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 Topic:  CA: Stanislaus Flow Levels 

Forums -> General -> CA: Stanislaus Flow Levels Page 1 of 1
Posted to flow site: Stanislaus - At Orange Blossom BridgeLatest PostNext TopicPrev Topic
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Posted: Oct 22, 2010Post Subject: CA: Stanislaus Flow Levels
I want to add some comments on water level and condition expectations for the Stanislaus River in CA--the run from Knight's Ferry down to Orange Blossom Bridge (OBB). I couldn't find much advice myself online, so took a chance today and just paddled it. Thought I would share my findings. (keywords: water level, class, CFS, Stanislaus, OBB, Orange Blossom Bridge, October, 2010.)

Websites say this stretch is runnable by canoes and kayaks "between 300cfs and 900cfs." But four weeks ago (late September 2010) I ran it at about 185cfs (per OBB gauge, per DreamFlows website). I weigh 180lbs plus gear, and paddle a plastic 11-foot kayak (Prijon T-Slalom). I estimate my draft at ~2 inches of water or less. At ~185cfs, I believe I only scraped bottom twice in the run. Note that the run included a lot of paddling and took over 2 hours. (I did eddy out here and there.)

On the high water side, this past week (around October 19th 2010) they suddenly went from releasing less than 200cfs to releasing 950 and then a day later 1150cfs (evidently they do this in October to help the salmon get up the river). I had a day off and wanted to go paddle it, but was concerned about 1150 being higher than the 900 maximum that the websites mention. But I found it was still a Class-1 run all the way (excluding the first drop, "Russian Rapid," which was still a very easy Class-2 or what I've always thought of as a Class-1.5 because it's straihtforward and short). At 1150 cfs there were no high-water or out-of-lowest-channel sections anywhere along the run, no tree branches that did anything more than tickle the top of the water in a couple of places. There wasn't anything that any Class-I paddler or reasonably adept novice who can do basic water reading and who can put their boat approximately where they want it shouldn't be able to handle. I'm conservative anymore, preferring serene Class-1 stuff to the wilder runs I used to do years ago. Still, I can imagine the water being even a couple of inches higher than it was today--maybe a couple hundred cfs more?--before I'd be tempted to drop my decisions down another gear. AFter what I saw today, I think I'd paddle up to ~1350cfs alone (which I know is heresy but after all it's a Class-1) without any qualms at all.

There is one "rapid" and it occurs in the first quarter-mile or half-mile--called "Russian Rapid." I've read someone write something about the belief that open canoes will have major trouble with this drop at 700 or 800cfs, and at 900cfs "all open boats will swamp." I have to say that today, at 1150cfs, it looked to me like someone in an open canoe knowing what they were doing, with float bags, would do fine--especially a solo paddler so the bow wouldn't bury. I even imagine a canoe without float bags could possibly do it...but of course the price for being wrong could be the destruction of a good canoe, so take my comments with a block of salt. At 1150cfs the walk-around path had a small amount of water running down it. Not sure if it could have been used by a boat as a sneak route at that water level...maybe a kayak could.

For me (in a kayak), I just scouted Russian Rapid as I went--blasted through without issues. At 1150cfs all obstacles, holes, rocks etc. were clearly visible well enough in advance that I didn't have to eddy out or exit the boat to take a look.

If you're in a time crunch (as I was today) and want to just go downriver and finish the run quickly, at 1150cfs with an 11-foot kayak you can go Knight's Ferry to Orange Blossom Bridge in 60 to 70 minutes. There were still a couple of places where it got slow and a lot of paddling would have been necessary whether you're in a hurry or not, but to do it in a little over an hour you have to paddle non-stop. A good workout.

Personally I'd say the run is appropriate for kayaks from below 185cfs to above 1150cfs. Still Class-1 plus that one initial drop.

Water temperature today was listed as 51 degrees, but it was par for the course for this river. Pleasant--didn't seem to be an issue (but then I didn't swim).

As I said, at 56 years old and with a 5-year-old waiting to see me later in the evening, I'm very conservative anymore. I like clear water gurgling through amazing little shoals, and I don't mind paddling. Bouncy fast water is no big deal anymore--I already know water can go fast if it wants to. At 1150cfs there were no shoals. There were multiple places where water was "boiling" up from deeper, which makes for squirrely motion, but nothing to be concerned about (yet). Water was still very clear. It's a nice run, and easy, at these levels.

Note that I have never paddled it above this level, but I can imagine six inches more water could make for a different experience, such as strainers and stronger boils and such.

Okay, that's what I found. If you see the gauge at 1150 and wonder whether it would be a handful or not, from my experience today, it should be trivially easy.

Posted: May 11, 2011Post Subject: Re: Runnable flows Knights Ferry to Orange Blossom
Hello All,
I wanted to add a bit to the info posted by vorhis regarding the lower Stan. I have run the Knights Ferry stretch at flows of 250 cfs up to big spring flows of approx. 1600 cfs. My boat of choice on this river at almost any flows is a Hyside IK, a Padillac 2. At flows below 1,000 cfs Russian Rapid is basically a hard left handturn just past the tree midstream with a standing wave or two at the bottom. There is a nice rock shelf on the right just after the rapid where you can eddy out and watch boaters come on through. HOWEVER at flows between 1,200 cfs and 1,600 this rapid changes; the major difference I've noticed was a standing wave at the top of the raid just before the tree generated by a large rock normally out of the water, and a large diagonal wave at the very bottom of the rapid which CAN flip you if you hit it sideways. In addition, at these flows it's very difficult to eddy out and stop at the rock ledge in case of a swimmer. At flows between 500 and 1,000 most people won't have any trouble with the lower Stan but at the extremes there can be challenges. Below 250 cfs inflatables tend to stick on rocks or get punctured, and above 1200cfs potential strainers are definite issues in narrow, turning sections of the river. At most flows it takes a couple of hours to reach Horseshoe Bend, the halfway point but at high flows of 1200 to 1600 I have made this stretch in about an hour or even less. The rangers at the Corp of Engineers office are good sources of information if you're unsure about the flow rate on any given day; generally it is posted on the board at the Knights Ferry put-in. Hope this information helps, happy boating
AJ Fortune
Posted: Apr 12, 2012Post Subject: Thanks
Thanks for this info, I found it helpful
Posted: May 23, 2012Post Subject: Re: Thanks
AJ Fortune wrote:
Thanks for this info, I found it helpful

i agree...
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