Pinball Rapid

Mile: 18.79

Rating: Class IV

GPS:  35°31’55.56″N, 118°39’20.52″W

Description: There is a long section of mellow pools after sidewinder and before pinball which is great for floating and lounging. Right before pinball the river constricts and make a sharp left-hand turn with the scout immediately after the turn on the left. If you are unfamiliar with this rapid, be sure not to miss the scout! At the bottom of the rapid, the river splits around a large tree island so be sure to get either left or right of it. As the flows drop, going left around the island becomes the only viable option.

Above 3000 CFS: 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.

History: In 2017, a log created a giant hazard right past the main center drop. This meant boats had to enter on river right and make a big move to get back left. For a period of time, boats were skipping this first drop by portaging over the rocks on river left and starting in a small eddy. This avoided the log but caused a greater chance of getting caught in the trees on river left.

This video shows Pinball at 3,400 CFS. This boat highlights the right entry, cut to the left channel, and ferry back to the right.

Medium-low flows ~1300 CFS. This highlights one option for a line and is very similar to the low water line as well.