We initially had planned to drive through the Shasta Trinity National Forest on our way to Redwood National Park. As the road followed the river we noticed a bunch of rafters, and from the road the white water rapids looked pretty large. So we randomly decided to find a place to camp and go rafting. We first tried Big Flats, a national park campground that was empty. Although I could have gotten the rig in there is was not meant for trailers our size and the trees were heavily overgrown. Also because we hadn’t planned on boondocking our water tank was empty and there wasn’t any water at the campground. A mile or two down the road we came across an RV park right on the river. It was a killer location with views of a rapid so we got to see rafters come by every now and then. The next day we ran it ourselves…
Once we parked and settled in, we only had to walk across the street to find a rafting company. They have a class five run but unfortunately the water was too high to run it. Lucky for us it was at a perfect level for the class three run. When she found out I had run the Gauley in West Virginia (a famous BIG class five river) a few times she recommended us renting kayaks instead of going in a raft with a guide. We’d done this before on the Nantahala in North Carolina (Class 2 with one small class 3 at the end) but never on a river as wild as this one. I was amazed that they rented all manor of rafts and kayaks to take down guided or self guided. There are very few places I know of that still do this.
The two owners and one of the guides all recommended that we each take a one person kayak but Victoria felt more comfortable in a two person kayak. They thought this was funny and were taking bets on how many times we’d flip. The two person kayak is much less maneuverable and does not have leg straps to hold you in, plus you have to be able to coordinate between the two paddlers. They nicknamed them “divorce boats”.
We followed along with a guide taking a family down in a raft for mothers day. As usual Victoria and I dominated and didn’t flip once. In the first large class 3 rapid we hit, the guide was getting ready to rescue us. He had told us to avoid the largest holes and waves but I figured, what fun is that? So we blasted straight at them. Although Victoria did almost fall out twice, once she was saved by the wave that we ran into, pushing her back into her seat. If I had a picture you’d know why he thought we would fall out. I guarantee the only thing you’d see was the tops of our helmets in some of those waves and holes. We kept paddling and although our boat was completely filled with water we made it out no problem. After that he wasn’t a doubter anymore, and I think he was a little impressed. 🙂
We happened along at the right time, just after a dam release but not too soon after. The river was running at about 2000 cfs. This provided for a lot of big class 2 and several big class 3 rapids (6 or so). I say big class 2 and 3 because the reason for their ratings was the size of the waves and holes more so than their technical challenge. There was one class 3 that took more finesse because there were boulders strewn through out it, so you needed to be more careful with the line you choose. If you wanted to run the class five section apparently the end on May is the time to be there. A little bit later and Victoria might have had her first Class 5 experience!
If you happen to be in northern California and enjoy whitewater rafting I can’t recommend the rafting company or RV park enough. The campground is simply beautiful, surrounded on all sides by the mountains and with a view of the very rapids you’ll be running. Plus when we were there, we were the only people in the park. Although we got zero reception anywhere around there the campground had excellent internet (can’t say that about many parks).
The rafting company was a small family outfit that had been there for 25+years and were very laid back (most rafting companies are more like joining the marines as they try to get huge groups of people ready for the river). In addition the fact that they will rent several different types of boats is amazing. By all means if you’ve been rafting a few times, take your own boat down. Self guiding certainly adds some excitement. If your into to big water like me and can’t make it for the class 5 section, rent a kayak. A class 3 rapid feels like a class 5 when you in a boat a quarter the size of a four man raft and you don’t have a guide helping you out.
All in all that was definitely the coolest unplanned stop of the whole trip.
P.S. The only picture we have was of the view out our window and Victoria with the largest pine cones known to man. The rest are photos of others on the river. I really need a Hero Cam 😉
The campground was $28 a day with full hookups(water, sewer, electric).
A single kayak was $45, a double $65, and rafts depend on the size. We also paid $15 for a shuttle (We only have one car). A guided rafting trip was $75 a person and it was $190 a person for the class 5 section. Self guiding certainly makes for a very reasonable day on the river. I’m glad we decided against trying to use our inflatable kayak, it simply does not drain water quick enough and the tubes are small for a true whitewater boat. It would be fine on class 2 and maybe even a small class 3 here or there but we almost certainly would have done some unintentional swimming on this river in our boat.
P.O. Box 572
31021 State Hwy 299
Big Bar, CA 96010
800-30 RIVER (307-4837) or (530) 623-3033
Across the street from Trinity River Rafting