Updated: March 24, 2006
Giant Gap is the section of the North Fork of the American RIver above the Class IV Chamberlain Falls run. This is an experts only raft run that involves a two mile hike to put-in, three big Class V rapids, and many more Class IV and IV+ rapids. In addition, there is no hiking out of this run due to the steep canyon walls. The trip is well worth the preparation and effort due to its crystal clear water, fantastic rapids, and breathtaking scenery through the three mile Giant Gap.
Hiking the well maintained two mile trail to put-in is usually quite a workout. Some rafting groups will roll their boats up into burritos with the pump as the beans and the paddles as the cheese. With this configuration, four or five people can carry their Giant Gap Gordita("GGG" or "Triple-G") down the river. Others have rigged collapsible carts with wheels and paddles which they use to roll their boats down to the river. Whichever way you choose, you'll be very happy to see the emerald green water of the North Fork at Eucre Bar.
The river begins right away with some Class III rapids and some amazing scenery. At one point you'll travel between canyon walls that are just wide enough for a raft. The canyon soon opens up to Green Valley and some Class II action. The rapid with the big rock in the middle with the tree wrapped on it marks the beginning of "the Gap."
Once you enter the gap you'll run many Class IV rapids with the occasional Class V to spice things up. The first Class V is Nutcracker, a long flush with a narrow exit. This is soon followed by the biggest rapid on the run, Locomotive which should be scouted and is commonly lined.
Locomotive has fast entrance which leads into a monster hole that has a reputation for surfing rafts and holding swimmers. At flows below 1500 cfs it is fairly straightforward to catch an eddy on the right where you can hop out and climb the rock wall for a scout. At higher flows the eddy becomes more difficult to catch and it becomes more difficult to wade through the current (before the rock climbing) to scout.
The next mile and a half contain some Class IV rapids leading up to the final Class V rapid, Dominator. This rapid has many possible entrances and is usually finished by running the big drop on the right. Most groups have lunch half a mile past Dominator at Canyon Creek which cascades into the river from the right.
After Canyon Creek, you'll enjoy a few more Class IV rapids followed by seven scenic miles of Class II and III rapids. You'll know that you're close to take-out when you see hikers, sunbathers, and miners along the riverbed. Just before take-out is the fun Class IV+ rapid, Pinball which is aptly named. Most groups take out at the campground on the right before the Iowa Hill Bridge.
If you're interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out cacreeks's Giant Gap description.
To reach Iowa Hill Bridge (take-out): From Sacramento, get yourself onto Interstate 80 east and drive to Colfax where you should take the main Colfax exit. Veer to the right and take a right onto Canyon Way which is a frontage road. You'll travel down Canyon Way for about a quarter of a mile and take a left onto Colfax-Iowa Hill Road. Take this down to the famous Iowa Hill Bridge. Most trips will leave a car at the campground across the bridge.
To reach Eucre Bar from the Iowa Hill Bridge (put-in): Get yourself back onto Interstate 80 heading towards Reno. Take the Alta exit and follow the signs towards Casa Loma. After a mile take a right when you see a sign for Eucre Bar Trail. You'll travel about two miles and cross two sets of active railroad tracks before you'll need to take a left at a fork in the road. Follow this road to the new restrooms at the trail head parking. From here, make your raft burrito and head down the trail to put-in.
Sierra Mac River Trips