Slate Creek at Lamoine
Slate Creek is a major tributary to the Sacramento River above Shasta Reservoir. Busy Interstate 5 crosses Slate Creek near its confluence with the Sacramento River. Yet, this gem of a run was only first discovered on March 19th 1995, when Jim Pepin, Arn Terry, and Ron Rogers initially tested its waters.
The first .5 mile or so is called the Royal Flush and is composed of all the appropriate high value cards, ace through 10. These are all complicated, rocky class V drops, separated by class IV frothy whitewater. It would be difficult to adequately describe them individually, so suffice it to say that this is an over half mile long boulder field, which quickly drops out of sight with a gradient of over 300 fpm! The Ace is the first and the hardest rapid; the King is scrapey over boulders; the Queen is sneaked on the far left; the Jack is located where the South Fork enters on the right; and the 10 is only a humble class IV+. On river left, an old mining claim road provides access to a point below the Royal Flush.
Guillotine, class V, is run by eddy-hopping down the far left. This is followed by 2 class V drops. The first consists of high-tailing it to an eddy on the left bank and then cutting to the right. Both of these moves are through a boulder field. The next drop is a river-wide hole.
Roulette (class V) deserves a shore scout from the river right, as it is sometimes portaged. Roulette is rather straight forward, two ledges with holes at the bottom. Run the first on farrrr right, and pray you can stay on line and hit the second one on the right also.
A class IV section of several unnamed rapids provides some relaxation until Pair of Kings (class V) is encountered. Pair of Kings is identified by a very large boulder on river left, above the drop. The run is on the right, where you go over two steep, rocky ledges while avoiding numerous pitoning spots. This is followed by the Typewriter Hole and a long, rocky rapid.
At Poker Falls, the creek makes a sharp bend to the right and is clogged with car-sized boulders. Scout this complicated, class V+ drop from the right shore. Running this steep rapid requires extreme precision and nerves of steel. You can portage either side, with the left being somewhat easier than the right. Poker Falls was named as such after one hapless kayaker impaled his foot on a partially buried fireplace poker while scouting this drop during the first descent.
Full House is run on the left, and is a very long (read complicated) class IV+ to V rapid which delivers you to the best part of this run: Black Jack Falls. Black Jack Falls can be scouted from either shore and portaged on the left if you don't like running 18' waterfalls. At low to moderate flows, the lead-in can be shallow and rocky, which can throw you off line. At high flows, the bottom reversal has been known to capture boats. It is relatively easy to hike across country down from the access road to put-in at Black Jack Falls. Below Black Jack Falls are more class IVs with two class V rapids sprinkled in.
At about 2 miles into the run, you leave USFS public land and encounter the Slate Creek Hydroelectric generation plant on river left. This FERC license-exempt hydro takes up to 85 cfs from above this run and then returns it to the creek here. It is currently feasible to carry down to this facility and put in below the steep rapids. From here down to the take-out is continuous class III-IV. All of the land to the take-out is private, but the take-out is most likely within a public road easement of either I-5 or the old county road. It is also possible to continue out to the Sacramento River and downstream to any of its access points.
A staff gauge has been painted on the old bridge at take-out. According to Jim Pepin, when it reads 3", there is enough water paddle down from Black Jack Falls. At 6", one can start up at the end of the old mining claim road. Above 6", the top of the run is worth looking at. Of course the variability of the hydroelectric diversion affects the feasibility of the upper 2 miles, so you still cannot be sure until you look at the put-in.
The put-in is arrived at via USFS road 36N20, which follows Slate Creek on its north side from I-5 at Lamoine to the put-in. Shortly after starting on 36N20, you take a right at a Y in the road. If you go left, you will soon realize your error when you quickly cross Slate Creek.
Map of Rivers