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September 2005

Paddling’s Greatest Getaways

16 wild ways to find backcountry solitude and big-time scenery. All this, and you can bring the ice chest, too.


Perfect Hot Springs

Enjoy mild rapids and a wilderness soak on the remote East Fork of the Carson River.

If this stream were on the Sierra Nevada’s west side, boaters would be lining up like frappuccino addicts at Starbucks. Instead, it runs down the east side–starting high near Sonora Pass, tumbling through pine forests of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, and leveling off in Nevada’s high desert–leaving it to a few paddlers in the know. The 20-mile run has a short, snowmelt-dependent season, but here’s why it’s worth watching the water gauge: Continuous Class I-II+ rapids serve up a perfect float for beginners, and the 104°F hot springs located just past Sidewinder, an S-turn rapid midway through, will satisfy boaters of any ability. Good campsites are located on benches nearby.

Get there Start at Hangman’s Bridge on CA 89, near Markleeville. The take-out is just above Ruhenstroth Dam (5 miles south of Gardnerville off of US 395). Be sure to heed the graffiti warnings to take out on river right, before the dam. Shuttle and outfitter info:

Season May and June

Difficulty Moderate. This section is Class I-II; start 7 miles upstream for Class III.

Contact Carson National Forest, (775) 882-2766;

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