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…
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!
Ropes are used to lower the rafts over the edge in stages. This is the first and more gentle stage.
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.
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.
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.
Here Will and Skip negotiate along one of the
spectacular vertical walls of the Box.
While Bill decides that the ledge forms a nice surf hole.
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.
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.
Downstream there are some wonderful views of the 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.
And our takeout in Sweetbriar was appropriate, “River Avenue.”
All in all, a very enjoyable trip. Here are the details for our trip.
Put-In: Just below Box Canyon Dam
Distance: 16 miles
Flow: 800 at the dam, about 4.7 feet on the Cantara gage
Next time, I think I’ll just put in at Cantara, so much easier and still some good rapids in that section!