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Carson City District - Sierra Front Field Office

East Fork of the Carson River

Whitewater Rafting Through Two States!

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The East Fork of the Carson River is one of the few rivers along the steep east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains suitable for commercial and private white water rafting. The stretch of river between Hangman's Bridge on California State Route 89 and Ruhenstroth Dam near U.S. Highway 395 runs 19.3 miles through alpine forests on its way to the high desert of western Nevada. 

River boat access is provided at BLM's Hangman's Bridge put-in, located east of Markleeville, CA. 

Experience Level:  Practiced beginner to expert

Average Gradient: 25 feet/mile

International Scale:  Level II-III at normal flows of 600-2,500 cfs; Level III-IV at higher (flood stages)

USGS Maps:  Carter Station, CA/NV; 7.5' Series - Heenan Lake, CA., Markleeville, CA.

The East Fork of the Carson River flows through the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Bureau of Land Management public lands, and some private parcels.  River recreation on the national forest and public lands are managed jointly by the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management-Carson City District-Sierra Front Field Office.

Water flows determine when the river can be safely floated. The first few miles below Hangman's Bridge is usually swift in the late spring and early summer, forcing quick, tight turns. The canyon then widens and the rapids lessen. The remaining distance to the take-out (located just up river of Ruhenstroth Dam) is characterized by moderate riffles, ever-expanding vistas and beautiful scenery.

COMMERCIAL WHITEWATER COMPANIES must have operating permits to take customers on the East Fork of the Carson River.  This program is administered by the Carson Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.  Please contact 775-331-6444.

Link for Current Water Flows at the USGS Markleeville gauging station:

Photo of whitewater rafts on the northern portion of the East Fork of the Carson River.
The water in the East Fork of the Carson River comes right off the snow and is very cold. The Number One Safety Rule is: Stay in the Boat!

Season:  The average boating season on the East Fork runs from mid-April to early June. Runnable flows range from 600-5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) with drift times varying from 5-10 hours. 

Sanitation:  Constructed restroom facilities do not exist except for the Hangman's Bridge put-in, one primitive pit toilet halfway down the river, and a new two-riser SST vault toilet at the takeout above Reuhenstroh Dam.  Dig a cathole if you must, but please pack out toilet paper and all trash.

Trash Collection: if you floated/pack it in, then you must bring it all the way out!

Be Safe!  Beware that the water in this river comes right off the snow in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, so it is very cold, usually in the 40's.  Hypothermia sets in very quickly.