Monday, August 15, 2011

All I need...easy paddling, close to home

Northern California kayakers have really got it good this season, with so much water flowing in unlikely places. Forget those distant paddle trips, all you need is close by. For example, the South Fork of the American River at Salmon Falls Bridge, just above Folsom Lake.   

Finding the first riffle on the South Fork -- video link below 
From suburban Folsom, it’s only a 20-minute drive to a paved parking lot with a nicely sloped launch for non-motorized watercraft. And this year, for the first time in recent memory, it's possible to paddle almost two miles upstream from Salmon Falls Bridge before the first rapids kick in. Not a long paddle. Not a tough paddle. But all you need.

Launching from Skunk Hollow, just below Salmon Falls Bridge
NorCal Yak pals Ward and Karen suggested this sweet little trip up the canyon. And on a recent Thursday morning, aside from a couple of power boats, a couple of kayak anglers, and a couple of ducks, I had the place to myself. Easing along the brushy, rock-studded riverbank provided a bit of shade and quietude. With a cool breeze caressing my back, what more could I need?

About 20 leisurely minutes later, the first riffle. Just below, a couple of fishermen with sit-on-tops had pulled over for lunch. One told me he hadn’t made it this far upstream in years. “Usually by now, the king salmon are up here,” he said, “but everything seems to be running late this season.”
Fishermen take a break at first South Fork riffle 

As the anglers relaxed, I made a run at the mini-rapids, but the water was too shallow and the current too swift.  Had to settle for sitting atop a large flat rock in the middle of the stream – the perfect place to relax and enjoy the view. (Video)

Heading back downstream, there seemed to be a shallow pool or a smooth, flat rock dock every few yards. So many perfect spots for a picnic. Made me think -- why didn’t I bring lunch along? A sandwich…that’s all I need. A sandwich….and a camp chair, that’s all I need. And a good book. A sandwich, a camp chair, and a good book, that’s all I need. A sandwich, a camp chair, a good book, and...

(With appreciation to Steve Martin.)


From Sacramento or Folsom, take Highway 50 east to the El Dorado Hills exit, hang a left and take El Dorado Hills Road (which turns into Salmon Falls Road).  A 20-minute drive takes you over Salmon Falls Bridge to the Skunk Hollow turnoff (paved parking, decent restrooms, no water), part of the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area.

At the launch site, a butterfly convention; bicyclist gets down for a closer look, below

© Glenn Brank 2011