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Submitted by Christina Kossis

Looking back at my first California Whitewater Tour from last year, 2023, and getting stoked for the season ahead. A kayaking trip to California is tough to plan for specific runs without spending the entire summer season in the state. I was fortunate enough to time my 4 week tour during June/July and caught many unique runs. I had been thinking about the Rubicon, Fantasy Falls, Dinky Creek, the Cherry sections, but the Cali snowpack had other plans for me. We started our trip off with some highwater sections of the South Yuba, but immediately detoured to the final days of Big Kimshew Creek before it dropped out. Then the levels took us to North Yuba Sections waiting for the Middle Fork of the Feather to come into reasonable flows, followed by more sections of the Yuba. We then detoured further south near Yosemite to expedition the Upper and Lower Clavey into the lower Tuolumne section. The trip ended with several sections of the South Fork of the American including Kyburz, South Silver Creek, Lovers Leap and Golden Gate. Many sections from my June-July tour were over a month behind normal snowpack schedule. Big Kimshew and the Middle Fork of the Feather sections are runs normally at “good flow” in April and May.

If you’re someone trying to plan a California tour, be open minded. A couple tricks that I was shown pre-trip were monitoring the snow pack for the year and how it compared to previous years. A quick Google search for “California snow pack graph” will bring you to a CDEC Daily Plot of California Snowpack where you can compare snowpack history and then try to compare the dates for when things ran those years compared to the current snow forecast. You’ll learn quickly though that planning levels based on snowpack only goes so far, because as the weather vastly changes between cold and hot the river levels will also drastically change day to day until all of the snow has melted.

One part that I struggled with was finding good guide books to use for the trip. The most useful beta I found for researching the California river sections were online. A Wet State ( and Darin Mcqoids creatively written blogs about his California experiences, with very good beta ( It is important to note that the actual rapid beta and putin/takeouts were sometimes out-dated and the most useful information usually comes from talking with the local paddlers in California and people currently running the rivers.

California is one of the most epic places I have ever gone to kayak. It is somewhere that will beat up any well-seasoned, expert paddler and it takes a certain personality to do the tour that I did. But if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are many other less involved sections that could make any California Tour one to get excited about. One thing important to note for any tour that involves overnight camping and expedition kayaking is having the right kayak to handle the job. I took 6 months preparing for my trip by cross-training and practicing with my small Gnarvana fully packed with overnight gear. I think these are 2 essential pieces to prepare for when planning multiday adventure trips. Being prepared physically to hike a loaded kayak for several miles for a remote section of river and also paddle a loaded down kayak once you get there. It is also important to take note to pack essential equipment such as SOS devices (I brought a Garmin Inreach), first aid kits, and patch kits for your kayak to fix anything from broken outfitting to a broken kayak.

My Youtube Channel highlights 12 of the 13 runs that I did on my tour. Here are links to 5 of them:

Big Kimshew

North Yuba – Bullards Bar

Upper/Lower Clavey

South Silver

Middle Fork of the Feather – Bald Rock Canyon

Photo Credits: Art Barket (A rapid on the Clavey, camping on the Bridge at the end of the lower Tuolumne, Devils Canyon section of the Middle Fork of the Feather) and Kirk Eddelman (Curtain Falls on the Bald Rock Section of the Middle Fork of the Feather)