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the Hwy 41 to Niblick run on the Salinas River

Salinas River Trip Report _ Hwy 41 to Niblick Bridge (10 miles Class II)

By Matthew Geyer with Rey Sears and Tom Hall on 28 February 2010

> American Whitewater Gauge 4594 at Station 11147500 Paso Robles


Friday 18:30 the Salinas River gauge 4594 read 11.48 feet and 360 cfs and falling – more like a creek at that point. But that was all about to change for the sky was black, laden and loaded with moisture. The million dollar question was by how much?

As I watched the US win gold in the men’s four man bobsled the sky dropped its ordnance. The rain bombed down for hours dumping well over an inch on much of the central coast. And it continued to rain on through Saturday. Beautiful, river filling rain.

The gauge 4594 went crazy. It was like watching the score on a pinball machine that is being played by a master. Numbers multiply faster than bells and sirens can alert. By 8:00am Saturday (27th) the river jumped 8 feet surging +3000 cfs for most of the day.

On the 28th of February at a quarter to noon gauge 4594 read 16 feet and the Salinas was pushing 2400 cfs. As it came to be that turned out to be the winning numbers for a safe float down the Salinas River.

For one the infamous pipe that thwarted a previous attempt is safely submerged at this reading – therefore any reading of 16 feet or higher can be thought of as that much safer.

For it has been my observation that the more water the Salinas River has the *easier* it is to paddle as there is less congestion and obstacles, thereby suppressing the white water. This of course will impact the river’s rating and therefore it should be noted that below 16 feet / 2400 cfs one can expect cagey Class III paddling. And it mellows out above that.

Tom ^^^ just getting started.

And never losing 'class' of course in my book are the rapids near the grain elevators – thirty yards of rolling haystacks. To quote Tom, “It’s worth the whole trip.” No argument from Rey, who casually rudder’d his way through the 2-3 foot choppy waves, smiling all the way down. It seems that at any water level these rapids deliver a good run, and today proved it.


As you can see in the photos ^^^ there are still channels to shoot however far less logs and lumps. You can see in some of the photos the boils on the surface of the water of where the bigger obstacles lie, waiting for lower water levels to rear their heads.

Nice and wide now ^^^

Rey ^^^ letting gravity do the work - and getting after it in one of the channels.

Most of the good lunch spots are on the upper half, the lower part much of the shore is inaccessible as it’s covered with bramble. What was also covered as mentioned before was the pipe. I yelled “river right, mind the yellow house!” pointing to the hill side.

But it’s a fast corner. They missed the turn. They were paddling straight for the pipe.

I thought I was going to watch my nightmare in third person as Tom and Rey went left. I powered through the right side channel, which at first looks narrow yet does indeed provide safe passage and is clear of the pipe at any water level.

I saw Tom first, slightly hung up in a low lying branch but apparently clear of the pipe. It was surreal seeing the scene of last month’s crash. Matter of fact as I recall Tom seemed surprised at first that that was the area with the pipe. Rey got a lil’ hung up, I think the pipe grabbed his rudder, that and the low lying branches can make for an annoying, boat snagging situation. No big deal, in little time Rey freed himself, the nasty boat stopping pipe was safely under water. It wasn’t long before we all three were back to languidly floating our way north to Paso Robles.

The last half mile or so before the Niblick Bridge can be tricky. It gets bushy and shallow and you got to find a channel that goes through and doesn’t dead end into a strainer. Cleave to the right as you make your way to the Niblick Bridge, the channel goes all the way. No portaging.

We found that hauling out and up toward Kohl’s to be the easiest. Parking is close and the grass you cross to get there was nice in wiping the mud – which you’ll encounter at the take out - off our boots and boats. It’s a pretty exposed take out; out of the blue I briefly met one of the purported two, “whitewater kayakers in all of Paso Robles”.

The total run is 10 miles and will take a person right around 2 hours without stops. However there are about three really nice and moderately secluded sand bars that make for a perfect lunch stop, all above Vineyard Street Bridge. And there’s wildlife to view!

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Comment by Matthew Geyer on May 27, 2010 at 10:40am
hi Michelle, glad you found this...yeah a few weeks before this run we ran into a huge pipe, turned out to be a pretty exciting day. Long story short this run is water level dependent.

Here is my report from the first attempt: http://go.kayaking.com/profiles/blogs/salinas-river-trip-report

It cost me a PFD and a paddle, lucky that was all. 16 feet is the magic number is seems. Hopefully you can get on next winter.

Next winter I'd like to run it to the ocean, there is a long stretch that goes underground, my question at the moment is where does it resurface? A good adventure awaits for sure. Thanks for your comments!
Comment by Michelle Leicester-Cadaret on May 27, 2010 at 9:40am
What a great trip!! A few friends & I did this run about 5 years ago & have been meaning to do it again. I always wondered about doing it all the way to the ocean?? (driving when the water disappears underground.) Did you guys come across any fencing & wire across the river?? That was a big thing w/the farmers not wanting the motorcycles down there in the summer! Almost got clothes lined a couple of time ..ouch. Love all the pictures & the documenting you did.
Comment by Matthew Geyer on March 5, 2010 at 8:33pm
Re: "We'll be in touch."

Indeed : )
Comment by River Otter on March 5, 2010 at 7:18pm
The Arroyo Seco should have some boatable flows for another month or so... it is a little too high right now, and it may get even higher with the rain that might happen. But it should slowly drop and that would give us a chance. I will let you know when I go... it would be on a Sat or Sun. maybe a Friday late afternoon (I work in King City, so it is an easy after school trip) We'll be in touch.
Comment by Matthew Geyer on March 5, 2010 at 5:28pm
> Tonya, I'd be happy to help promote recreational safety in our community. I'll send you an e-mail.

> River Otter, Sounds like I need to come up your way and have you show me your Arroyo Seco? When's the best time for something like this? I'll bring the beer. : )
Comment by River Otter on March 5, 2010 at 5:07pm
Hi Matthew,
The Salinas at Bradley gets around 300-500cfs from Naciemiento and another 100 or so from San Antonio and it will have plenty of water (usually most of the year). It is a close as a wilderness paddle you can have on the Salinas. That Clapboard Cr. sounds interesting. As far as Big Sur area their is the Carmel, the Big Sur and that is all I have paddled. The Arroyo Seco is a gem. You can check it out on CA Creeking. Pix, etc. It is my 'home' river. To all the paddlers on the Salinas this weekend: ENJOY!
Comment by Tonya Strickland on March 5, 2010 at 3:46pm
Hi Matthew - I'm a staff writer for The Tribune and your post came up in my Paso Robles Google Alerts. It so happens that I'm writing an article on recreation safety in the Salinas River. Can you please contact me? It would be wonderful if you could submit some courtesy photos and interview with me next week. Can you please let me know of your interest by 2 p.m. Monday, March 8? You can reach me at tstrickland@thetribunenews.com and 805-781-7858. Thank you.

- Tonya Strickland
Comment by Victor Cabatuan on March 5, 2010 at 6:39am
OK man.....Looks like it's pretty much set.......Noon at the 41.
Check for messages early.
Comment by Matthew Geyer on March 5, 2010 at 6:06am
River Otter! How crazy is this? dude I'm STOKED! you found this thread...right on, HaHahAha!!!!

Your Sunday run sounds interesting however I'm not sure how much water there will be. It seems that Saturday afternoon looks like to be the window - if the forecasted rain falls that morning - at present the gauge reads way low. Seems that the Salinas loses steam quickly. Just has been my observation.

I'd love to hear about Arroyo Seco, we briefly chatted about that the day we met you. Also I've received an e-mail about Clapboard Creek, south side of Lopez Lake there, it fires on a heavy rain but is reported as "runnable" and last week it was paddled with success. There is also some chatter over on CCPN about a couple creeks up Big Sur way. You familiar with that part of our coast?

Victor, pray for rain man, if it falls as it should sounds like we'll see you at the put in. You've got Rey's number as do I, so we'll keep in touch through him. Woo Hoo!!!! This is what it takes to run the Sally, patience and rain. I'm not into the dragging my boat portage scene so if the rain doesn't fall perhaps we can hook up somewhere else...but it's going to rain, one more run on the Sally, just one more run...my fingers are crossed.

River Otter, again happy that you found this thread, sometimes it's nice knowing you aren't alone.
Comment by Victor Cabatuan on March 5, 2010 at 5:31am
I'll post paddlers on my email list.........



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