Rafting the East Fork of the Carson

Class II
20.4 miles
1000 cfs - 4000 cfs
25 ft/mi
Hangman's Bridge
Ruhenstroth Dam
Spring Runoff

The East Carson is one of the few raftable rivers that flows down the steep east side of the Sierra. It drops quickly from its origins near Sonora pass and through the Carson-Iceburg Wilderness, before it passes by the charming town of Markleville where most rafters throw their rubber (or plastic) on it for a scenic float. This trip has many Class I and II rapids that are fun for beginners. Expert rafter types find the rapids boring but make the drive over the Sierra each year to take in the hot springs and pleasant scenery with family and friends.

If you start a trip early in the season you'll encounter cold weather and majestic views of snow covered peaks. During the late spring and early summer the weather is great and the flows are usually high.

This run consists mainly of continuous Class I and II rapids with some swift current. The one rapid of note is Sidewinder which is a s-turn affair that will scare those of you in innertubes and open canoes. If you're a Class IV boater you probably won't want to embarass youself by scouting it. Just past Sidewinder is a hot spring pool that flows over rock into the river.

About half way down the river you'll enter Nevada which means that there won't be any take-out tax. If this is your first time in Nevada, welcome. After entering the Silver State you paddle through Horseshoe Canyon and then to take out.

Warning grafitti on the rocks will let you know that there is a dangerous diversion dam ahead and that you should pull over on the right. The grafitti heeds very solid advice. Be careful here as running the dam would not be a smooth end to your (or any) trip.

If you're interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out Creekin's East Fork Carson description.


To Hangman's Bridge on Highway 89 (put-in): Most people from California will get themselves on Highway 88 and drive over the Sierra by Kirkwood Ski and Summer Resort. Once you get to the charming town of Woodfords take a right on Highway 89. You'll soon drive over Hangman's Bridge after passing Markleevile.

To Ruhenstroth Dam (take-out): From put-in, head back to Highway 88 on Highway 89. Once you get to Woodfords take a right on to Highway 88 so that you're headed east. Follow Highway 88 for about 14 miles and take a right on Highway 395. Five miles south of Gardnervile just past the Lahontan Fish hatchery bust a right onto a dirt road. Drive about a mile up the dirt road to a BLM parking lot next to a big broken dam. It's worth a few minutes of your time to scout the area carfully so that you know when you're coming up on the dam.

This is one of those trips in which most people hire a shuttle driver or two in order to save time and help support the local economy. Contact Family Shuttle Service at 530-694-2966 or River Rat Shuttle Service at 530-694-2448 for more information.


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Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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