Countless travelers zooming up and down Highway I-80 between Colfax and Truckee, California would never know of the beauty that lies just beyond their vision. Just over the eastern crest resides Giant Gap, a canyon of immense depth and beauty.
Because of the continuous nature of the river, and the fact that it is quite difficult to get out of your kayak, I was able to capture limited footage of the run. Nevertheless, I hope you at least get a taste of this California classic.
Giant Gap is an upper stretch of the North Fork of the American, which is formulated by the snow melt of the High Sierras surrounding the Lake Tahoe Basin. Primarily fueled by the Granite Chief Wilderness area, Giant Gap offers crystal clear water, an abundance of rapids, and spectacular scenery.
The Gap itself is framed by vertical cliffs that would be almost impossible to climb out of if attempted; therefore, it is wise to be prepared. You should expect to run several class IV-V rapids over the course of 14.5 miles.
To access the river you must carry or drag your boat 1.5 miles down the Euchre Bar Trail. Once headed downstream, it is not long before you are encountering rapids that continue for several miles before relenting.
The ones of most note are Nutcracker, Locomotive, and Dominator.
Nutcracker is to be approached in the center of the river right channel with a slight left-hand angle. Drive hard through the first hole and expect to immediately punch another head on.
Locomotive is to be run on far river right, but should not be attempted at all at flows higher than 1200cfs. There is a difficult portage on the right that requires some 5.5 climbing and boat beleeing. At higher water you can get out of the river on a small rocky nook on the right, and then belee someone downstream as they walk through the water to the easiest point of ascent.
Dominatrix into Dominator can be run river left or right, but should be scouted no matter what. You will know you are approaching the rapid when the geology of the river begins to change to a lighter colored rock.
In between each of these Class V rapids are numerous class III-IV rapids that are also worthy of respect and careful negotiation.