Rafting the Upper Sacramento River

Difficulty: Class II+ to III+
Length: 8.25 or 12.5 miles
Flows: 800 cfs - 5000 cfs
Gradient: 58 ft/mi
Put-in: Sims Road
Take-out: Pollard Gulch or Mosquito Creek
Season: March - June

With its headwaters beginning near 14,162 ft majestic Mount Shasta, the Upper Sacramento River is one of those river gems that offers roller coaster waves, beautiful side creeks, deep green pools, moss covered cliffs, and cascading water falls set in a lush river canyon.

There are nearly 38 rapids in the 8.25 mile half-day stretch and 52 rapids in the full-day 12.5 mile stretch. With rapids like Wakeup, Sluice Box, Little Freight Train, Champaign, Tree, Upper Shotgun Creek, Drop Kick, Dance Hall, Hockey Shot, Sixteen Tons, Wash Board, The Grotto, Eye of the Needle, The Alley, Gibson Curve, Pin Ball, Zig Zag, Snaggle Tooth, Falls Creek, Lickety Split, Double Play, Slate Creek, White Horse, Black Stallion, Washing Machine, and the infamous Rinse Cycle to name a few there is little time for boaters to get bored on this fast paced river.

Between the nearly non-stop rapids, boaters will have time to appreciate the beauty this river canyon has to offer. This is a must do stretch of river on California's longest river system and one that you will want to do over and over again.


To Sims Road (put-in): From Sacramento or the Bay Area, travel North on Interstate 5 to the Sims Road exit, exit 718 which is approximately 40 miles North of Redding, CA. If you are traveling South on Interstate 5 from Medford, Oregon, the Sims Road exit is 21 miles south of Mt. Shasta City. From the exit, it is a short 1/2 mile drive to the put-in which is on your right just past the rail road tracks. Do not cross the bridge.

The river access is under the bridge down an access road. Put-in space is limited so patience is needed on those busy holiday weekends. You can also put-in across the river near the Sims Campground and foot bridge on your right, river left. However, the river bank is steep so use care and beware of poison oak.

To Pollard Gulch (8.25 mile run take-out): Take-out for the 8.25 mile stretch is at Pollard Gulch off Interstate 5 at exit 712, Pollard Flat. There is a forest service road leading down to the take-out (limited parking). Watch for the Pollard Gulch River Access sign after exciting I-5.

To Mosquito Creek (12.5 mile run take-out): This access is a little difficult to find. Take the Dog Creek/Vollmers exit off Interstate 5, exit 707. From the exit there are a couple of roads to choose from. Look for McCardle Flat Road. Once on McCardle Flat Road drive approximately 1.25 miles staying to the right all the way to a flat which is the parking area. Park here not down the road to the actual take-out area as space is limited. Only two vehicles can load rafts/kayaks and equipment at a time. Again be patient and practice river courtesy.

At this take-out you will have to cross the railroad tracks. Use caution, listen and watch for fast moving trains. Again this take-out area is hard to find so watch for vehicles in the parking area as you approach. Better yet, ask someone who knows where the take-out is at the Sims put-in before doing your shuttle. Who knows, you maybe able to follow them to the take-out.


Camping is available at the Sims campground across the river from the put-in or at Castle Crags State Park approximately 6 miles north of Sims Road on Interstate 5. Lodging and meals are available in Dunsmuir 12 miles or Mt. Shasta City 21 miles north of Sims Road on I-5.

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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