The Box – Upper Sacramento River


The Box – Beauty and the Beast… 

Box Canyon on the upper Sacramento River has a split personality. Once on the water, this run is a beautiful Class IV run in a tight “box” canyon. Getting to the water is a beast…      

Hiking to the put-in on the upper Sacramento River

Hiking to the put-in on the upper Sacramento River

 

The put-in involves hiking your boat a little less than a quarter mile on a reasonably good trail with plenty of clearance for an inflated raft. After that, it is a rapid descent to the river; VERY steep!        

Climbing down the cliff

Climbing down the cliff

 

Ropes are used to lower the rafts over the edge in stages. This is the first and more gentle stage.      

Lowering the boats

Lowering the boats

 

I’m very glad that we had the Volpert brothers (Will and Skip) along to do the rope work. While the rest of us packed gear down and ran shuttle, these two took on the task of lowering the boats to the “landing pad” at the bottom. It probably was a good thing that we didn’t see what was happening to our boats as they careened over the 30 foot cliff at the bottom. Here is how you get down the cliff on the “trail.” That ladder is near vertical…(as is the trail). Thank goodness someone has rigged some good ropes along the descent for climbing down.     

Final Ladder

Final Ladder

 

After a brief safety talk in which Will asks if we are all OK after the put-in descent. We all jump in the boats for what was the first time in the Box for most of us.      

Will's Safety Talk

Will's Safety Talk

 

From the water, the Box is impressive and action packed. The rock walls are sheer and mossy.  The rapids come in quick succession and while most of the drops are not particularly large, you have to be precise with your boat placement.    

Sheer Walls in Box Canyon

Sheer Walls in Box Canyon

 

Precision Boat Handling

Precision Boat Handling

 

Here Will and Skip negotiate along one of the
spectacular vertical walls of the Box.     

Will and Skip

Will and Skip

 

While Bill decides that the ledge forms a nice surf hole.      

Bill Surfing

Bill Surfing

 

Cantara Loop

Cantara Loop

 

Pretty soon (1 mile?) the canyon opens up and you reach the Cantara Loop, site of an infamous train derailment that dumped chemicals into the river, killing fish for miles downstream. The steel structure supporting this section of track is pretty impressive.      

Below Cantara, the rapids ease and become more widely spaced. On our trip there was a tree in the main channel about a mile above Mossbrae Falls that forced most of us to run a secondary channel on the left. This one also had a limb in one of the slots that created a hazard.      

There still was some good whitewater in the section above Mossbrae Falls. Here, Bill negotiates a nice Class III+ rapid.      

Class III+ Rapid

Bill in a Class III+ Rapid

 

There is one beautiful Class IV rapid a short distance above Mossbrae Falls where I shot video footage instead of stills. You have to go to our blog to see that!   

What can you say about Mossbrae Falls but spectacular? Ok, maybe stunningly beautiful.      

Mossbrae Falls

Mossbrae Falls

 

Mossbrae Falls

Mossbrae Falls

 

Mossbrae Falls

Mossbrae Falls

 

Downstream there are some wonderful views of the Castle Crags.     

Castle Crags

Castle Crags

 

You can still have fun in the lower section below Dunsmuir. Here are Will and Skip doing a little surfing in “Rosie” the raft.      

The Volpert Brothers Surfing

The Volpert Brothers Surfing

 

And our takeout in Sweetbriar was appropriate, “River Avenue.”      

Take Out

Take Out

 

All in all, a very enjoyable trip. Here are the details for our trip.      

Put-In: Just below Box Canyon Dam      

Takeout: Sweetbriar      

Distance: 16 miles      

Flow: 800 at the dam, about 4.7 feet on the Cantara gage      

Boaters:      

Will Volpert      

Skip Volpert      

Andrew Coit      

Terry Davis      

Bill Lampe      

Lacey Anderson      

Neil Nikirk      

Next time, I think I’ll just put in at Cantara, so much easier and still some good rapids in that section!

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