Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Mad River Overview, Whitewater Kayaking in California.

Whitewater River Kayaking, Rafting & Canoeing Guide - Trinity County, & Humboldt County, California USA.

Whitewater Runs on Mad River - locations of put-ins and other landmarks.

Run name (whitewater class)(coordinates of put-in).

A. Three Forks to Double A Ranch (class III)
put-in - N 40.16687 W 123.22738
take-out - N 40.19776 W 123.28617

B. Double A Ranch to Ruth Reservoir (class I)
put-in - N 40.19776 W 123.28617
take-out - N 40.29616 W 123.34496

C. Ruth Reservoir to Forest Service Road 5 mi. below Hwy 36 (class I-II)
put-in - N 40.37169 W 123.43655
take-out - N 40.50222 W 123.58229

(difficult access and unrunnable ?? for some distance)

D. Jackshaw Road to Maple Creek Road (class III-IVp)
put-in - N 40.66680 W 123.84124
take-out - N 40.76468 W 123.88905

E. Maple Creek Road to Blue Lake (class IIp) (16 miles, overnight trip)
put-in - N 40.76468 W 123.88905
take-out - N 40.87601 W 123.99239
Ann Dwyer's book reports "several rockslides making the run more difficult" than the rating given in the older book West Coast River Touring (see guidebooks below). See comments below.

F. Blue Lake to Mad River Boat Ramp (class I+)
put-in - N 40.87601 W 123.99239
take-out - N 40.87601 W 123.99239

Mad River Map showing put-in locations for whitewater runs.

River map user instructions.
• Full screen river map - see below.

Full-Screen River Map: Mad River put-in locations.
Markers on the topo map show locations of put-ins listed above (A, B, etc.).
Point or DoubleClick on the markers to see their names.

Online River Guides & River Flow Data for Paddle Boating.

Mad River Kayaking Directory.
(Display options - alphabetical 100. See section 1.)

Printed Guidebooks for Mad River Whitewater.

Ann Dwyer's Easy Waters of California North, 2000. (pg. 120-121)
West Coast River Touring - Rogue River Canyon and South, 1974. (pg. 125-128)
Best Whitewater in California, Third Edition 1998. (pg 27-28)
Down the Wild Rivers- A Guide to the Streams of California, 1972. (pg. 184-187)
California River Maps - Atlas & Gazetteer by Delorme, 2008.

Mad River Whitewater River Trip Reports NEEDED !!

Contact me to send in your Mad River trip report. I'm eager to post or link to guest authors' kayaking, canoeing or rafting adventure stories, especially if whitewater boating pictures and/or videos are included.

Whitewater River Recreation & Environment.

Mad River Watershed Directory - Recreation & Environmental Preservation. Mad River valley websites. (Display options - alphabetical 100. Section 1=kayaking-canoeing, 2=rafting, 3=conservation, 4=fishing, 5=camping-hiking, 6=local-info)

More about:
How to use whitewater river rafting and kayaking guides - BRT Insights.
• See how to use this whitewater river paddleboating guide.
• Rivers & creeks nearby: Redwood Creek, Van Duzen River, Trinity River/Hayfork Creek.
North Coast California River Guides for Paddleboating.
California Whitewater River Paddleboating Guides.

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Mad River: Maple Creek to the Blue Lake Hatchery
Class: 1-5(P)
Length: Approximately 16 miles
Level: 7,000 to ?


A group of Arcata boaters ran this stretch of the Mad River on 3/26/11, at approximately 9000 CFS on the USGS Mad River Arcata gauge. We put-on at approximately 11:30Am and took out at approximately 4:00 pm. The run was an approximate 16 miles in length and had an averaged gradient of 15’/mile.

Let me start by providing a little motivational backdrop to our run down this stretch of river. First, and most notably, two beginner kayakers had to be air-lifted out of the run after swimming and subsequently losing gear at a “major” rapid on the run. Secondarily, available whitewater guide books note that this is a class 1+ section. The combined story of folks being air-lifted out and the fact that commonly used resources for planning river trips suggest this is a beginner float sealed the deal.

A low flow would ensure a painfully slow trip for all. Plan on two days or one really long day. “Higher” flows such as we had, made the flat water bearable but would be prohibitive to beginners. Personally I would not recommend this run unless you are a class 3 boater based in the Humboldt bay area looking for something new, relatively close to Arcata and your down for going somewhere just for the scenic beauty. I would not recommend a water level less than 9,000 CFS in Arcata.

The river had a big water feel and was abound with wildlife. I was surprised that in places, the river had large boulders, and seep canyon walls. For being just outside of Arcata it felt isolated and relatively untouched by human hands. The scenic beauty, wildlife and experience were satisfying. However, much like the North Fork Mad River, I will not be going back anytime soon.

Class: 3+ or so
Scout: Right
Portage: Right
Indicators: See google map, river tightens up, obvious increase in gradient
We paddled flat water for a few miles with no significant drops. Eventually we came to a spot where the river began to constrict and canyon up. It looked like most of the gradient was accumulating in this drop. We ran a little lead in and eddied out right to take a look. Note at higher flows, lower eddies may become more difficult to access or completely washed out. Group estimates ranged from a big water 3 to 4. The drop consisted of a large wave train moving right to left, pushing into a rather large hole with a few smaller pour over’s mixed in. Undercut hazards existed on the extreme river left bank (mostly out of play though) and several rocks in the main channel were just submerged. A sneak existed river right but you had to work for it.
See video:

Class: 5(P)
Scout: Right
Portage: Right and high
Indicators: See google map, Large rock on river left with crack all the way through, tightens up, after long, punctuated elbow in the river as shown in the map
After RAPID 1 we paddled a few more miles of flat water with nothing significant. I had checked google maps out prior to the trip and identified a possible rapid after a large elbow in the river. We eventually paddled through the elbow—it is identified in the attached link to google maps. You will also see a large rock on river left cracked vertically. I recommend eddying out low to reduce the portage fest at levels around ours. Note, if water levels are significantly higher the eddy we caught may wash out. Think about eddying out high and to the right.

This rapid lived up to the lore surrounding this run. It was truly “major.” All around agreed it was a class 5 drop. Although a line or two existed, all in the party walked the rapid. SEE PICTURES.

RAPID 3: Logging Dam?
Class: 2
Scout: Not Necessary
Portage: N/A
Indicators: Looks like an old dam because it was!

A fun wave train on river left, avoid river right and a funky hydraulic.
Thanks for the very informative trip report!! I'm always happy to update my online river guide pages with the best and most recent information about the whitewater difficulty rating for each section of river. Please send the links to your video and pictures because they were not linked in your original comment.

It is especially difficult to give an overall whitewater rating for this section of river. It sounds like the old river guides were correct that this long and low gradient section of river is mostly just class I+. Most likely the landslide described by Ann Dwyer's river guidebook (printed guidebooks - see above) produced the class V portage that you described. It sounds like a very scenic, mostly mellow flatwater, overnight trip, but any boater who goes there must absolutely be ready to scout and portage wherever necessary. I'll rate it class II due to the isolation with a "p" for the portages.
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