Kings River Garlic Falls Run
Rafters and hardshell kayakers agree that the Garlic Falls run, erroneously called the upper Kings (there are runs higher up), is harder than either Cherry Creek to Tuolumne or the Middle Fork Feather. Because flows seldom fall below 1000 cfs except in late summer of dry years, this run does not seem safe for inflatable kayaks, although it has been done (see story below). Personally I was scared shirtless in a 14' raft at relatively low flows.
Some excellent pictures of this run are available at this Dreamflows gallery.
The toughest section, from Rattlesnake to Garlic Creek, is only two miles long, but takes nearly a full day to scout'n'boat. So despite the seemingly short distance, be sure to budget at least two days for this trip, three if you start on the South Fork.
The first descent was by Maynard Munger, Bryce Whitmore, and Roger Paris in July 1960! That was before the advent of “indestructible” plastic boats.
For an added challenge, as if the Garlic Falls run isn't challenge enough by itself, you can put in about 2 miles up the South Fork Kings with about the same effort as hiking down to the standard put-in. To find this South Fork put-in, which gets you to the river below the class VI rapid Fear and Loathing, turn off highway 180 at the bend past Tenmile (Hume) Creek, where there is a large flat area with plenty of parking. A poison-oak-infested trail leads down to the river. You must lower boats over a cliff, but the climb down is safe and easy.
Excluding the bottom 2 miles of the South Fork, which contain several class V rapids, here are the class V rapids I remember (plus a IV+ wrap rapid). This makes 14 class V rapids, more than on the Middle Fork Feather, and including one (Rough-Garlic Creek) that has already claimed the life of super kayaker Bob Porter.
"My good boating comrade Wxyz was with Bob Porter and about eight other experts doing an exploratory run on this stretch of the Upper Kings. In one of the drops there were two openings you could take. Bob took the right-hand one and was stopped in the drop when his bow struck a rock. He climbed out of the boat, several small ropes were thrown to him, but as he stepped on a rock to return to shore, he slipped and was carried under a large boulder. No one could get to him. His body was retrieved a couple weeks later when the water dropped. The party was so shaken by the loss of such a good boater and friend that they walked out several miles dragging their boats. Wxyz was next in line to do the drop, but of course, didn't.Here is a quick run-down of the class V rapids:
V- Butthole Surfer (mile 2) series of huge runnable holes == camp (mile 3) nice bench with trees on R just above... V Rattlesnake (eponymously, look for big Diamondback) flat boulder near bottom surf boats R into narrow slots V Kodiak can't remember the details! V Grizzly easy lead-in, need to move R to avoid pinning in center, rough runout V+ Warp 2 high sliding falls into hole, then a short pool before... V Cassady Falls ugly boulder falls with sneak route on left V The Gray Wall like Green Wall on the Illinois, except gray V That's Dumb (harder at high water) tight lead-in to huge drop and hole V+ Rough Creek half mile long, any number of spots could lead to a death-defying swim V+ Garlic Creek continues immediately after Rough Creek without any break = camp (mile 5.1) high bench on L with view of Garlic falls V- (unnamed) shortly below camp, several big holes V- (unnamed) tight maneuvering among boulders river mellows out V- Earlobe of God tight routes on far L or R, just above... V Hand of God steep violent drop, named when Chuck Koteen survived upside down run river mellows out IV+ Leo's Late Lunch long boulder garden with wrap rocksThe shuttle is long and partly on rough dirt road. Good shuttle instructions are provided in both the Cassady/Calhoun and Holbek/Stanley guidebooks. The kayaker's book is correct is saying that continuing downstream to Mill Flat take-out (river left) greatly simplifies your shuttle.
First? Ducky Descent of Garlic Falls Run
Paul Martzen, now and perhaps then an expert hardshell kayaker, sent in this great trip report:
© 2003 Paul Martzen
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