steeply uphill. In late season the last stretch of road could be gated, necessitating a 20 minute walk.


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