Lower Freeman is the first major challenge on the Forks of the Kern. Unless you know this rapid like the back of your hand, it is definitely worth scouting. At high flows of 3,000+ CFS, it is possible to “sneak” this rapid on river left. The sneak is an aggressive series of straight drops on the far left side of the rapid.
Scout this rapid on river left. It is possible to set downstream safety on river left below the rapid. There are about 50 yards of calm water below the bottom of the rapid before the river bends left into a small riffle. Boats and throwbaggers can wait on the left bank in the calm section and set safety for the impending flips…
The boat-flipping feature on this rapid is the “gnarnia hole” at the bottom of the rapid on river right. Between 1,000 and around 2,800 CFS, this hole is very munchy. At higher flows it starts to wash out. At lower flows it weakens significantly.
For rafts, the standard line is designed around avoiding hitting the gnarnia hole. A typical run is to enter on river left and then work towards the center. As the river bends sharply to the left, there are holes/rocks down the left and center of the rapid that make going straight down the middle impossible. As such, boats will angle right as they get to the center, and push through to try and reach the apex of the river bend. There is a small, brushy eddy at the apex of the left bend. A common maneuver is to nose into that eddy, and helicopter spin upstream. After the spin, boaters will angle upstream towards river left and push as hard as possible to avoid the gnarnia hole. If you can get into the slack water behind the holes that run across the center of the rapid you are in great position.
It is possible to make the spin earlier than in the eddy, as shown in the video below. In the video below, the boater made the upstream spin just as the river starts to bend left. Note that the boat in the video caught the left corner of the gnarnia hole – it can go, but that was close!