Magic Mile of the Kings River
|Pick Your Fate (right slot)|
|Underground Railroad (large triangular rock at bottom of rapid is severely undercut)|
Powerful Class IV rapids continue below Bubble Gum, with many pourovers ranging from three to six feet in height. A strong boof stroke and reliable braces are essential to stay upright. At low water, there are numerous short pools to eddy out, but they are short enough that self-rescue would be challenging. The next of the four larger rapids is Pick Your Fate, in which there are three slots dropping five feet or more. The middle slot had a tree in it when we were there, and the left slot has a tricky angled slide into an offset, swirling hole. We ran the easier right side, a relatively simple boof into an eddy below. Note that all rapids like these need to be scouted, since they’re steep enough to conceal wood (or rock sieves) that may not be visible from upstream.
After more Class IV boogie water, the third large rapid is Underground Railroad, named for the heinous undercut on the bottom right side of the rapid, right below a steep ledge. I have heard of other paddlers and equipment going into this undercut, which is very large and potentially fatal. We ran the top part of Underground Railroad and portaged the last drop to avoid the risk of a swim right above an undercut. Either the whole rapid or parts of it are easily (and wisely, in my opinion) portaged on the right.
Shortly after Underground Railroad, the final large rapid is Chunder. In a sense, naming any of the rapids is a bit arbitrary because the whole Magic Mile is steep, bouldery Class IV+ paddling, and Chunder is typical of that. Do not take the right side channel at the end of Chunder, which terminates in very nasty sieve. Again, that sieve is not visible from waterline, and is a reminder of the importance of scouting all major drops on the Magic Mile.
After Chunder, the gradient levels out with fun Class III+ drops that diminish in intensity until the river enters a relatively flat Class II stretch that continues for two to three miles.
When you’re starting to get tired of scraping through gravel bars, large cut banks appear as the Kings begins dropping into a canyon. Soon, the cut banks turn to bedrock, and the river enters a deep gorge with several miles of ledges and boulder gardens, most of which are Class III at the lower water levels that make the Magic Mile runnable. The Kings canyon would be runnable and very exciting at summer flows, when I would guess it is more like class IV big water. The largest rapid in this section is in the most constricted part of the canyon, which seems to be just a dozen feet across. The river pours over a steep double ledge of ten feet or so, with an exploding diagonal wave at the bottom. Aim for the center-right side of the drop to avoid the cliff wall and massive hole on the left. The canyon continues to be constricted, but with less steep drops, immediately downstream.
After this constricted stretch of canyon opens up and gravel bars appear along the river, take out on the left and walk through mostly open forest toward the east until you find a large ATV trail. Continue on this ATV trail until it intersects the Permanente Road after about a twenty or thirty minute walk. From that intersection, hang a right and walk mostly uphill back to the car.
Magic Mile plus the Kings canyon may be the single best whitewater day trip in Southcentral. With challenging drops, a deep canyon, all of which is surrounded by the towers of Castle Mountain and surrounding peaks, it is hard to imagine a more spectacular place to paddle.