Sunday, February 25, 2007

Upper North Fork Cottonwood

Darin McQuiod and Shon Bollock. Photo: Paul Gamache

The day after paddling Mears Creek Shon Bollock and I began searching for something in the Shasta area to venture down. Hearing good word about Upper North Fork Cottonwood we checked flows and decided it was certainly the best thing going. After meeting up with Darin McQuiod, we headed south of Redding towards the small town of Ono. Eventually, we made our way to the takeout bridge, checked the actual flow, and moved the vehicles to avoid the apparent psycho who lives at the house near the takeout bridge.

Shon Bollock checking out the flow @ the take-out bridge. Photo: Paul Gamache

After setting shuttle at the Plantina Grange we made our way towards Put-in. Note of Caution: When unloading boats from the roof take note of the vehicle's antenna. I failed to do so and as a result diminished Shon’s radio frequency range.

Darin McQuiod - Photo: Paul Gamache

The first couple miles of the Upper Section of NF Cotton are mellow, there are some fun drops mixed in but for the most part it’s bump and grind rapids.

Eventually, you’ll come up to a 4-6’ drop that was mellow if you avoid the hole. However, Darin and Shon experienced the stickiness of the drop and may say otherwise.

Paul Gamache from the lip. Photo: Darin McQuiod

Darin, a little farther right then you want to be. Photo: Paul Gamache

Just below the 4-6' falls you'll come to a long crack rapid. Most of the water pushes to the left channel and Shon and Darin both ran that side while I walked around on the right.

Right below this drop is a junky boof which wants to slam you into the left wall.

Shon from the top and Darin from the bottom, watch the left wall on this one. Photo: Paul Gamache

Next comes a junky class IV which looked like more taxation on your boat than it was worth but Shon and Darin gave it a shot anyway.

Shon having fun getting stuck in the junk. Photo: Paul Gamache

After the junk you'll come to a rapid we've named "Shon's Crack" or "Shon's on Crack". Shon ran this drop on an earlier trip and remains the only person to have ever done so. Throwing yourself off this one looks like a bad time and a broken paddle waiting to happen. However, Shon defends the quality of the drop and tried to convice Darin and I to test it out. Everyone portaged on the right this time.

Checking out "Shon's Crack". Photo: Paul Gamache

Shon waving to Darin for some reason. Photo: Paul Gamache

After the portage Jerusalem Creek comes in on the right and almost doubles the flow of the creek.

Not long after you'll get to the money drop on the run. A 15', two option falls. Either take the perfectly clean line on the left or take the "super boof" line on the right. Shon and I tried to sync this one up so that we were both dropping it at the same time but I took to long to get to the lip compared to Shon's fast line on the right.

Shon Bollock on the boof line. Photo: Darin McQuiod

Paul Gamache. Photo: Darin McQuiod

Darin McQuiod from below. Photo: Paul Gamache

After the falls the creek mellows out for a bit. A few miles later you get to the mandatory portage.

The making of Darin McQuiod photography. Photo: Paul Gamache

Darin's shot showing the cave behind the falls. Photo: Darin McQuiod

Once done admiring the drop we hiked a little ways down river and found a nice ledge to seal launch in from.

With a little help from my friend - Shon getting ready to push Darin off the seal launch. Photo: Paul Gamache

Darin gaining some speed. Photo: Paul Gamache

After the seal launch we made our way towards take-out. Shortly after the portage there is a rapid with a log in it. I portaged on the left while Darin and Shon paddled through. From the portage to the bridge is a long way of class II-III. There is one class IV gorge in the mix but other than that it's a pretty tiring paddle that provides little excitement.

We opted to take out on river left and blitz the road as fast as we could to avoid the land owner's grievences.

All in all Upper NF Cottonwood is a great little creek which I would imagine only got better at higher water.

North Fork Cottonwood Take-out. Photo: Paul Gamache


For Darin's Writeup: Click Here. CaCreeks Click Here

Take-out: From Redding head South on I-5 exit Gas Point Road once you hit the town of Cottonwood. Drive west along Gas Point Road, make a left on Plantina Road and continue on till you hit the bridge crossing over the NF of Cottonwood Creek. We parked at the Plantina Grange and had no vehicle issues.

Put-in: From the take-out bridge head east along Plantina road shortly after make a left on Rainbow Lake Road. Drive a little ways and turn left on Sunny Hill Road. Continue along Sunny Hill till you reach the creek. You'll known when you're there because you won't be able to drive any further.

Flow: We had about 400 CFS and dropping. This was an alright flow but more water would have been better.

Google Earth Shot:

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