How to Beat the Heat in the Foothills: Rafting the Mokelumne River
The Sierra Nevada Foothills are home to California’s Gold Country, an area predominantly known for the historic gold mines that attracted a massive influx of immigrants to the west. Here are some other things it one might say the California Gold Country is known for:
- It is hot in the summer.
- Really, sometimes the Gold Country is hot like molten gold hot.
- This might sound like hyperbole, but the sun above the Gold Country could be mistaken the mythical figure Midas, because everything it touches turns into a golden dry crisp.
- Just checked outside: The Sun is Midas. It is hot out there.
That isn’t to say it is all bad, you just need to know the cool (I mean that literally) places to go.
Mokelumne Hill is a small gold country town located South of Highway 88 (Ebbetts Pass). It is pretty easy to blink and miss it while traveling along Highway 49. Just north of the town is the Mokelumne River, which is a critical part of the East Bay’s water supply. The Mokelumne River is one of those cool Gold Country places to check out.
Rafting the Electra – Middle Bar Run, Mokelumne CA
Put-In: East Bay Municipal Utilities District has created a nice paved road down to the Big Bar River Launch. To get to the access follow 49 north past Mokelumne Hill, descending into the Mokelumne river canyon (it’s windy) Right after the Mokelumne during on the North side turn right onto the access road. It narrow windy ride down to the beach. Map
Take Out: We took out at the Middle Bar Bridge, which also has a nice parking area, latrine, picnic situation provided by East Bay MUD. For pick-up or car drop off this can be found by continuing north on 49 past the river and up to the first paved road on the left. It is a longer drive down to the Take-out. No swimming is allowed in the drinking water supply. Map
Distance: 6 miles or about 90 minute to 2 hours on the water
The stretch of the Mokelumne river from Electra to Middle bar is a fun quick class II-III rafting trip. Normally the river isn’t run by any of the rafting guides, but I had jumped at the chance to get out there with OARs during a charity trip that benefited the Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program.
During mid May, when I did this trip, the river flows reached above some vegetation but not so high as to whisk us the river too fast. The Mokelumne river canyon is not as narrow or massive here as the Tuolumne – and reminded me somewhat of the rivers back in the Midwest. The handful of rapids still provided just enough of the white water experience let me know I was still in California, blending the best of both a leisurely nature trip and physical rafting adventure. And, since this is a short one, go ahead and make breakfast and dinner plans, you have the time!
Alternatively if you don’t have the rafting know-how or (friends with know-how), the beach access point at the Electra put-in is a nice easily accessible little resource for quick swim. I will have to keep this river access in mind if I need to stretch my legs during a hot day’s drive down Highway 49