I had a blast (!!!) last weekend kayaking down Cache Creek with Doug, Kay, Deborah and Jenny. The following is a long trip report of our day together and is written from a beginning kayakerís point of view. Cache Creek is a pool-and-drop river where there are intermittent rapids followed by sections of calm water. Cache Creek runs through a beautiful and steep ravine that gives spectacular views when you get on flat water and have a chance to look up. It is a perfect place for beginners to practice their skills though you should always be accompanied by experienced kayakers. The Cache Creek run is about an hours drive north-east of Davis on Route 16. For the take-out, we parked a car at Rumsey Bridge right outside the parking-lot-sized town of Rumsey. Then we drove north along the winding river for about six miles and stopped at a popular put-in spot in Cache Canyon Creek Regional Park. We warmed up for about 45 minutes in our boats, practicing paddling in a straight line, T-rescuing, ferrying, eddying out, etc. and reviewed safety precautions. There were also about 20 inflatable kayaks on the river, some inner tubers and canoers as well - altogether a very busy river.
About every third rapids section could be considered as class II. The rest consisted of small waves and riffles that donít require a lot of paddling experience to get through. The class II rapids are all within the first four miles or so of the start. Each rapids section took only a few minutes to paddle through and was followed by about 5-10 minutes of calm water. Deborah or Kay, the most experienced paddlers went first, blazing a trail for us through the rocks and obstacles in the river. Jenny or myself followed them and Doug took the sweep position. We stopped after each rapids section to catch up with each other.
There were two places on Cache River where we felt it was necessary to exercise some caution. We dragged our boats out of the water and scouted the next section before running it. The first was at a stone bridge that spans the river about three miles from the put-in. Several river guides are stationed at the bridge warning people to portage their boats. The entire length of the bridge sits only about two feet above the river. The current sweeps anything in the river at this point under the bridge and (hopefully) out the other side. Deborah, Kay and Doug decided the next section was easy and we all got through it easily.
The other section we scouted was about an hour downstream of the stone bridge and is referred to as "Mother Rapids". The river bends right at this point and depending on the volume of water, this section can be classified class III. Luckily, the volume was pretty low that day (Class II) and Jenny and I did not have to portage our boats. Since Jenny and I were in long Pirouettes, we took the less rocky but more turbulent inside part of the turn. Our boats easily spanned the holes and the though there was an impressive series of standing waves to get through, it was not difficult. Deborah, Kay and Doug took their playboats on the outside part of the bend avoiding the holes, then paddled hard to cross over to the inside of the bend to avoid a large boulder. After we got through Mother, the rest of the rapids grew smaller and smaller and by the time we reach the take-out point at Rumsey Bridge, it was a lot of work just to paddle through still water four feet deep.
The entire trip down the six miles of river took us about five hours to run. It took a long time because we paused after every rapids section, and also stopped for lunch, and stopped twice to scout around. I was told that it probably takes about three hours normally. Afterwards, my body was sore all over, but boy did I feel great! This was my first whitewater kayaking trip and I had a geat time thanks to the group of super competent, very responsible and funny fellow kayakers I was lucky enough to be hooked up with. Cheers!
Post script - There was one eye-opening incident that I learned a lot from: A kayaker had broached their boat on a rock, and they were wedged by the current against a rock with the boat perpendicular to the current. The volume of water was pretty low so they didn't appear to be in real trouble. Several kayakers started paddling or wading over to help. However, at some point, the force of the current rotated the kayak into the current (the kayaker was tilted away from the rock), capsizing it with the person still in the boat. The boat continued to rotate while upside down and the person was now downstream of the boat with the boat still wedged against the rock. Luckily, the person's head was out of the water most of the time. At that point, there were about 4 people gathered around trying to upright the kayak. The person finally did a wet exit and swam to the side. Though I had been warned about this, I saw for myself what could happen if youíre stuck in a potentially bad position and don't ditch your boat. Luckily for the person, the river was very mellow that day.