Wednesday, October 16, 2019

SF Tuolumne: Ascension Gorge


Stream: We ran this stream because we were looking for an adventure on our way south to Granite Creek.   The stream starts out flowing slowly past the put in at Carlon Station.  Class II with some wood to dodge makes up the first mile and a half of easy floating.  At the end of this stretch the river turns left and enters a small class III bedrock rapid.  This leads to a gentle 10' slide, and signals the beginning of the adventure.  The gorge downstream gets stout quick, but everything can be scouted and portaged at the levels we ran the river.  

The first big rapid we portaged right, it was a compelling rapid that I have mixed feelings about not running.  The second big rapid looks like it's going to be a great drop, but lands on boulders and may be the only mandatory portage on the run.  We walked around on the left.

A large pool separates this drop from the beginning of a stout 1/4th of a mile of hard class V bouldery rapids (with some bedrock mixed in) that we portaged with some effort at river level. 

 We started portaging on the left, before moving back right after running this ledge. 

From there we portaged another boulder rapid down to another bedrock ledge.  Below this bedrock ledge was another tenth of a mile of bouldery rapids.  Some we walked, the easier stuff we paddled.  This section ended in a ten foot falls that would have only been accessible from the right bank (we were on the left at that point).  The left side went into a backed up hole so we portaged again, which would have been tricky with more water.   Just around the corner was a beautiful set of class IV bedrock ramps, the last of which was our favorite rapid of the day.

After a short return to boulders, was a large rapid that we scouted right.  I gave it a go, while Priscilla walked on the right.

Downstream the stoutness faded.  There were a couple scouts for wood, but mostly numerous read and run class IV rapids, some bedrock and mostly boulders.  One bear. 

Eventually the stream eases into class II-III, with views of Ascension Mountain off to the right.  Near the end the stream makes a left bend, sending the Mountain into the rear-view mirror and a final flat stretch with some wood marks the home stretch to the Hwy 120 take out bridge.  We walked past the log-pile visible from the take out bridge along the left bank right up to the road. 

There is good camping further down along the South Fork, so after biking shuttle we set up shop and got ready to head further south the next day.

Flows:  We paddled the SF Tuolumne June 25, 2019

Access:  About 14 miles East of Groveland on Hwy 120, you will cross over the SF Tuolumne at Rainbow Falls.  This is the take out for a different section of the SF Tuolumne described here.  To get to the take out for this upper run, continue East on Hwy 120 to a bridge 6.2 miles past Rainbow Falls.  37.820810, -119.918863  The creek is flat and woody here, but is not indicative of what you will find upstream.

From this upper bridge, continue yet further on Hwy 120, for 3.1 more miles before turning left onto Evergreen Rd towards Carlon Falls.  1 mile down this road is a bridge over the SF Tuolumne, we parked at the day use area on the downstream river-left side of the bridge.   37.814590, -119.862915

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