Lower McCloud River

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (My apologies to Clint!)


  • Lots of nice technical Class IV drops
  • Plenty of Class III action
  • Beautiful clear water
  • Nice mid-elevation scenery
  • Mini-canyon with cool rocks
  • Great fishing (I hear)
  • Nobody else on the river
  • Wilderness feel

The BAD 

  • Logs here and there
  • Paddle, paddle, paddle across SLOW pools in one section (between Class II rock gardens)
  • Private land everywhere, one place to camp (legally)
  • Irate landowners (I hear)


  • A couple of Class V’s with consequences for a missed move (maybe DEATH!)
  • Killer shuttle (2 hours one way)

This was a 3 boat trip, Scott and Mike in kayaks and me in the 13 foot cat. We met at the takeout about 11:00 on Saturday, swapped gear and headed for the put-in (2 hours away). Flow at the bottom was probably around 800 cfs. We planned on putting in at Ah-Di-Na Campground, but the road was blocked by a few leftover snow drifts, so we put in upstream at Ash Creek. 

Amphiteater Rapid

Amphiteater Rapid

This is at least two miles above Ah-Di-Na. Mike (the McCloud veteran from a run 15 years ago) had never done this section. Flow at the put-in was probably around 300 and the river was full of boulders. Thank goodness Ash Creek was just downstream adding to the flow! This section down to Ah-Di-Na was reported to have 6-7 good drops, mostly Class IV, one portageable Class V and a bunch of Class III. That’s a pretty good report for this first 2 ½ miles. We portaged one big drop with no clear route, at least for my cat (amphiteater). We also had to duck under one log and run a chute under another one in a Class IV rapid. 

Under the Log

Under The Log

Below Ah-Di-Na, the river is mostly class II –III boulder gardens with long, slow pools between. Lots of rowing exercise, we were pretty tired when we made it to Claiborne Creek where we could camp on the small piece of public land. Creeks pour in all along, so we probably had 500-600 cfs at this point. This was probably the least interesting stretch on the river and I hoped it wouldn’t continue the next day. 

Nice Rapid on the McCloud

Nice Rapid on the McCloud

The next day starts off with McCloud Swim Team a relatively easy Class IV boulder garden and narrow drop at the bottom. Nobody joined the club today! Some interesting rapids downstream including one with a tight chute that curved left (hard left). Just barely wide enough for the cat (6 feet) and almost a flip. 

More Class IV rapids await downstream like Werner’s Profit  and Double Drop. The kayakers portaged at least part of Double Drop, but I ran it clean over the fan rock on the left. Fun rapid! More class III and then Tuna Falls. A nasty looking entry drop/hole and then a big undercut rock at the bottom. The right side of the rock would be OK for kayaks at this level, but too tight for the cat. We all opted to portage. The kayaks to below the last drop; I put in after the entry and ran the left route on the final drop around the undercut rock. If you were swimming in front of the rock – DEATH. 

About a mile downstream of Tuna Falls is the last big rapid Valhalla (aka The Reagan Years), Class IV+ with a diagonal move to avoid a BIG fan rock left of center. Great photo op! 


Valhalla aka The Reagan Years

The rapids ease below this one to Class II and III. One Class III boulder garden has a nice looking center chute over about a 4 foot drop. Scott gave it a try, got stern squirted and sucked back into the heavy reversal. He ended up swimming and the kayak stayed maybe 5 minutes before coming out on its own. Thank goodness the boat came out, that’s where the shuttle car keys were! The scenery below Tuna Falls is great as the river cuts some mini-gorges through slick limestone and the riparian corridor has many oak trees mixed with the firs and a few cedars. Pretty soon we were at the take out on Shasta Reservoir. 

All things considered, a great trip. Would I do it again? Maybe… If the shuttle wasn’t so long and we could eliminate the flatter water in the center, and find more places to camp and… This would be a great 1-day run if you could get permission to launch at the McCloud Club at Claiborne Creek. Wonder if we should inquire? Rumor has it, the owners are none to friendly towards boaters. But if cash was involved for access and shuttle? Who knows? This is definitely a river for small boats; kayaks and IKs would be great, as would 10-12 foot paddle rafts. My 13 foot cat was about as large a boat as you could reasonably expect to get down on 800 cfs into the lake. This boat is set up narrow at just under 6 feet wide and some of the must run slots were just a bit narrower!

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