Upper East Fork of the Carson River

Wolf Creek Road to Hangman’s Bridge
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Length: 7.5 miles/ 2 hours
Class: III
Gradient:  60 ft/mile
Permits: none required

Season: Spring and Early Summer
Recommended Flows:
400 to 4000 cfs at Markleeville
Flow Forecast: 3 day or one week
Shuttle: 10 minutes/ 5.7 miles; Check to see how far upstream the Alpine State Highway is open.

Overview

Talk on the East Fork of the Carson centers on the Wilderness run. However, the day stretch on the Upper East Fork of the Carson River makes a nice afternoon float with an easy 40+ minute drive from South Lake Tahoe and Carson City.The shuttle is quick as the road follows the river providing easy scouting on the drive upstream and the ability to do shorter sections. Luckily in the spring many times the road is closed just upstream of put-in so there is minimal traffic. Other times the road is closed where 89 and 4 split forcing a shorter but still fun run.

The East Fork of the Carson is famous for housing the federally threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout, as well as brown and rainbow trout. Watch out for hooks and anglers as this river is a popular fishing destination.

Camping

Camping along the river is nice though many times a little cold, it is at 6000 feet. A convenient place to camp riverside is at the Carson River Resort. In addition there are also many places along the river that seem to lend themselves to free camping particularly at the put-in where there are pit-toilets.

Kayaker scouting the Upper East Fork Carson River from Wolf Creek Road Section
Road Scouting

Highlights

Mile -0.25: Silver Creek Put-in

If you want a little more excitement in the way of some brushy Class III-IV follow the trail that leads up Silver Creek. If Highway 4 is open above here, a few more miles of bush whacking down Silver Creek could be had. It is also possible follow Wolf Creek Road farther upstream to run a stretch above here on the East Carson.

Shows location of trail to reach the kayaking put-in.
Trail to Main Put-in

Put-in location at the confluence of Silver Creek and East Fork Carson
Silver Cr. and E. Carson

Sign that shows the top of the trail to the upper put-in
Trail to upper put-in

Brushy Put-in for kayaking Silver Creek
Silver Creek Put-in

Mile 0: Main Put-in

The standard put-in is reached at the confluence of Silver Creek and the East Fork of the Carson by taking a well maintained trail that starts on top of a hill overlooking the confluence.

kayak running class 2 on East Carson
Upper East Carson Whitewater

Running the River

While the rapids are mostly splashy class II, the continuous gradient, lack of eddies, and strainers makes this run solid class III. Swims can be long and the water is cold. Road scouting is helpful. The whitewater includes 2 or 3 drops spread out through the run that require more maneuvering and are class III, all can be seen from the road

Packrafters and kayakers hanging out at hangman's bridge on the east fork of the carson river
Hangman’s Bridge Access

Mile 7.5: Take out/Put-in

Take-out at Hangman’s Bridge on river right. This is the put-in for the Wilderness Run.

Mile 7.5 – 28.5: Wilderness Run

This twenty-one mile run can be done in one or two days. It has some beautiful camping and hot springs. Below is a video of the wilderness run. As the water drops 4-wheel drive vehicles will drive in and stay at the hot springs.

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