About Pinball Rapid
There is a long section of mellow pools after Sidewinder and before Pinball which is great for floating and lounging when the water is low. Right before Pinball the river constricts and makes a sharp left-hand turn with the scout immediately after the turn on the left. If the water is low, scouting on the right is also an option. If you are unfamiliar with this rapid, be sure not to miss the scout.
How to run Pinball Rapid
Above 3000 CFS: Many rafters opt to portage the top of the rapid on river left, avoiding the initial monster holes. Most of the rocks are covered creating a minefield of holes and pour-overs. The one giant rock about 1/3rd of the way down is a great marker. If not portaging, enter either center or river right. Work your way left so you are cutting behind the giant rock and getting to a nice tongue. If you don’t make the cut you run the risk of getting hung up on some hefty pour overs. Once through, most opt to run right as it is a slow ferry to get to the right fork around the trees and is easy read-and-run. If running right, be wary of both the large pour-over that could flip a boat and getting caught in the trees on the left bank.
3000 to 1500 CFS: As the water drops, the right-hand drop becomes closed off. On the lower end of the spectrum, the left-hand tongue after the big rock also shuts down. These are fun levels because there are a variety of lines to take and get creative with. The center drop gets a little more hollow and what were the large holes on the right are now opportunities for some fun lines.
Below 1500 CFS: This is when Pinball becomes a true minefield of rocks. The left is almost completely closed off and only becomes more so as the water drops. Most boats enter down the center drop, work their way into a channel on the right, and then cut back to the center and eventually far left. These flows call for some fun, technical moves in tight channels.
Pinball at medium flows. Photo by Kern River Outfitters.