The opportunity to paddle the North Fork Mokelumne came as a surprise after missing another high Sierra run and paddling a couple classics on the North Yuba and South Silver in the South American. Known to be the favorite run of many California paddlers, Fantasy Falls piqued my interest and had me fired up immediately after driving to the put-in and seeing that flows were perfect.
We proceeded to get ourselves into a shuttle debacle lasting roughly 7 hours and possibly(definitely) adding a few dents to the bottom of the Corolla we were driving. Note that a sedan is not recommended for the short shuttle.
We put on later in the morning after a leisurely packing session and began our three-day, 24 mile journey to the bottom. We bounced down through the first day of mank and a few good rapids, arriving at our camp just above the entrance to the second gorge at around five. Sun, fire, fresh water, and a setting of huge granite domes and two big rapids below us made for an amazing camp.
Good morning! Into the second gorge.
The second gorge was the highlight of the day, possibly the trip. Big clean slides and rapids were the norm for the day.
One of the big, clean slides.
We ended the day with a portage around a gorge we mistakenly thought to be a recommended portage, a bit of flatwater, then a horizon line leading into another deep, steep walled gorge. We made camp above this and under an incredibly large pine tree. Surrounded by granite domes and the white sound emanating from the gorge below, we made fire, dinner, then slept well expecting the next day to be long and difficult.
Not to let us down, the river continued at a fast pace and kept us on our toes until the reservoir. After multiple portages around marginal at best gorges/rapids, and a full day of good, hard rapids we were excited to see the reservoir. The prospect of fresh cotton and non-freeze-dried food motivated us to complete the paddle-out in good fashion and make it to the car under the moon.
This run was made up of three long days full of more rapids than I can remember surrounded by unbelievable scenery and made even better by the great weather and fun crew on the water. Thanks to Darin McQuoid and Kevin Smith for motivating to get on this.
The runs namesake, Fantasy Falls.
The final slide, quite full of water at 7 in the evening.
Photos Darin McQuoid.