There are a few rivers out there that have a special reputation. They really bring together all the elements that draw us to whitewater kayaking: challenging drops, beautiful scenery, little grunt work and non-stop fun. Runs like Cherry Creek (on the Tuolumne), Forks of the Kern, Middle Feather and my current favorite: 49 to Bridgeport on the South Yuba. They aren't necessarily the hardest whitewater out there, but that is part of their appeal - they are accessible to ordinary paddlers; they challenge without terrifying; they delight without damaging. That's what makes these rivers classic and the ones we return to paddle again and again.
This past weekend my friend Alex drove up from LA for a weekend of boating. Our plans kept changing throughout the week as river flows kept dropping (the snow's finally running out). We had talked about getting in to do Giant Gap at a reasonable flow to make up for the epic Alex had in there at high flows. But it dropped too low. We were looking at maybe repeating our Middle Feather trip from last year. But it dropped too low. South Silver was on the list but word was it was still too high (turns out it had dropped to a nice low level). The one run we really wanted to get in was 49 to Bridgeport. It is an absolutely classic run that unfortunately doesn't get water that often since most of it is taken out by the maze of dams and diversions up stream. But it was holding on for the weekend and we got on it just before it dropped out. The flow was low but it made a perfect level for Alex's first time down. And getting to paddle it in the warm summer sun was a special treat for me - my introduction to the run came during a winter rain storm.
The next day we grabbed our friend Emily and headed down to the Mokelumne to do the Devil's Nose. We did the run but flows had dropped out - below the levels that the utilities reported they would provide for the weekend. So while it was still a good day paddling with friends we had to portage a few rocky rapids and the day went slow with the lower flows. More than once Alex pointed out how it is runs like this that really make you appreciate the classics. So true.
Here's some video of 49 to Bridgeport: