San Francisco Chronicle
"You’re in for a night under the stars and two days of laugh-til-you-drop, adrenaline-pumping action in one of the most spectacular volcanic canyons California has to offer."
Get ready for the no-fuss, all-fun raft trip Here are the requirements for having a good time on your next weekend outing: The trip must be unique, exciting, primarily do-it-yourself (with some help), not too far from home, not too expensive - and you must be able to share it with any of your buddies, whether it’s your mate, kid or lifetime pal. Not many adventures can fill those demands, but rafting Upper Cache Creek is one that does. No experience necessary. You finish 17 miles later, having the time of your life.
Upper Cache Creek is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Lake Berryessa; those are the hills you see to the west when driving north through the Central Valley on Highway 5. It is the closest opportunity to the Bay Area that provided the classic white water rafting experience - 110 miles from San Francisco, 75 miles from Napa, 65 miles from Sacramento and 135 miles from San Jose.
What you do is show up with some camping gear and $129, then plan to get a little wet. “Nearly all our first-time guests are beginners,” said Mark , who runs the operation, named Whitewater Adventures. “Our goal is to provide a safe, adventurous and fun-filled trip - without us being a pain in the rear.” It’s a two-day, 17-mile trip, where all the hassles, such as shuttling, food, and most gear, is taken care of by Whitewater Adventures. That leaves you to focus on paddling.
During the first day, you get a good feel for the water, ended by camping on an island deep in the river canyon, right under the stars. On the second day, right when you start to feel like you know what you are doing, you meet Mad Mike. He doesn’t like rafters. Neither does The Mother. Oh yeah? Well, Mad Mike and The Mother are two of the pulse-pounding rapids on Cache Creek. They are rated at Class III (on a scale of I to VI), which is enough to dump you if you don’t watch it.
Hey, after a day paddling inflatable canoes in majestic river canyon in 90-degree heat, dumping starts to seem like a pretty good idea. The first day you’ll spend about four hours on the river, getting the feel of the raft. You’ll be on the water about six hours the second day, and that includes going through the more exciting rapids. Most of the river is accessible only by water, has stretches where the canyon walls tower above you, and in the 17-mile span you have the chance to see tule elk, bald eagles, and form an intimate relationship with the water."
- Tom Stienstra
San Francisco Examiner
Mad Mike is waiting for you!
Regardless of where you are reading this - at home, on a bus, on a train - Mad Mike is waiting. And if you make a mistake, he’ll get you. And if you don’t watch it, Big Mother will get you too. Mad Mike? Big Mother? That’s right, these are the names of two pulse-pounding rapids on Cache Creek, which is the closest river to the Bay Area that provides a classic white water experience.
For beginners or experienced paddlers alike, Mad Mike is a fellow worth tangling with. You hear him before you see him. In your raft, you come around a turn, and the river seems to disappear. The heart starts to pump. Below you, the river suddenly takes a five foot drop into a chute, and as you tumble down, all you can see is white bubbling water all around you. Just as suddenly, the river takes an upward bend, and all you see is blue sky. Praying doesn’t seem to help. But as rafting goes, if there isn’t the chance at dumping, you miss the excitement.The idea is to get out there on the edge, and sometimes, when you go over the edge, you find out it’s an amazing and exhilarating place to be.
The remote headwaters of Cache Creek rank second in California as habitat for two impressive wildlife species. More than 50 bald eagles usually find their way each winter to the creek’s banks; only the Klamath Basin hosts more than these magnificent raptors. And the 400-strong Cache Creek tule elk herd is surpassed in size only by one herd in Owens Valley.
Bald eagles should be at peak numbers this month; some usually linger along Cache Creek into April. Winter’s cooler temperatures also bring out many of the area’s year-round wild residents, who stay hidden in the shade during scorching summer days.
Besides tule elk, you might spot blacktail deer, wild turkeys, ospreys, or mergansers - maybe even a black bear of a mountain lion.
Look for eagles winging over the water in search of carp, or perched in digger pines along the creek. You can get an excellent treetop view from the ridge that deflects the creek into a horseshoe bend just before it reaches Wilson Valley.
Watching for eagles, hiker focuses binoculars on distant treetops to survey Cache Creek canyon - a popular wintering spot among bald eagles. Distinctive coloring of bird shown in flight identifies it as mature; younger ones, often seen in the canyon, lack white head feathers. Stick and stones aid hiker crossing at Baton Flat. Ankle-deep water is typical through winter, though heavy rains can foil a dry crossing."
Whitewater Rafter Testamonial:
"Whitewater Adventures get my No. 1 recommendation for outdoor entertainment this year."
If you don’t read one more sentence, copy down the number:1-800-97RIVER (1-800-977-4837).
Walk as calmly as you can to the telephone and book the $129, two-day raft trip down the north fork of Cache Creek. Besides great meals and top notch raft, you’re in for a night under the stars and two days of laugh-til-you-drop, adrenaline-pumping action in one of the most spectacular volcanic canyons California has to offer, all within an hour of Faifield.
When Mark, of Whitewater Adventures, warns customers “this isn’t Disneyland,” he means that falling in the water, sunburn and insect bites are distinct possibilities. Actually, Whitewater Adventures and Disneyland have some notable similarities. They promise and deliver fun and adventure, they promote family participation and they exemplify well-run businesses where customers are treated as guests.
Before starting, Mark gives a brief orientation. Ominous threats of fine and censure serve as a warning that life jackets must be worn at all times. We get a brief history of the area, a description of what rapids to expect and a pull-out point for the end of the day. “You may capsize or fall out of the boat. It happens all the time. Don’t start yelling 911. Turn on your back and float feet first downstream. Wait until your raft catches up to you, roll it over and climb in. The water isn’t very cold,” he says.
By the end of the first day, we have learned to handle our raft well enough to confidently attack anything the river has to offer. We pull in to the base camp where steak, chicken, giant baked potatoes, corn on the cob and tables of hors d’oeuvres are ready to eat. We spend the evening talking under Tiki lights, playing volleyball, basketball and horseshoes. The next day, after a breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham and fried potatoes, we launch our raft to finish the last eight miles of the two-day trip.
Cache Creek is located north of the Bay Area, below Clear Lake. It is 110 miles from San Francisco, about a 2 1/2-hour drive. For North Bay residents, it’s only 65 miles from Napa. Whitewater Adventures offers a two-day trip for $129, complete with New York steak dinner, which is priced as reasonably as any weekend rafting excursion in California.For two-day trips, Whitewater Adventures will take you on a remote four-wheel drive road off Highway 16 that climbs to 3,000 feet.
On a clear day, you can see Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen to the northeast, and to the west sits the Coast Range. You camp at stream’s edge at Buck Island, where rafting techniques are reviewed, and you can also watch wildlife or fish. Turtles, tule elk and even eagles are common sightings, and for fisherman, catfish seem to come in one size - big. A 30-pounder was caught earlier this year and is on display in a little tackle shop in the town of Guinda.
On the two-day trip, you’ll cover about 15 miles of river, spending about four hours on the river the first day, and about six hours on the second. You go through many rapids, but the highlights are Mad Mike, Big Mother and Mario Andretti Bank."
Here's what our rafters have to say about Whitewater Adventures...