McCloud River near Wyntoon
In the spring, the McCloud river from Fowler's campground to McCloud reservoir is one of the best runs in California. It is a good run in the summer, but low water for the first few miles makes it less than exhilarating. Here's what you get:
Although we didn't do this, I heard that if you start below Middle Falls (go east on a dirt road that intersects Fowler's Campground road), you can get another several kilometers of class III creekin'. The put-in there is harder than if you run Lower Falls, about the same if you don't.
The waterfalls should be rated class V because of an undercut on the right. Andy ran the left side over a rocky lip, and landed upright, well away from the boils and undercut. It is possible to put in below the waterfalls.
High water has moved some stuff around, and the section to Little Springs really needs more boats to crash into boulder-bar rocks and move them around a bit to create good channels. So please participate in riverbed maintenance!
The tree across the river just below Little Springs is gone. There is a new tree across the river just above Big Springs. At higher flows, you can easily boat over the left side. This summer, you'll have to carry; fortunately the flows won't be too fast. The rapid above Big Springs seems to be easier post-flood.
Running the McCloud in springtime is a great deal of fun: dodging holes and rocks nonstop for many kilometers, without the pressure of having to eddy out for a class V. Although Idaho has many such rivers, the only California river that comes close to this is the Merced above Red Bud. Below Big Springs comes a III+, then a short class II+ lull, then continuous III until just before the concrete (formerly log) bridge. After that it's mostly class II.
For emergency exit, a dirt road follows the right bank until Big Springs, mostly on USFS land. A dirt road follows the left bank starting a short distance below Big Springs, leading downstream to the concrete bridge, where a private road, unconnected to Wyntoon, leads north to highway 89.
The Hearsts now have a Sotar oarboat at Wyntoon. I guess they decided: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. There are no longer any large trees across the river near Wyntoon. Please be polite and friendly. Wyntoon residents share a common interest with you in keeping the reservoir level relatively low so that motorboaters do not intrude onto their estate.
New Mud Creek enters on the right just above the reservoir, changing the color of the water from electric blue to milky turquoise. Did you know that the Hearsts diverted Mud Creek so it wouldn't silt up the river past Wyntoon? (See Western Whitewater by Cross, Cassady, and Calhoun.) For some reason, McCloud reservoir is often fairly low. We snagged a tow with some fishermen, and shared our beef jerky with them; they wouldn't accept cash.
So I'm sorry to recommend a mere class III+ run, but I really do believe you'll agree this is one of the finest runs in California, in springtime. Please avoid running Middle Falls, 40' high. Although Chuck Stanley does not say so, Lars Holbek injured his back running it as a photo-op.
With vehicle access to Little Springs, which should be allowed because it is USFS land, although the riverbank there is fragile, this would make a viable commercial rafting run. However, the many rocks and steep gradient for the first few miles make this run impractical for large rafts.
To reach take-out, drive east on highway 89 from Interstate 5 just south of Mount Shasta village (6 miles north of Dunsmuir). At the town of McCloud, turn south onto Squaw Valley Road. After Squaw Valley road turns sharp right, this becomes McCloud Reservoir road. About 9 miles later from McCloud, turn left onto Tarantula Gulch boat ramp.
To reach put-in, return to highway 89 and turn eastward. Continue 5.5 miles to a dirt road, and turn south towards Fowler's Campground. Proceed .5 mile to a 4-way intersection, go straight, then almost immediately take the right fork, marked Lower Falls. Follow this road .5 mile to Fowler's Campground, which is just upstream of Lower Falls.
Map of Rivers