Saturday, August 15, 2009

Upper Red Cap Creek

Stand of Incense Cedar on Road to Put-In 

Emerging from the seldom visited western flank of the Trinity Alps, Upper Red Cap is high quality creekin'.  In fact, the drainage is large enough to draw comparisons such as "mini-New" or "Mini Salmon" to its bigger brothers nearby.  The gradient, however, is more ample on this run, and flowing through several gorges this creek sports some great rapids.  Finding your way to the creek is part of the challenge, as you drive through wineries and eventually reach some unmarked turns...bring a map and you'll have no troubles.  We paddled this section when the salmon was at a meek 4' on the gauge and had enough water to get down, but in the future I will probably not return with less than 4.7'.

The Hike-In

Getting to this creek is not easy, though we were pleasantly surprised to find the road was in great shape all the way to the top, and there was a trail leading all the way to put-in.  Pretty good access considering this was a (potential) obvious first descent.  While hiking in on the trail, several spur trails take-off, though you generally want to stay all the way to the right, as long as you continue downhill.  You will reach a small flat filled with mining junk along the middle fork of Red Cap, keep staying to the right, negotiating along the mini-gorge, until you can see the main-stem of red-cap. The last descent to the creek has a poison oak bush waiting for the unwary kayaker. 

Damon about to get P.O.

Orion at Put-In

This run is characterized by steep boulder gardens in a remote canyon.  The first big rapid you get to is the "Logjam Drop".  This marks the beginning of the first canyon.

Orion Meredith Boofin' Away

Too Low To Go--The Crew Portaging an otherwise Sweet Drop

Orion Meredith at the Bottom of the Aforementioned Drop

Fun Rapids continue for a while below here, until you reach "the pinch", where the creek splits up through a weird boulder garden and then comes back together in a gorged out rapid, that could be a difficult scout at higher water (though the rapid would be much cleaner).  The bottom of this could also potentially develop a respectable hole at high water.

Chrisler Torrance in "Wall Check"

The Boys on Red Cap

Damon Goodman in The Pinch

Below here the river lets up for a while, and flows through an enormous landslide-carved channel where a debris flow appears to have temporarily dammed the creek, only to break through the earthen-dam.  The result is a long, steep boulder garden where the river spreads out fairly wide, this continues for nearly 1/4 mile before backing off again.

Damon Goodman Drops in on the Boulder Garden while Orion Looks On

Martin Scouting the Bottom of the Boulder Garden

After backing off for awhile, Red Cap Creek saves up its best for last, with a final bedrock gorge containing several sweet drops.  

Chrisler boofing "The Shelf"

Martin in the final gorge

Red Cap Creek is a run that I can't wait to do again, with abundant flow I think it will be a classic North Coast creek.  At our flow I would say it was mostly class IV, with a few tricky drops, however at high flows there would be a good amount of class V.  


  1. You have a blog? looks like it's almost as good as the paddle humboldt..... Anyways, nice write-up and lets get some waves!


  2. Thanks O-face,
    waves n' creekin all winter long...

  3. Hey Dan M. Great blogs! I have been trying to get ahold of you in some fashion. This is April from Boise. Post back I would like to chat with you and catch up. excited to hear from ya. talk to you soon old friend.

  4. April,
    Glad to speak with you and always stoked to have a fan. Hope you're having a good summer!