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California Rafting

Vance & family made two rafting trips in June 1997 on two of California's easiest rivers nearest to San Francisco. Both are very scenic, but have roads running alongside them. In both cases, Vance left a bicycle down-river and biked uphill to get the car at the end of the rafting trip.


Cache River (II's and a III+)

Vance had been working pretty solid, weekends included, so when Dusty finished school for the summer Vance decided to take him on a rafting trip, since Dusty was pretty charged about our rafting adventure with Deborah Healey in Oregon the summer before.

So, Vance got a raft and he and Dusty (12 years old) drove up to the Cache, so named because it's where trappers used to hide their pelts in the days leading up to the gold rush. We put in at the last of the Cache Canyon River Park lots and started right in with the fast water sweeping us downstream (the river was running 690 cu.ft/min.; anything over 400 was considered good enough). Dusty pulled a fine paddle and his light weight made the raft maneuverable, though with a tendency to flip in waves, so Dusty was drilled in the course art of "high siding". Through some combination of skill and luck we were able to negotiate all rapids with ease, including one long III+ under a bridge, called Mother, where a group of kayakers were sorting themselves out after mishaps. We had scoped it from the road on the drive up and had already decided to head left of the big rocks, and we got flung just right into the secondary waves and somehow made it wet but upright. A fine day was had, enhanced by water pistols which we had brought along to fight off varmints (recalling our encounter with a raft full of well-armed and well-everything-elsed coeds on the Willamette the summer before).


Mokelumne River (II's, III's and a III++)

It was Bobbi's turn to go rafting with Dad, so we headed to the Mokelumne up the road to Electra powerhouse just south of Jackson, California. The stretch of river with road access was just three miles long, but the river was running at 1200 cubic ft per minute, which is to say we got a fast ride all the way down and interesting hydraulics in the three rapids we hit. The river continued from our takeout to a reservoir several miles away but the authorities had banned rafting on that stretch. Reasons for this were unclear. The California Whitewater book suggests it is because this stretch of river is slated for development and the authorities want to head off opposition by preventing sportspersons from developing recreational habits there. Lee, the Boat Person from whom we rented the raft, said he thought it was to preserve the water in the reservoir for drinking in the event rafters might "muddy" it, but then he noted that power boats were allowed in the reservoir (clean ones, presumably). This would help to explain why a reservoir near our house is full of boats but is patrolled on hot days by rangers whose job it seems is to yell at anyone who dares attempt to swim to get back in the boat, right now, you hear!!? All this serves to enhance the impression that America is a free country with freedom to regulate a little ahead these days of freedom to complain about it.

Update: We no longer live in California, but our web page does, apparently. In early June 2002 and received this email:


I happened to stumble on your site and read your short article on the Mokelumne River, Electra run. Since your site was last updated in 1998, there have been significant strides in gaining access. EBMUD has capitulated at the Middle Bar Bridge (3 miles downstream of the highway 49 bridge) and will be actually developing a take-out for boaters. I understand, however, that the rangers still harass bank fisherpeople upstream of that point.

Check this site out:

Keith Franklin

Thanks, Keith!

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Last updated: June 6, 2002 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0