Stony Creek near Williams


Stretch: Mill Creek Campground to above Diversion Dam
Difficulty: Class IV with lots of II
Distance: 4.7 miles, 1 day
Flows: rafts 600 - 1500 cfs, kayaks 500 - 1500, IK minimum 300
Gauge: less than the inflow to Black Butte Reservoir (BLB)
Gradient: 68 fpm average, 100 fpm after North Fork Confluence
Put-in: Mill Creek campground near Fouts Springs, 1620'
Take-out: Mine Camp dirt road above Rainbow Diversion Dam, 1300'
Shuttle: 6 miles (15 minutes) one-way
Maps: Mendocino NF, AAA Northern California Topo
Season: Winter and early spring, rain and snowmelt
Agency: USFS, BLM
Notes: © 1997, 2007 Bill Tuthill, CreeksYahoo

Tom Pohorsky has said, “Stony Creek is a great run if you live in Stonyford, a good run if you live in Maxwell, but not worth the drive if you live in Artois.” Sorry, just a little I-5 humor there. This run really isn't that bad.

How is the boater to reconcile this? Cassady touts Stony Creek as “one of the best expert rainy season runs in California” whereas Stanley writes that “it's worth doing once... for a change of pace” (not exactly a ringing endorsement). In fact Stony Creek's reputation was so bad that none of my boating companions would go. Fortunately somebody I met over the Internet agreed to go, perhaps having read only the Cassady book.

Imagine our surprise when we could not find the take-out campsite, as described in Cassady/Calhoun's 2nd edition, 1990. I guess it's such a great run that Cassady doesn't want to do it every year, for fear of wearing out his appreciation! Thanks to Holbek/Stanley's informed use of tenth mile odometer markings, we were able to find a locked gate with trail leading to take-out, just downhill from a large log-cabin style house.

The diversion dam at take-out was a truly horrendous sight. The traditional take-out, now closed, was not more than five meters away from moving water going off a 40' concrete spillway onto rocks below.

Fortunately there is a new take-out about .2 mile upstream, now described in Cassady/Calhoun's 3rd edition, 1995. Uphill on BLM land, drive onto the dirt road marked “Mine Camp” and descend to near the water.

There is a rather nice campsite at the Mill Creek put-in. Although the name Mill Creek should made illegal. Camp denizens are almost exclusively dirt bikers, who can be nice, and who are quite interested in oddball forms of recreation such as kayaking.

The half mile on Mill Creek is a scrapefest, but rather enjoyable. When the South Fork of Stony Creek comes in, there is plenty of water, provided the inflow to Black Butte Reservoir (BLB) is > 900 or so. I will say if you put in anywhere below there, it would not be worth doing the shuttle for this run.

About halfway between the South and middle Fork confluences (higher up than Cassady says), there is a long class IV rapid with down log in the first drop (1996). Just above the North Fork confluence is a class III boulder bar runnable either left of center or far right, although you wouldn't know about far right unless you scouted it. I believe this is the only class III rapid on the run, despite what Cassady says about “a delightful blend of class III and IV rapids.”

One might quibble about the class IV “long cascade” rapid .1 mile after the North Fork confluence: that might be the other class III. After a short pool comes a real class IV (for consequences) not described in the Cassady book. Perhaps at high water this merges with the “long cascade” above. Rapids then taper off despite the 100 fpm gradient, until the “blind left turn” at mile 2.6, which is more a long and wide boulder bar (again, one might quibble that this is the third class III).

From there, expect nothing more than class II rapids to take-out. You can easily recognize that you are approaching Mine Camp road when you spot that large log-cabin style house on the right bank. Please proceed no further than the official take-out.

It looked to me like the diversion dam served no purpose, because diverted water seemed to flow right back into Stony Creek. However correspondents assure me that the water goes to East Park Reservoir.

Overall I nominate this stretch for Worst Run in Cassady/Calhoun. Unless you combine it with Grindstone Creek or something in the Cottonwood Creek drainage, you're going to resent the long drive to Stonyford. Below Stonyford are two class II runs described here, the lower one of which is increasingly popular.

To reach take-out: from I-5 at the town of Maxwell (35 miles north of the I-505 split) drive west 23 miles to the hamlet of Ladoga. Turn right and drive east 8 miles to Stonyford. Just past the center of town, turn left and drive west on Fouts Springs Road. After about 3.5 miles, turn right onto the “Mine Camp” dirt road and descend to parking near the creek. To reach put-in run, return to Fouts Springs Road and continue west until you reach the bridge across Mill Creek before Fouts Springs. The best put-in is at a nearby campsite.


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