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California whitewater, San Lorenzo River

Santa Cruz county, Felton to Ocean at Santa Cruz section whitewater kayaking, rafting, and paddling information.

 

CLASS III-IV     6 miles
 
Per SC County staff, as of 12/21/09, there are two redwood trees down across the San Lorenzo, upstream of Felton, between the two highway bridge crossings at Glen Lomond Dr. Says Chris Berry

We're novices and found Felton-Santa Cruz to be a fun if slightly scary run about ten years ago, the weekend after heavy rains.

There is a water gauge under the bridge from Hwy 9 into Henry Cowell State Park. We believe the river is runnable
    when this gauge reads about 4. 65 feet, though we didn't find out about the gauge until after our trip.

The put-in is in the Felton town park under the old covered bridge. From there to the steel RR bridge the river
is very tranquil and a pleasant paddle aside from glimpses of toilet paper and other debris stuck in the willows by high water. Just below the road into Henry Cowell there is an inflatable dam that could cause problems for rafters if it happens to be up when you go over. I don't know how high it inflates; not very, I think. After passing under the steel RR bridge (used by the tourist train from Roaring Camp to the Boardwalk), the river drops  
    into a very scenic canyon with a good section of class III+ whitewater and one hole that flipped our standard-floor raft, in the granite gorge before the Rincon, where the river bends to the left to go around a hogsback
  ridge. The Rincon (Spanish for bend in the river), a pretty place to pull out for a picnic and some hiking, is part of Henry Cowell State Park and is the last chance to exit easily on public property before Santa Cruz. An old road goes up to a large parking area on Hwy 9 here.

Approaching the Rincon the river spreads out and may be too shallow to float; we had to walk a short distance. Also, at the remains of a concrete diversion dam,
teh river splits into two channels. The left-most is the one to take as the right will leave you high and not-quite-dry, though I suppose this may change from year to year.

Where the river goes around the Hogsback there is a lot of large woody debris, including a narrow area with strainers that could be quite dangerous. Recently the county has announced that woody debris will no longer be cleared from county streams in an effort to restore our nearly extinct steelhead populations, and this may make the situation even worse. I don't know whether it will be practical to portage around the woodpile at the point where the river make its final bend toward Paradise Park.

Past the Hogsback, the river goes through a number of very mild rapids, often in narrow willow-lined channels. A special treat is the opportunity to pass under the 1867 Powder Mill Flat covered bridge at Paradise Park, not normally seen by the public as the community is a private enclave of the Masons.

One last note is that Santa Cruz city's water intake is in the river, on the right as I recall, just as one emerges from the canyon below Sycamore Grove (location of a long-gone resort now frequented mainly by homeless campers and drug dealers). I don't remember the intake as being dangerous, but I mention it just in case.
Says Chehalumche

I have lived in and around the San Lorenzo River for over 15 years and I have never ONCE heard of ANYONE rafting this river. It is dammed in Ben Lomond and becomes a creek by April. Don't come here for the rafting! There are lots of other things to do though!! Says Dianne

It's a good run but with a very short season. On days of very heavy rain during the rainy season it's a real whitewater river but most of the year it's a collection of stillwater pools connected with rocky unrunnable wet thingies. This picture is how it looks most of the year but during heavy rains the water is way higher. Says Bob (see picture)

San Lorenzo River, Felton to Ocean at Santa Cruz road map
Printable road map with the put-in and take-out locations clearly marked.

   

Pictures of San Lorenzo River

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Stats for this river stretch


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OUTDOORS
These outdoors activities are available near San Lorenzo River.
 Whitewater Near San Lorenzo River:
San Lorenzo River, Santa Cruz County, 3 miles away
      Class III-IV - 6 miles long (Felton to Ocean at Santa Cruz)
San Lorenzo River, Santa Cruz County, 9 miles away
      Class II - 9.1 miles long (Boulder Creek to Felton)
Pescadero Creek, San Mateo County, 17 miles away
      Class II - 9 miles long (Portola State Park to Memorial County Park)
 Marinas Near San Lorenzo River:
Capitola Boat & Bait, Capitola , 6 miles away
 Beaches Near San Lorenzo River:
Cowell Beach, Santa Cruz , 3 miles away
Santa Cruz Beach, Santa Cruz , 3 miles away
Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz , 3 miles away
Twin Lakes Beach, Santa Cruz , 4 miles away
Wilder Beach, Santa Cruz , 4 miles away
 Hotels Near San Lorenzo River:
Inn At Pasatiempo, Santa Cruz , 1 miles away
BEST WESTERN Inn, Santa Cruz , 2 miles away
Comfort Inn Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz , 2 miles away
Holiday Inn Express & Suites SANTA CRUZ, Santa Cruz , 2 miles away
Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley, Scotts Valley , 2 miles away
 Campgrounds Near San Lorenzo River:
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz, 2 miles away
Cotillion Gardens Trailer Park, Felton, 2 miles away
Smithwoods RV Park, Felton, 2 miles away
 Trails Near San Lorenzo River:
Rincon Fire Road Trail, Santa Cruz , 1 miles away,  1.6 hiking miles, 205 feet elevation difference
Summit Trail, San Mateo , 18 miles away,  3 hiking miles, 506 feet elevation difference
Sequoia Nature Trail, San Mateo , 18 miles away,  .4 hiking miles, 32 feet elevation difference
Butano Ridge Loop Trail, San Mateo , 18 miles away,  4.2 hiking miles, 1656 feet elevation difference
Coyote Ridge Trail, San Mateo , 19 miles away, 1.2 hiking miles, 549 feet elevation difference
 Public Lands Near San Lorenzo River:
Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail, San Francisco - CA , 44 miles away
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco - CA , 51 miles away
Lighthouse Field State Beach, California , 3 miles away
Natural Bridges State Beach, California , 3 miles away
Twin Lakes State Beach, California , 4 miles away
 Golf Courses Near San Lorenzo River:
Pasatiempo Golf Club, Santa Cruz , 1 miles away
Scotts Valley Golf Course, Scotts Valley , 2 miles away
De Laveaga Golf Course & Lodge, Santa Cruz , 3 miles away
 Lakes Near San Lorenzo River
Corcoran Lagoon, Santa Cruz , 5 miles away
Lake Lompico, Santa Cruz , 5 miles away
Loch Lomond, Santa Cruz , 6 miles away

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