East Fork of the Carson

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California, USA

East Fork of the Carson River

The East Fork of the Carson River flows from scenic Markleeville, CA, winding its way through Leviathan Canyon, and passing several camps on its journey to Gardnerville, NV. It’s one of the best ways to cross into Nevada from California. The rapids are approachable to most boaters, with one Class III known as Sidewinder about halfway through the 19-mile run. Excellent fishing along this river and a stop at the Carson River Hot Springs make for a great single-day or multi-day trip.

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Hangman’s Run

The Hangman’s Run stretches from Hangman’s Bridge near Markleeville, CA, and ends up near Gardnerville at the Ruhenstroth Dam (also known as the Broken Dam). The 19-mile stretch winds through consistent Class II rapids, with one Class III rapid known as Sidewinder Rapid in the middle of the run. It’s a great time for boaters of all skill levels.

Mile 0 – Hangman’s Bridge Put-in:

River Right. The put-in for most boaters is at Hangman’s Bridge. There is a pit toilet and easy access to the trail. You can put in above Hangman’s for additional Class III action, but note that shuttle services probably won’t operate above Hangman’s Bridge.

Mile 0.1 – hangman’s Rapid:

Class II. Right below the put-in is a Class II rapid with current pushing toward the cliff on the right. Stay left in this read-and-run rapid, you will encounter many read-and-run rapids on the East Fork of the Carson, so be vigilant.

Mile 1.5 – Markleeville Creek Confluence:

River Left. Markleeville Creek enters the East Fork of the Carson from the left-hand side adding a good amount of water. This picturesque creek flows through the heart of Markleeville.

Mile 2.1 – Below Markleeville Creek gauge:

River Right. Most boaters check the flows for the East Fork of the Carson using the Below Markleeville gauge station. Here it is, just below the confluence with Markleeville Creek.

Mile 7.1 – Ducky Hole:

Class II. At low flows, there is a rock on the left side of the channel, which becomes a medium-sized hole at medium flows. Keep an eye on anyone in smaller boats who chooses to hit this feature.

Mile 7.9 – Above Sidewinder Camp:

River Right. The river makes a sharp right. On the inside of this bend is an excellent camp, which can be less busy during the summer months. There are nice hot springs on the left side of the river. About one hundred yards downstream lies Sidewinder Rapid.

Mile 8.0 – Little Carson River Hot Springs:

River Left. Just upstream is a set of small hot springs nestled amongst a cliff. At high flows, these will go underwater, but in most seasons, these are often available for a quick hot spring session.

Mile 8.1 – just above Sidewinder Campground:

River Left. Just above Sidewinder is a small camp in the trees, which gives easy access to the more private hot springs located just upstream.

Mile 8.4 – rock hole:

Class II. A few bends below Sidewinder Rapid is a strange feature. At medium flows, there is a wave in the center of the river which has a submerged rock. Staying far left avoids this sneaky rock. A high flows, this feature mostly washes out.

Mile 8.7 – Carson River Hot Springs Left Campground:

River Left. There is a large camp on river left, with a hot creek which acts as a dividing line of the camps upstream and downstream of the Carson River Hot Springs. Upstream of the hot springs is a nice camp offering shade and many trees. Downstream, the camps are wide open.

Mile 8.7 – Carson River Hot Springs right Campground:

River Right. Camping is also possible just opposite the hot springs, however, there is better road access to river right at all flows, so you’ll likely have neighbors here.

Mile 8.7 – Carson River Hot Springs:

River Left. There are several hot springs on the left side of the river a little bit downstream of Sidewinder Rapid. The springs seem to be regularly cleaned and are quite warm. If the pool overlooking the river is occupied, another pool can be found by following the source creek. It’s quite a lovely tub!

Mile 10.7– Nevada State Line:

Welcome to Nevada. It’s hard to tell from the river, but you just entered Nevada.

Mile 11.8 – Wrapper’s Rock Rapid:

Class II+. Stay alert here, there are boulders everywhere, especially at lower flows. A lot of current pushes towards a couple of boulders in the center. Staying right keeps you away from this boulder, which has been known to wrap the overconfident boater.

Mile 11.9 – Bryant Creek Confluence:

River Right. The creator of Wrapper’s Rock Rapid is Bryant Creek, which enters from the right side. It is not advised to collect water from this point on, as there is a former Sulphur mine that drains into this creek, which has caused trace heavy metals to be detected in the East Fork of the Carson River.

Mile 15.0 – Rock Garden Rapid:

Class II. This slow-moving rapid has many boulders throughout a hundred yards or so. Slow-moving water allows you to pick numerous lines. Around a half-mile downstream lies Horseshoe Bend, which is hard to discern from river level, but the river makes a sweeping right turn.

Mile 15.6 – Carson horseshoe bend:

The East Fork of the Carson makes a quick 180-degree turn here, bending from due west to due east.

Mile 19.1 – Graffiti Marks:

River Right. High on the cliffs on the right side, there is graffiti. While we don’t condone graffiti in any way, this graffiti is an excellent indicator of downstream take-out, which will be on your right.

Mile 19.3 – Washoe Road River Access:

River Right. Welcome to Nevada. Take-out is on the right-hand side, with a short walk to your vehicle. A good marker is graffiti on the cliffs on the right side. Just downstream is a dam, with a Class V+ rapid on the right side. This can be scouted from a cliff on the take-out. Most people don’t run this rapid.