Highway 120 to Berkeley Camp
Length: 1.3 miles/ 2 hours
Class: IV (2 portages)
Gradient: 154 ft/mile
A South Fork Tuolumne rafting or kayaking trip is a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon when running the entire Tuolumne River is too big of a commitment.
The 200 feet of gradient in just over a mile makes for continuous class 4 rapids with three bigger drops. The first two can be easily portaged and lined. For the third big rapid there is a take-out above it when Hayden Flat Road is open. Post fire the road is closed a quarter mile downstream forcing boaters to run the Berkeley Camp rapid or face a strenuous portage or challenging lining.
The Rim Fire of 2013 destroyed the Berkeley Camp and has left a fair amount of deadwood. Be careful of trees in the river as there are currently many.
South Fork Tuolumne River Highlights:
Put-in where highway 120 crosses the South Fork of the Tuolumne River. Upstream there is a steep stretch of river starting at Evergreen Road that has been run with lots of portaging (see video below, it also shows the lower section to Rainbow Pools).
Mile 0: Put-in at Highway 120 Bridge
Tight with continuous current and playful little waves the river leaves the bridge with and takes a couple of turns before the first rapid.
Mile 0.15: The First Rapid (III+)
A fun S-bend with nice pillows off a couple of large rocks.
Mile 0.25: Hole in a Box (V+,Potential Portage)
The river drop 8 feet into a hole surround by rocks. This is an ugly drop that someone has probably run. With an easy carry on the left there isn’t a good reason to run this.
Below are more fun drops interlaced with some manky ones with wood.
Mile 0.5 The Waterfall (V – Potential Portage)
There is a line on the right side of the drop. The left side has an ugly recirculating pocket. There are also some rocks in the bottom of the drop. It can be lined and walked on either side.
Below here is a fun triple drop rapid.
Mile 0.5 to 0.9
This section has many fun runnable drops with the occasional piece of wood throw in.
Mile .9: Hardin Flat Bridge and Berkeley Camp Rapid (IV+)
The most technical rapid on this section. The Berkeley Camp eating area used to over look the rapid and paddlers were typically cheered on as they would run down through the boulder laden drops. Scout for hidden wood from the bridge.
Mile 1 to 1.2
Below Berkeley Camp is a small weir that flushes pretty well on the left. After that the river meanders through a nice forest that survived the fire. Take out on river right somewhere where you are allowed to park along Hardin Flat Road. You can continue downstream and run a more challenging class V section of the South Tuolumne to Rainbow Pools.
Another great class IV-V run is the North Fork of the Tuolumne River.