Navarro River to Dimmick State Park


Stretch: Hendy Woods State Park to Dimmick Memorial Grove
Difficulty: Class I with some IIs
Distance: 16.2 miles, 1 or 2 days
Flows: canoes and kayaks 300 - 2000 cfs
Gauge: measured near town of Navarro (NRN)
Gradient: 3 fpm average, slow in places
Put-in: Hendy Woods, 75' or Greenwood road bridge, 70'
Take-out: Dimmick Memorial Grove, 30'
Shuttle: 20 miles (30 minutes) one-way
Maps: Delorme N California, AAA and Sonoma Mendocino, Topo
Season: December thru April, from recent rain
Agency: California Park, BLM, private
Notes: © 1998 Bill Tuthill, CreeksYahoo

This run is highly prized among open canoeists. I have not yet had a chance to run it, because when this one is flowing, so are many other good rivers with more whitewater.

Dick Schwind rates it AA- for scenery, and says, “it is a good run for beginners (with some experience) on a river flowing thru wilderness country... Brush is the major challenge on this run... Excellent sandbars for camping are scattered all along the river... The river is full of twists and turns [but] there is one distinct feature: Cape Horn, 8.3 miles below the [Greenwood Road] bridge. [Cape Horn] is a peninsula 600 feet wide and pointing west, with a large, sandy beach at the tip.”

To reach take-out, drive east from highway 101 near Cloverdale on highway 128, and wind over a mountain and back downhill past Boonville, Philo, and Navarro. Park in Dimmick State Park as close to the river as possible.

To reach put-in from there, retrace your route on highway 128 almost to (2.5 miles before) Philo. Turn west on Greenwood Road and proceed .3 mile to the bridge. A better but costlier put-in is available at the end of the road inside Hendy Woods State Park.

The remainder of this writeup is a trip report courtesy of Rocky Contos, who combined upper and lower Rancheria Creek with this Navarro River run, which he describes in the section Greenwood-Philo Road to Dimmick Park below. High water runs with inflatable kayaks are not recommended.

House Rock Rd to Highway 1 (almost 60 miles, 5 hours)

by Rocky Contos,

29 December 1996, about 4000 cfs at put-in, 15000 cfs at take-out

The first of several huge storms from Hawaii had dropped a couple inches of rain on already drenched soils in the early morning hours of December 29. I decided to run Rancheria Creek and the Navarro River. The run described in the Cassidy/Calhoun book is a 15-mile run from the Mountain View Rd bridge to the Greenwood-Philo Rd bridge, which they rate class II+ (25 fpm) at flows up to 2000 cfs. I wanted to run more than this for several reasons: 1) At high flows one travels very fast, so a much greater disance can be accomplished, with more scenery and river miles scored; 2) the run above the traditional put-in could possibly have some more challenging rapids and interesting scenery (and also may be a first descent); 3) I wanted to see the landslide below the take-out and if there was a substantial rapid created by it.

My brother was going to do the run with me from the Mountain View Rd put-in down (we had two vehicles for a shuttle) but he decided not to. Instead, I just had him drop me off at my put-in on the road that crosses Rancheria Creek above Boonville (that leads into Malliard Redwoods Park), which I think is called House Rock Rd (maybe Flat Rock?). It is the road downstream from Hubbard Rd. I put-in on river left pretty much under the bridge. The creek was flowing mightily with the muddy water characteristic of most Northern California rivers near flood stage. There was probably several thousand cfs here. I did not know the gradient of the approximately 15 miles to Mountain View Rd, so was a bit apprehensive about the undertaking. Looking at the creek from the road for several miles above and below my put-in spot, I judged it class II-III. The creek was very reminiscent of my run a year earlier (actually exactly one year earlier) on Redwood Creek at 10000 cfs.

Put-in to Mountain View Road (approximately 15 miles)

I took off into the unknown at 10:15 am. At these flows this first stretch is almost continuous class II-III, with several class IVs and one or two easy Vs. The banks rise vertically from the water, there are few eddies, and trees and branches must be avoided with quick river reading and maneuvering skills. Because of these threats, I'd give the overall difficulty a IV-V. There were a couple spots in this stretch where fallen trees (logs?) blocked almost the entire creek bed. I side-scouted three times (these were not the logs). The first time was a mile or two below the put-in where a house is perched 20 ft. above on creek-left (I'd call it CLH for Creek-Left-House). There are other houses in this stretch though. It is in a very swift class II-III section of river and a small gorge-type area. I scouted on the left. I don't recall details of this one, but I think it looked class IV+ with several giant holes. I picked out a route thru easily and had no trouble. This one would probably not be possible to portage unless you went up to the house on the left. Delicate maneuvering was required to avoid any potentially sticky situations. The second scout (creek-right) I did was at a bridge across the river maybe 4-5 miles below the put-in. The bridge looked like an old railroad bridge converted for vehicles and says “Trailer-Train”. The rapid beneath is a V-, TRAILER-TRAIN FALLS. At these flows it is not a fall, but rather one gigantic chocolate hole (the size of Crystal's hole in the Grand Canyon). The creek pours over about 4-5 ft and into the behemoth with whitewash (brownwash?) standing 4-5 ft. A boulder sits just below on river right, with some small trees around it. There were two possibilities to run it cleanly: on the far-right or the far-left. The far-left involved jumping onto the eddy where the water is pouring over, while the right route involved aiming the boat to the right and just skirting the monster, but coming thru the turbulence to the left of the boulder and just behind the hole. Both routes are complicated by small trees/branches 30-40 ft upstream on both sides of the river, directly in the lines of intended movement. I went for the right, trying to get up the momentum heading right and aiming the boat correctly to miss the huge whitewash. This I accomplished, but with too much momentum, it turns out. I got pushed into the boulder instead of moving around it to the left. The main problem here was the very turbulent surging water. I didn't try paddling out to the left around it again for fear a back surge might catch me and throw me into the hole. Instead I delicately moved my boat around and to the right of the boulder, going over several fallen trees to get thru. Below this rapid the river entered a rather flat stretch for a couple miles. Sometime in the 15 miles (maybe around mile 8) the redwood forests appear on both banks and are very beautiful to see. The third rapid I scouted was at a right bend in the river, maybe around 10-12 miles below the put-in. I scouted on the left. This one turned out to only be a long class IV, with giant holes on river left to avoid. I made it to the Mountain View Rd bridge at 11:45 am.

Mountain View Road to Greenwood-Philo Road (13 miles)

This stretch is described in the guidebook. At these flows it was a solid class III run with a few IVs. The big-water action picks up a few miles below the bridge and continues for maybe 8 miles. Many sections were continuous class II-III waves. Everything was visible as one proceeded down the river. About 10 miles below Mtn View Rd there is a giant tree across the river (diameter approximately 3-5 ft, about 100 ft long). It sits perched on top of a big mid-stream boulder. Coming up on this I stopped in an eddy on river right to boat scout and saw the left channel negotiable. As I went under the tree sitting upright my helmet just touched the tree (at the level I had). I imagine the following storms might pick up the river enough to float that tree right outta-there! Another feature of this stretch are some giant holes. I saw about 4-5 monsters, and they all seemed to be on river-right. Sometimes it was hard to tell if a wave was hiding a hole behind it. Many of the waves would surge up and down. When this happened it was clear there was no hole there. In one spot I did run smack dab into a big crashing wave, but fortunately it didn't hold me. The last 2-3 miles of this stretch the valley opens up and the river becomes very wide and calmer (class I with occasional IIs). On river right pear orchards were flooded and one could paddle right up thru them to the farmer's house if desired. I was at the bridge around 1:15.

Greenwood-Philo Road to Dimmick Park (16 miles)

Redwood trees abound on both banks in this stretch, and it is definitely the most scenic in this regard. The stretch is class I almost entirely except for three places. One is a little below the bridge where a big crashing wave exists on river left - it would be a great play-spot. The second spot is maybe 4-5 miles down at the highly publicized landslide. The whole mountainside slid down to the river, constricting it to a narrow chute. LANDSLIDE FALLS is nothing but a class I+/II- with a bunch of small waves/haystacks about a foot high. The water moves very swift here. I was surprised that the slide didn't look as impressive as I'd thought it would from the newspaper pictures I'd seen. It is clearly discernible by dirt rising straight out of the river-right side, and trees far above standing crooked. A couple miles below the landslide is another powerful rapid, the last on the river. One can hear it clearly when approaching. The river drops approximately 5 ft here at a right-hand bend, and forms the most beautiful smooth giant standing waves which are the largest on the entire run, standing vertically about 8 ft. The wave train lasts a little while, then there is a monstrous eddy on the left below. Unfortunately I hit the eddy line and was sucked under and flipped by a whirlpool. Because I was still using this lousy Seals skirt that was too loose, it popped as I tried setting up to roll on my left. I quickly shoved myself back in the boat and rolled up on the right, the boat completely full of water (except for the float bags in the rear). I paddled over to the right side of the river and emptied out the boat. In addition to these few rapids, I also recall one spot in this stretch where a log spanned almost entirely across the river from the left bank. I went over it in the middle. Fortunately it only had a minor backwash behind it. At Dimmick State Park I got out and trotted around a little. There are a bunch of campsites there and highway 128 comes to the river again at this point. Several of the campsites were flooded. I was looking for the North Fork Navarro in this stretch but never saw it enter. My brother said it was a very brushy creek and didn't look that great to run. Perhaps where it entered the main Navarro it was also very brushy and not very noticeable. After I finished, I saw that it enters right at Dimmick State Park.

Paul Dimmick State Park to Highway 1 (12 miles)

This stretch is class 0-I and was just a lot of swift water. I didn't mention before, but all along my run I had floating companions - logs. One was actually a tree 80 ft long and 4 ft in diameter that I ended up paddling with several times, since I would generally paddle ahead of it, then stop somewhere for a few minutes, then paddle up to it again. There were all other sorts of things floating down the river too. I found three soccer balls. Two I threw up on the left bank (one of these I put behind a large tree stump in the third stretch I described), and the third I didn't bother with. Empty paint canisters and other oddities were also along for the ride. I watched as an empty milk carton surfed the wave downstream of the Greenwood-Philo Rd bridge. Finally the scenery began to change to the typical coastal grassland/low bush stuff and I was at Highway 1 (3:30 PM). A good take-out exists just downstream of the bridge on river left, but I took out on river right a couple hundred yards upstream. A cop had just closed 128 due to flooding. My brother and I drove back that way because we didn't think it was completely flooded (when I had paddled past there was still one lane free at the spot about 8 miles upstream Highway 1). When we got there though, it was totally covered, probably with several feet of water. The river was definitely still rising. It was a great trip, some of the funnest kind of paddling for me.


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