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Stories from the valley

Sacramento River Exploration: Day One

Contributed by Lewis Kemper

For the past two years I’ve had great success kayaking and photographing on the American River in Sacramento.  I’ve put together a multi-media Blu-ray presentation of that work that can be found on my website. I recently began to wonder if there were other rivers in California that would be conducive to getting similar images so I decided to check out the Sacramento River near Redding.

Gary Moon on the Sacramento 4000-150505-_KDX8537Not wanting to kayak an unfamiliar river alone I solicited the help of a good friend and more experienced river runner, Gary Moon. We decided for safety, and to speed up the learning process, we would hire a raft guide to take us down the river, pointing out the obstacles and giving any insights to the best locations for photography.  I hired Lance Law, from North Country Raft Rental to take us down the river and it was the best decision I could make.  Lance was not only a very capable boatman, but also his knowledge of the local area and natural history made the trip very special.

After our first three-hour, morning raft ride from Redding to Anderson, Gary and I quickly learned my plans for kayaking and photographing weren’t going to work out.  The Sacramento River is huge compared to the American where I’ve been kayaking and there was no way I would be able to kayak and photograph at the same time. The river would require all my attention to navigate safely and I would not be able to take pictures. The flow on the Sacramento is about seven times as fast as on the American, so I would be blowing past most picture taking opportunities. Being on the raft and having someone else do all the work would be the best way for me to get photographs on the river.

Black-neck Stilts 4000-150504-_7D_3864The river was amazing in both its power and beauty. And with Lance guiding the way, I was able to take nice scenic images as well as grab a few good wildlife pictures of Green Heron, deer, Ring-necked Duck, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese, Black-necked Stilts, Turkey Vultures, and more! I enjoyed the raft trip so much, that I scheduled a second one for the next evening.  This time venturing from Anderson to Balls Ferry Road Bridge, passing steep red cliffs, and wide open wild stretches of river.

Back channel Sac River 4000-150505-_KDX8464Lance was full of good advice and steered Gary and me to Clear Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento that would provide the kayaking and photographic experience we were looking for. Not only did Clear Creek provide great photo opportunities, but also the confluence of Clear Creek and the Sacramento is an area of small islands and backwater channels that allowed us to explore calmer side channels of the big river. The Gorge, Clear Creek 4000-150506-_KDX8822-EditWe also learned, if we drove up Clear Creek road we would come to the gorge area, which featured great views and good hiking.

This region had lots to offer once we adapted our plans began our explorations.