Goodwin Canyon

This guide was written by Scott Wucherer

Stanislaus River, USA

Goodwin Canyon Guide

This guide was written by Scott Wucherer. Goodwin Canyon is a 3.85 mile class III to V pool-drop run on the Stanislaus river. There are four major rapids on this run, Mr. Toads Wild Ride, Matterhorn, Upper Pinball, & Haunted House. This run is below all of the major reservoirs, so it contains spawning habitat for Fall-Run Chinook Salmon. The Bureau of Reclamation provides fish releases twice a year. These releases last for about three weeks with varying flows to mimic rain events. The Fall release, usually in October, is to entice the adult fish to come upstream. The spring release, usually in April, is to help push the juvenile fish out to sea. There are also releases in drought years to help with water quality issues in the Delta. This run can be lapped as it has a short shuttle, approximately 15 min one way, and good access points. This is a fairly narrow river with bedrock creating the rapids. There is lots of vegetation growing near the waters edge as the dams above limit the flow of flood waters. This canyon offers great scenery with basalt cliffs and foothill vegetation. As the canyon opens up into the valley you float into historic Knights Ferry and under the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi River. Shortly after the covered bridge is the take-out for this section.

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Goodwin Canyon flows

The Dreamflows graph can be found here. For kayaks, the range is 200 CFS – 3000 CFS. Any higher is sketchy due to vegetation. The 200 – 600 CFS range is on the low end but goes. Toads and Matterhorn have been run at these flows.

For those in rafts, the range is 600 – 3000 CFS (Main Put-In). Between 400-600 CFS you can use Two Mile Bar Put-In, but Toads is too low to run in a raft.

Goodwin Canyon Videos

Scott Wucherer has more laps on Goodwin Canyon than most. (He’s the one that wrote the below guide.) His videos are helpful for scouting, which are listed below.

Goodwin Diversion Dam to Knights Ferry

Mile 0.14 – Laundry Chute:

Class II. This is a bedrock boulder garden. Check for wood. There is a log crossing the river at the bottom of the rapid that was cut and sunk to the bottom of the river. This is in play if running at fish flows, approximately 200 CFS.

Mile 0.6 – Willow Rapid

Class III. Fun wave train that starts out under a canopy of willow trees and then opens up. This rapid finishes at a squeeze point where the horizon line of Matterhorn is as clear as day. Get ready to catch an eddy.

Mile 1.88 – Entrance Rapid

Class II. A short class II rapid. Enter right and work left. This has an amazing surf wave for kayakers at medium flows. Catch it from river left. No eddy service on this one.

Mile 2.12 – Middle Pinball/Iron Box

Class III. Just past Upper Pinball is a funky rapid that at medium to high flows can be run on river left. Below 800 cfs the left side gets manky and you must run a funky chute on the right side. At flows over 2000 cfs you can just run right over the middle. There used to be an Iron Box in the right chute that was washed down from the old mining town of Two Mile Bar. Years ago, the Army Corps removed this Iron Box as requested by the commercial rafting companies.

Mile 2.15 – Lower Pinball

Class III. Just below Middle Pinball. At Flows below 800 CFS rafts must run a chute going from left to right. The downstream rock forming this chute has been known to flip rafts. This chute then flows into a pointed bedrock wall that sheds water to both sides. It is best to tee up to this wall with a raft and bounce back to the left or the eddy on the right. Hitting this wall sideways in a raft can result in a wrap or flip. At flows above 800 CFS you can just run along the left and avoid the chute altogether. For kayaks, this rapid is not that tough as you can maneuver much easier into the eddies.

Mile 2.40 – Halls of Karma

Class II. A mellow class II with lots of eddies to catch and small drop at the bottom. The raft companies used to let clients float through this section.

Mile 2.59 – Guides Challenge

Class II. This funky s-turn type rapid got its name because raft guides can navigate it without hitting any rocks without having any of the paddler’s paddle. At higher flows there is a sticky hole on the bottom left. Easily avoided.

Mile 2.76 – Rock Garden

Class II. Pick a route and have fun. At lower flows rafts must run the left channel. At flows above 600 cfs or so, the wide open right channel cleans up.

Mile 2.91 – Last Rapid/Air Mattress

Class III. This rapid is straight down the middle. It gets tougher as flows go down. It’s the last significant rapid of the run. The raft companies used to have all of the paddler’s get to the back of the raft so when you hit the hole the front of the raft would go up into the air giving a downstream viewer a good shot of the bottom of the raft. Some kayakers choose to boof the ledge on the top right into an eddy but I would advise against this as there is manky bedrock outcrops lurking just below the surface in the eddy.

Mile 3.48 – Covered Bridge Rapid

Class II. Straight down the middle.

Mile 3.61 – Covered Bridge

The longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. This gem is a fine piece of Knights Ferry’s history.