The Stanislaus used to be one of the most popular river runs in California along with the South Fork of the American and the Tuolumne. With the construction of the New Melones Dam in 1976 this famous run was lost, almost forever. There are bittersweet years, however, when California is in extreme drought and the Stanislaus "re-emerges" for boaters to once again experience this beautiful river.

The New Melones Dam created an immense amount of backlash in California amongst environmentalists, commercial and recreational boaters, and regular citizens alike. The Stanislaus was dearly loved and those who objected to the dam construction knew that something deeply special would be irreplaceably lost.

The struggle for the Stanislaus was a major event for strengthening the young environmentalist movement in California and the rest of the country. Never before had citizens joined together so forcefully to save a river and largely in part of these efforts the New Melones dam was one of the last major dam projects to be completed in the U.S. In 1979 Mark DuBois, the founder of Friends of the River, chained himself to a boulder in a hidden cave that would be filled if the reservoir got above a certain level. DuBois and his supporters won that battle and the state set the water level limit at only 844 feet for 2 years.

Because of the dam, silt has built up on the bottom of the river near the base of the reservoir. If you paddle the whole 9 miles there's a good chance you'll get a little muddy before getting to take-out.

Trip Highlights

Mile 0: Put-in at the powerhouse at the end of Camp 9 Road. The powerhouse is about a quarter mile downstream on the left.

Mile 1.9: Big Dog (IV) is just past a bridge and was created from bridge construction debris.

Mile ??: Death Rock (III)

Death Rock Rapid on the Stanislaus River

Death Rock Rapid on the Stanislaus River

Mile 2.75: Bailey Falls (III)

Bailey Falls on the Stanislaus River

Bailey Falls on the Stanislaus River

Mile 2.9: Widowmaker Rapid (III)

Mile 3.3: Rose Creek enters from the left. There is a fun rapid here.

Mile 6.6: The S. Fork of the Stanislaus enters river right. Sometimes the reservoir level is full enough where it is only going these first 5 miles.

Mile 9.5: Take-out on the left bank a half mile before Parrot's Ferry Bridge.

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