Thursday, April 15, 2004

South Fork Merced, CA - USA

Jayson, Scott and Mark at the takeout. Posted by Hello

The South Fork of the Merced is a tributary of the famous Merced River which steeply drains out of the heart of Yosemite National Park and rages along the main road. In April, the early California snowmelt makes the South Fork Merced come alive with the level around an ideal 1500cfs. What to expect if you are game for this intense overnighter is some very continuous pool drop class V, along with a couple of big California slides in the middle. Even after 2 weeks of ninja training on the Green River, I decided to portage more than once. Jayson and Scott on the other hand decided to fire it off.

A fluffy slide on the S. Fk. Merced...with a paddler at bottom! Posted by Hello

I joined up with Scott Feindel and Jayson Bowerman on the Kaweah River the previous day, and that evening we headed north from Fresno and entered the South Yosemite Park entrance late in the night. The South Merced put-in is in the national park village of Wawona, but within 20 minutes of class III paddling you exit the park boundaries and enter a magnificent wilderness canyon with all the class V whitewater goodies California typically has to offer.

If you knew this run well, you could probably push through the South Merced in one long day. However, you may end up paddling around 7 hours of continuous demanding whitewater. We followed the recommended option of camping overnight about 2/3rds into it. The camp comes after a hard section that ends with large distinct boulder that is in the middle of the rapid.....once in the calm water look for a level area on the left bank and watch out for the Poison Oak. The best part of breaking up this run into 2 days is that it enables you to get through most of the hard stuff on the first day and camp at an early time. Next day if you take-out early you can go hit the main Merced River playhole to cool off......yeah that's Cali....

Camp spot. Posted by Hello

Merced hole. Posted by Hello