The Stan, as it is known to boaters, drains the central peaks of Sierra Nevada and flows southwest to its confluence with the San Joaquin River in California’s Central Valley. The river’s elevation at 4,000 ft. makes for unique alpine canyon scenery, with towering pines and fir trees, along with Dogwood and wild azalea that dot the riverbanks. This five-mile run is steep and quick, with many Class IV+ rapids, aggressive twists and turns, big pool drops, and tight chutes.
The North Fork has a short season, from mid-April through mid-May, but some dam releases make it runnable in the summer and early fall. It is recommended only for advanced whitewater boaters. Experts may even consider tackling the continuous Class V rapids that go on for another couple of miles at the end of this run, but most should not even consider it. The beginning of this run was changed by floods in 1997, and a number of portages are required now to avoid the continuous Class V+ rapids.
Another popular trip with kayakers and rafters is the Camp Nine run, but this is only runnable during extended droughts when the reservoir at New Melones Dam is dry. The reservoir has killed many trees on the side of the river and created silty banks, but the canyon itself is gorgeous, and if nothing else, doing this run is a great educational experience as to how a reservoir affects a river.
The Lower Stan run flows through a low-elevation gorge in the Sierra foothills, and is only 100 miles from San Francisco Bay, making this a popular, though quite challenging run for area boaters. The Goodwin Dam releases provide the river with boatable flows in the summer, and sometimes throughout the year. This run is characterized by pool-and-drop rapids and a moderate gradient. Some rapids may require portages.