Monday, May 8, 2023

Kayaking on the Van Duzen

Last week, we had just finished a 9 day self-support whitewater kayak trip on the Eel River (video and blog coming soon) and were visiting some friends in Humboldt County.  We were debating going to the Smith River or back to the Eel for the last few days of our Spring Run Off Trip.

Dreamflows is our favorite source for California Whitewater River Flows.  We were scanning Dreamflows and kept seeing rivers running in the red (above recommended) and kept seeing the Van Duzen running in the green (recommended range).  We read the write ups online and in Dan Menten's book The New School Guide to Northern California Whitewater and were enticed to go paddle the Van Duzen.

Kayaking past gigantic sandstone cliffs and redwood trees on the Van Duzen River

The flow was approximately 1,100cfs.  We put in just above Grizzly Creek Redwood State Park and took out at Swimmer's Delight County Park.  The first couple of miles of the run were busy boulder garden class II rapids.  We were a little underwhelmed by the whitewater but definitely stoked on the scenery.  We could envision this being a funner whitewater run with 1,000 or more cfs.

Class II Whitewater on the Grizzly Creek Run of the Van Duzen River at 1100 cfs.

We were paddling our self-support whitewater kayaks - Jeff in the Pyranha Scorch X and me in the Pyranha Fusion Medium.  These weren't the most playful for the class II sections but their speed was nice for the flat scenic sections.

Kayaking by a waterfall on the Van Duzen River.

The scenery was stunning with gigantic redwood trees and towering sandstone cliffs.

Kayaking on the Van Duzen at Swimmer's Delight Park

After our paddle, we went for a stroll in the Cheatham Grove which is where some of the Star Wars Return of the Jedi scenes were filmed. 

Jeff gazing up at the gigantic redwood trees in the Cheatham Grove.

Check out our 1 minute YouTube video of our trip on the Van Duzen. The formatting here is a bit wonky so best to watch it on YouTube.

If you are in the neighborhood and looking for a scenic river run through the redwoods, I would recommend a paddle on the Van Duzen.  At 1,000 cfs or lower, putting in at the low water bridge off of Highway 36  and taking out further down stream is a scenic float for most skill levels who are comfortable paddling in moving water.  For whitewater, I would be interested in checking out the Grizzly Creek Run (the stretch above the low water bridge) at a higher flow (2,000 cfs or higher).

If you have experience kayaking the Van Duzen, please share in the comments.



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