DINKEY CREEK: The Best 6 miles of WW on the Planet

Fully loaded for the 2 hr shuttle with 6 boats, paddling gear, overnight gear and 6 people.

This is not a river guide, as a quality guide to this river can be found on Darin McQuoid’s site HERE. This is the account of my first self-support multi-day kayak trip. I  hopped on a trip down Dinkey Creek on 1 day’s notice with a rock star crew. The crew consisted of Darin McQuoid, Clay Wright, Stephen Wright, Laura Farrell, Joe, Lars Lammler and Rutger.

The majestic sight of Dinkey Creek from near the top of the Put-in Trail

First things first, I was not prepared! I borrowed dry bags, had a leaky boat with broken outfitting and honestly wasn’t in good enough shape for the physical demands of the trip. I knew little about the run before agreeing to join, but did know the length, time frame, general character, that we had a super solid crew and that I had the paddling skills to make it happen.

Steep rough granite required a shouldered boat, a very heavy boat!

The hike in was steep and had quite a bit of varied terrain.

Getting to the river is a mission. There are about 2 hrs, each way, of mountainous dirt/gravel roads between the put-in and take-out. Road conditions change and we were prepared with the Exploring Elements Sportsmobile’s high clearance, 4×4, extra fuel jug and we brought along a chainsaw just in case. We squeezed in 6 people, gear and boats and made the shuttle happen without any issues. We met the remaining 2 members of our 8 person crew at the put-in. I use the term put-in loosely, as you still have 2+ miles of tough downhill hiking with a fully loaded kayak before you actually get to paddle. The hike is quite steep and requires a combination of shoulder carrying your boat and dragging it. My 5.10 Canyoneer boots had great support and traction on the slick Cali granite, but like many in the crew I got huge blisters on my toes because of the steep terrain and heavy gear. The Cali Sun and almost 90 degree heat is really what worked me over and slowed me down on the hike.

Not many photos from the first mile, as we where losing daylight and my mind was on the WW. Lars showing how clean most of the 20’er is, where I went way left and pitoned the wall.

Stephen dropping into the first tier of Spikes, a big rapid just above the first good campground.

We got to the creek quite late in the day due to a number of factors, but you ONLY need to paddle about 1 mile before camp. This is an action packed mile that rivals any single stretch of WW I’ve ever experienced! It is made up of huge granite slides and medium-sized waterfalls that are of a pool drop nature, but stacked back to back. Willie Kern’s rapid is one I remember as it is a 2 tiered sloping drop with only the first slide visible from the scout. After getting great beta I dropped in and styled the whole thing, but went SUPER deep off the second drop. The hit pulled my eyelids back and everything went dark, but I resurfaced upright, away from the hole and without hitting anything. The next drop is a “clean” 20′ waterfall where the line is to go ALMOST all the way left with a nice delayed boof and a stomp to 45 degrees. I went ALL the way left, got half a boof and pitoned the left protruding wall about 15′ down, feeding me into the curtain upside down and sore. I rolled up and paddled away no problem, but for sure had a sore rib and left leg. There is a mandatory portage on this stretch and it required lowering boats to a sketchy slick granite shelf, getting into your boat while it was held by another paddler and seal launching 20’+ into the river. The last person had to throw their boat and jump while the first paddlers collected the boat, paddle and paddler so as not to get pushed into the rapid below, which claimed a life only last year. We paddled into camp as it was getting dark to find 2 other groups had claimed the first 2 campsites, requiring us to paddle another few huge slides before finding a suitable camp for 8 people.

Cooking around the campfire

The camp was on an exposed granite slab next to a rapid. We quickly got into dry clothes, started a fire and refueled our bodies with food and water. The food prep was quite diverse: Darin cooked a steak, Rutger brought whiskey, Laura brought wine, cooked quinoa and zucchini cakes, Clay, Stephen, and Lars all ate hot dogs, and I ate a combination of crackers and power bars. You can tell who has done this overnight deal before;) After a short time letting dinner digest and chatting around the fire everyone turned in early to rest our weary bodies. I was so sore I took a few ibuprofen, which I don’t normally do as I’m not a fan of masking pain or using any sort of drug. I honestly had one of the best nights of sleep in my life with the river’s roar under a clear Cali sky.

Morning at camp

We rose with the sun on day 2 and broke camp very leisurely, still getting on the water before the other 2 groups in the gorge. I was a bit beaten up from day 1 and decided that I’d portage often, use the time to take photos and just enjoy being in this amazing place with such good people. The Gorge Rapid was one of the most memorable of the day as Lars decided to paddle the rarely run top two drops of the gorge. The huge hole at the bottom of the second drop ate him alive after a long fight. This is a scary place to swim and Laura routed down through the rapid chasing gear while others roped Lars to shore. Lars moved downstream nearly as fast as Laura as he climbed, jumped and swam through the entire gorge, not a move you see very often! In the end all was good and the boat was paddleable, but badly beaten. Our crew also had some interesting lines at Nikki Kelly’s drop, but no swims.  There is so much good WW in this creek it really can’t be described in words, photos or even video. If your prepared you need to just get in there and take it all in. I got to run some super quality rapids and truly enjoy the final mile of boulder garden mank, my natural creeking environment coming from the East coast;)

Darin soaking in some morning sun on the rapid next to camp.

Joe styling the bottom part of the camp drop.

Stephen dropping into the first of this tough 2 tiered drop. About 1/2 our group went over the 2nd tier backwards, including myself.

Laura showing us how its done on the seal launch into the Gorge Rapid. You have about a 4′ window between a really sticky hole and a piton rock above a huge walled in long set of rapids. The sketchiest seal launch I’ve ever done for sure.

Laura chasing Lars boat and paddle down the Gorge Rapid.

Stephen in the middle of Anaconda.

Darin boofing the crap out of the bottom of Nikki Kelly’s Drop.

The Cali lunch experience below Nikki Kelly’s Drop.

Clay looking good on yet another slide into big sticky hole.

Stephen steezing out one of the many seal launch portages.

In the end I portaged a ton of rapids that I probably should have paddled, but I feel good about my decisions as it was the right thing to do at that moment. I’m tired and physically beat up, but super stoked on an amazing trip. I look forward to getting the right gear, sharpening my loaded boat paddling skills and getting in better physical shape to tackle another similar run, or another Dinkey trip. It was a great experience made possible by the solid group of people on the trip. I look forward to catching up with them all on other rivers around the world. A HUGE thank you goes out to Darin for showing us the way and just being a rock star overall.

See you on the river-

Bryon Dorr

(Full photo gallery on FB HERE)

Take-out lifestyling in the Cali sun.

Other Dinkey Creek Waterfall Section Resources:

Great video by Ben Brown

Full River Guide on AWetState.com

American WW River Guide Page

Kayak Diaries Trip Report and Video

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