The 2013/2014 fall and winter seasons were a bit disappointing for California kayakers. The serious lack of precipitation left politicians calling for a Drought State Emergency. Usually during summertime releases the South Fork of the American River receives 1500cfs from Chili Bar Reservoir. But this year we will only see that flow on weekends with a flow of 1300 on weekdays. Many folks are worried that this year just won’t be as fun. The time is now to diversify our paddling. Finding new ways of enjoying kayaking and building skills in different aspects of the sport keeps us wanting to come back day after day.
The majority of South Fork boaters enjoys running one of the three available sections but is completely unaware of ways to enjoy this river without having to go downstream. Or even without having to set shuttle! The first and most blatantly obvious way is to park-n-play at Barking Dog rapid just downstream of Camp Lotus. During the summer you will normally see this rapid congested with many play boaters working on their technical skills. First and foremost, play boating is roll practice. And Barking Dog is great for the fact that just behind the wave lays a swirly eddy line that swims even the best of paddlers on rare occasions. Play boating is great for learning edge control and different paddle strokes. Each new trick you learn puts a new technique into the works. It doesn’t matter if you are just learning to flat spin or donkey flip; there is something to learn from the small spud boats!
Just upstream of the Chili Bar put in is the Nugget Campground and Slalom gates. With some of the most dynamic class II moves and one of the longest continuous courses, The South Fork slalom gates are widely renowned for being THE place to practice your slalom skills. The quick pace of slalom will teach you to make every stroke count and the importance of efficiency. As you practice lap after lap, you will soon notice that you are entering and exiting small eddies more quickly and smoothly. Once comfortable on the slalom course you will be amazed at how comfortable you are in the big river. Being able to catch those tough eddies with the greatest of ease will prove your practice was well worth the effort. Soon enough you will be paddling an imaginary slalom course all the way down the river catching every eddy possible!
Squirt boating is kind of a rare sight on the west coast. So much so, when most people spot a squirt boater rocketing up from the depths, most question what exactly they are seeing. This facet of kayaking gets the paddler in tune with the currents not only on the surface but under water as well. Squirting is highly versatile; with possibilities of cart wheels, stern/bow squirts and fully underwater acrobatic mystery moves. Not only is it a lesser known way to improve your kayaking repertoire, but it will make you realize the importance of the hand roll since it is extremely difficult to squirt boat properly with a paddle. Most paddlers opt out of the traditional paddle for hand paddles giving them more flexibility and new skills to hone.
Whether you are a seasoned river runner or just getting into this amazing and diverse sport, one fact remains the same. We all have lessons to be learned from the river. We are also extremely lucky to have a beautiful and reliable river flowing here all year long, just waiting for us to enjoy it. So, grab your boats and friends and come out to enjoy all of the awesome options that are available
Don’t have the boat or gear you need or need some advice? Feel free to contact The River Store at 530-626-3435 or visit the website www.theriverstore.com OR contact Current Adventures for boats or classes at 530-333-9115 or their website www.currentadventures.com.