Devils Postpile included in Wild and Scenic Inventory


Few whitewater runs in the world contain such quality rapids, grandiose geologic scenery, and clean translucent water as the Devil’s Postpile of the Middle Fork San Joaquin River in California. The Postpile holds a storied place in modern whitewater kayaking’s history, from an epic portage and terror filled first descent by California legends Royal Robbins, Doug Tompkins, and Reg Lake, to Tommy Hilleke’s 7 Rivers epic pothole scramble on the frequently portaged drop now referred to as just, the Pothole Slide. For many paddlers, the Devils Postpile represents a K2 of kayaking expeditions. It’s not the steepest, longest, or highest volume whitewater run in North America, but it damn well might be one of the hardest. Intense and exposed portaging, must run class V+ rapids and locked in gorges, all set in an inescapable wilderness, with few trails and abundant wildlife make it a supremely daunting but deeply rewarding environment. As some would say, quite wild, and scenic. So when the Forest Service was attempting to leave it off of the Inyo National Forest’s list of rivers eligible for Wild and Scenic Rivers designation, American Whitewater leapt to action. 

AW put out the call for paddlers who had experienced, and those who aspired to experience the Devils Postpile, to send narratives and images depicting the runs wild and scenic nature and its quintessential place in the our sports history. Our community did not fail, stepping up with an overwhelming show of support for adding the Middle Fork San Joaquin to the new Forest Plan’s list of rivers eligible for designation. Expert and professional paddlers whose exploits we’ve become familiar with ranked the Devils Postpile as one the top runs in California and across the world. 

“There is not another place in the world that shares the same geology and commitment as Ballon Dome Gorge and the upper reaches of the San Joaquin River. It's the kind of place that every cast lands a fish and every day holds a glorious adventure for the few lucky enough to experience it. This is 100% a full world class one of a kind river that needs to be protected and enjoyed as a wild and scenic area. It will forever be a milestone in the hardcore whitewater world and a stunning example of just how powerful and beautiful the Sierra Mountains truly are.” — Evan Garcia

They spoke to the uniqueness of the whitewater experience, providing a significant challenge for even the planets top paddlers, while at the same time being drawn to the surreal landscape and true backcountry adventure that make any prized expedition worth embarking on. 

“I am always drawn to the rivers of the High Sierra and especially the Devil's Postpile of the Middle Fork San Joaquin. Around the world, I'm generally always looking for rivers like the San Joaquin with similar beauty, whitewater of the highest quality, and a remote wilderness feel free of major human impact.” — Chris Korbulic

Those who had their sights set on the goal of one day running the Postpile gave context to the rivers place among the nation’s most demanding stretches of river to paddle, and as a benchmark whitewater classic. 

“The Devils Postpile section of the San Joaquin, along with the Middle Fork of the Kings, are the pinnacle of California kayaking. Even as an expert kayaker, I have not been able to run the Postpile, and it is something that I strive to accomplish. It's challenging rapids, crystal clear water, and moonscape scenery are unmatched anywhere. Standing on Mammoth Mountain, I have looked into the canyon and dreamed of getting to spend the five days necessary to descend one of the few truly wild rivers left in California.” — Connor Herdt

And finally locals detailed the allure of the Postpile for paddlers from across the globe.

“Living close to the start of the run has given me the opportunity to become an unofficial ambassador to the river. Every year, I am contacted by kayakers from across the country and around the world who are on their way to paddle the river. One kayaker, Jordy Searle, traveled all the way from New Zealand to paddle the San Joaquin. The river is a global destination for expert kayakers and is a test piece that almost every expert kayaker hopes to paddle at least once during their kayaking career.” — Kevin Smith

“I have explored rivers all over the world and can say with authority that this free flowing river is one of the top whitewater kayaking rivers on earth. It is a combination of amazing wilderness, crystal clear water, and extremely exciting rapids that make it one of the most talked about rivers in our sport, and since early in my kayaking career kayakers from around the world have had this river on their ultimate bucket list.” — Ben Stookesberry

"Devil's Postpile is the epitome of demanding Sierra kayaking with some of the most committing gorges, beautiful granite domes, and isolated canyons. This run is the river that all other California rivers are measured by; a pure test of ones skill and dedication. Devil's Postpile is a must for anyone looking for the remote California kayaking experience." — Taylor Robertson 

Werner Paddles is proud to support American Whitewater. See what else they're doing to protect the wilderness over at their website, here:
https://www.americanwhitewater.org/