Trinity River South Fork above Hyampom
This section of the South Fork Trinity offers intermediate boaters a fine wilderness experience, with overnight recommended. The shuttle is long, and because it takes time to reach this remote part of California, it is wise to enjoy a relaxing wilderness stay. Few class III river segments in California are this remote and scenic.
The gradient at Klondike Mine is still quite steep. At the outset there might be two class IV- rapids that require scouting, though they are neither difficult nor dangerous to boat. After about .7 mile the canyon opens up, and rapids ease for the remainder of the trip. Around mile 2.5 there are some summer houses on the left. Just after a sharp right turn, Plummer Creek enters on the right at 7.2 miles. At mile 11.5, Sulphur Glade Creek enters on the left, and the river swings sharply right, around a narrow peninsula pointing east. Around mile 14, the river turns left and flows south, the only place it does. At mile 15 the buildings of Saint John Place might be seen, where the dirt take-out road ends. At mile 16, just before the river makes a sharp left U-turn at the base of a 100 meter rocky bank, Oak Flat offers an easy take-out. A more difficult take-out (across private land) is available downstream where Butter Creek comes in on the right. After that the canyon walls close in above class VI Wintoon Flat rapids.
The Cassady/Calhoun guidebook recommends boating the entire South Fork Trinity in one fell swoop, but few people, or perhaps nobody, has ever done that. The Holbek/Stanley guidebook recommends two class V trips, one short 4.5 mile run from highway 36 to Klondike Mine, and another long 17 mile run from Big Slide campground to a low water bridge (with access problems). The latter run is a seldom-booked commercial rafting trip.
From its East Fork confluence at Wildwood Road to highway 36, the South Fork Trinity is class IV with many (too many) portages. Dick Schwind said so in 1974, and Cassady and Cross rediscovered the truth of his assessment while researching their book Western Whitewater. (There is a story of Bill Cross puking from overexertion after the trip.) From 1 mile upstream of highway 36 to Klondike Mine is a class V run (110 fpm near end) with clustered rapids, very narrow at times.
Two miles below your take-out at Oak Flat are some class VI boulder jumbles that require portaging. After this, the gradient eases and boaters encounter flatwater for 5 miles thru the Hyampom valley, past the confluence with Hayfork Creek, to Big Slide campground along Lower South Fork Road. This is the starting point for an excellent class IV+ section, the South Fork Trinity Three Bears run, that requires 2 portages and includes the famous Poppa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear series. Most boaters can take out after 17 miles, even if a gate is locked. Below is an 8 mile class I-II non-wilderness section favored by canoeists.
To reach take-out, take highway 299 west from Redding. At Douglas City turn south and west onto highway 3. At the town of Hayfork, bear right (west) onto Hyampom Road. Before completing the descent to Hyampom (2 miles before town), turn left, leaving pavement, onto Saint John Road. By bearing right at all the intersections, you reach the river access point at Oak Flat.
To reach put-in from there, return to Hyampom Road by bearing left at all the intersections. Turn uphill and return to Hayfork, where you turn right onto highway 3. After 12 miles, turn right at the intersection with highway 36. In about 10 miles you reach USFS campsites along the South Trinity, and a bridge across the river near Forest Glen. Continue west from the bridge for 2.5 miles, and turn right onto Klondike Mine Road. This poor dirt road leads in a few miles to above the river; 4WD or mud chains advised when wet. A trail descends to put-in.
Map of Rivers