Burnt Ranch Gorge is the usual go-to run for local paddlers in Arcata CA. It's about a 5 mile run, with some beautiful walls and some fun little rapids. The difficulty is that perfect in-between level where a playboat is perfectly manageable, but a creekboat is not boring. In the summer, the flows don't drop much below 600 cfs due to dam releases, and BRG is usually the only thing going. In the winter, the flows can get up to 2 to 3 thousand, which is a fun big water level.

This spring break, Natalie, Dave and I were passing through Arcata during a big storm, and I took the opportunity to lead Dave down a quick high water lap at about 2500. The next day we surfed a tsumani, which was a unique experience. Then that night my friend Dan Menten called and said he was making a Burnt Ranch run the next morning. I was not that enthusiastic, since we had already run it once, and BRG was the daily run when I lived in Arcata. However, it's always fun to paddle with Dan, so the crew decided to give it a go.

Imagine our surprise when we checked the levels that morning and found that Burnt Ranch was at TEN THOUSAND. Apparently Dan had known this would probably happen, and he had assembled a rock solid crew: Dave Da German, Kyle Hull, and us, as well as a creature craft crewed by Wes Shrek and legendary mischiefmaker Paul Gamache to offset the "rock solid" part and add some excitement.

I haven't been too subtle with the foreshadowing about the high flows, but let me try to describe exactly how different the run is at TEN TIMES the normal high water flow.

Here is the first rapid, Pearly Gates, at "high" flow. Note the pointy rock to Natalie's right.

"High" flow - about 1300. From an old album

Now here's that same rapid, shot from a slightly different angle, at "are you kidding me" flow. Note the strange wave to Natalie's right. Yeah. Connect the dots.

"Are you kidding me" flow - about 10,000 BRG10K

If you want to get a more comprehensive comparison, we did a whole photo shoot that "high water" day. The photos are here. Keep an eye peeled for the shot of Natalie in the "showerhead" between two big rocks in #1, and try to compare that to the 10K shots of the end of #1.

I won't go through a blow-by-blow commentary. I'm too lazy. There is a great description of the day on Dan's Blog. Basically, many rapids disappeared, some new holes formed where before there had been just dry rocks, and the whole mixture was a blast. We made an extensive scout of the set of rapids that are creatively named #1, #2, and #3, since at this level they form one big long rapid. That was where we took most of the photos. Here are a couple of my favorites, but there are more in a slideshow at the end.

A batch of lemmings at the bottom of #1. Dave Da German, Kyle, and Natalie. BRG10K

Kyle runs right at #3, over the rooster. BRG10K

American Dave ends #1 backward. BRG10K

Natalie in the calm before storm #3. BRG10K

Dan looking shocked about the entry to #2. BRG10K

Creature Craft rocking #2. BRG10K

Creature Craft getting rocked and then rolled in #2. BRG10K

Eventually they stopped trying to roll, and accepted their fate. BRG10K

Long (oh, so long) story short, they made it. BRG10K

American Dave redeems himself with a smooth line on #3. BRG10K

As sometimes happens, the rapids where we stopped to scout and take photos went really smoothly. The exciting parts of the run were below #1,2,3, when we didn't scout, we just guessed what the line would be based on our knowledge of the run at low water. However, we made it just fine, apart from one really rowdy ride by Da German in the entry to Gray's Falls.

"See, we really should have tipped the boat up like this..." BRG10K

Then we all hung out in the bathroom at takeout to stay out of the rain. Good times were had by all.

Bathroom party! BRG10K

Here is a sick video that Dave Da German put together.

Here is another link to Dan's blog.

If Kyle Hull had a blog, I would link to it here.

Dave Schmitt is also cool but blogless.

Here is a slideshow of our photos:


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