Whitewater

South Merced

by dave-farkas
Friday, July 01, 2016
   Whitewater
Friday, July 01, 2016
I first heard about the South Merced run back in 1996 when I was hanging out around Yosemite. It was spring and I was back from Central America where I had spent the season kayaking. My friends were super pumped on this run, and I tried to make it happen but there was always some distraction that got in the way. Time passed, I paddle a lot of other stuff in California, yet somehow this run eluded me.
Dave Farkas
by Dave Farkas

Dave’s a whitewater expedition kayaker with a zest for life and a desire to explore the unknown.

Fast-forward to spring 2016.

I met up with Tom Janney and Jason Stingle for a week of paddling in and around southern and central California. We started off in the Kaweah drainage, rallying Hospital Rock - a Cali classic that I have ran a lot over the years. After a sunny and super friendly paddle with my mates, we headed north to the South Merced. Man I was psyched to finally get on this run!!

Little Niagra, Hospital Rock
Little Niagra, Hospital Rock

We drove through the day and into the evening, finally settling down at the confluence of the Merced and South Merced. There’s a little riverside pull out that makes for a sweet camp spot. The weather was classic spring California…cold, rainy, sunny, and awesome.

After a good nights sleep we dropped a car at the confluence and headed into the park. I love this drive; the roadside section of the Merced as it leaves Yosemite is burly - steep, boulder-choked, and mean looking. This section never ceases to occupy my attention.

As we headed through the park, the biography of Elon Musk, famed business pioneer from Tesla, played through the stereo and we engaged in a meaningful discussion about life. Yes, kayakers can be passionate about other things too…

Arriving at the put in, we were bathed in glorious sunshine and mild temperatures. A weather front was moving in and this good weather was not going to last long. “Let’s get going eh?” We packed up our overnight stuff, suited up in our Kokatat dry suits and headed out. I was so psyched to get on this run!

Approaching Camp Slide
Approaching Camp Slide

In Holbeck/Stanely’s bible of California whitewater, Holbeck describes the South Merced as his favorite California run. Hmmmmm…I was thinking I’m in for a treat.

What starts off as a leisurely “stroll” down the canyon at medium flow, quickly picks up pace and turns into an amazing adventure of varied taste. Steep, boat-scoutable boulder gardens, big fun slides, awesome scenery, and multiple canyons filled the next 2 days of paddling. Let’s not forget the epic camping California multi-days are notable for.

Punching through hole at Double Drop
Punching through hole at Double Drop

The good weather managed to last until midday on our 2nd day of paddling, when the skies finally collapsed and it began to rain and snow. It stayed like that all day and night.

We did the trip in 2 leisurely days, never rushing and really taking time to enjoy the run. We had a late start at the put in, and no hurries at breakfast on the river. The unofficial speed record for the descent is of course by Holbeck/Stanley in 4.5 hrs. Or at least that’s what I found online. I’d like to go back and do it in a day. I’m not sure about any records but I know I’d have a great time rallying it in a day.


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