A Kayaking Blog By Dan Simenc

Tenaya Creek’s Giant Waterslide

Tenaya Creek’s Giant Waterslide

Jul 28, 2011

I left Cascade, Idaho on Saturday evening after the first day of the freestyle competition there came to a close. By the time I made it back to Boise, finished packing, edited two short videos, and threw up a blog post it was 3:00 AM. I slept until 9:30 AM, then took off on the road to California. Equipped with a fantastic audiobook, Shadow Divers, I cruised smoothly down to Yosemite, where I met the River Roots crew near Tuolumne Meadows as they were scoping out the Tenaya Creek slide. Charlie Center, Katie Scott, and Katie’s brother Huey arrived shortly thereafter and our crew was complete for the mission we’d embark on the next day.

Due to the lingering snowpack, the campgrounds near Tuolumne Meadows were all closed, and so we threw down pads for a quick snooze off the side of a dirt road. Our snooze was in fact very quick; a pack of park rangers woke us up around 10:00 PM and sent us an hour down the road to a campground at Tamarack Flats where they told us space was available. We sleepily arrived at the campground to find no vacant spots, and laid down our pads in what almost resembled a camp site. Fortunately this time we slept through the night without another incident, and woke up ready to head back to Tenaya Creek.

The giant slide on Tenaya Creek was first made famous amongst kayakers by its inclusion in the SLP film: ‘Aerated.’ The slide is located around a mile or two downstream of Tenaya Lake in Eastern Yosemite Park. From the lake we paddled down to the slide, ran it, then hiked back to our cars.

The slide initially drops about 100 ft during a quick steep stretch, then flattens out and drops maybe 200 ft more around a gradual bend. The two most worrisome parts of the drop are a ‘kicker’ shelf near the top of the slide, and a large pothole on river left at the base of the steep part. After a quick scout, we set up cameras, and I opted to go first.

To run the slide you basically just line yourself up, brace through the kicker, then hold on. I entered a little too far right and was thrown sideways and back left by a flake just above the kicker. As a careened down the steep slide I managed to straighten myself up just before dropping straight into the pothole. WHOOSH! A bit of whiplash maybe, but nothing too bad, and I’m smiling the entire way down the mellower lower porting of the slide.

The author loving life on Tenaya Creek.

Charlie opted to go second, and was also sent straight into the pothole. Unfortunately his boat hopped slightly airborn just before landing, sending him flat into what he described as: “The biggest hit of his life.” After a quick upside down vital check, he rolled up sore, but happy to be in one piece still.

After watching Charlie and my less than perfect lines, Katie was still fired up and she went up to run next. She had a great line down the slide, and ended up just on the edge of the pothole, which flipped her. After an instant roll she was on her way down the rest of the slide, happy to be only the second woman to run the drop. (Shannon Carroll holds the FFD.)

Katie Scott making the second female descent of Tenaya Creek.

Ben Marr went next and greased the line, having the cleanest run of the day. Rush followed and had an awesome line. He avoided the pothole, but was spun backwards near the bottom of the steep part. He casually spun himself back around as he transitioned into the low-angle, run-out slide.

Ben Brown made the day’s last trip down the drop. He was able to make it just to the right of the pothole, but was launched back left up onto the bank. His hands got pretty tore up, but he was otherwise fine, and he cheerily cruised down the run-out while his bow mounted GoPro bounced around the rock, now only attached to his grab loop by its tether!

After posing for a group shot, we ‘blue angeled’ the run-out slide a couple of times before hiking back up to our cars. All the time I’d spent filming from the bank after my run left me with a nice sunburn. My California trip was off to a great start: gorgeous granite slides and sunny weather!

Our triumphant group shot post huck.

We were all thrilled to have run the slide, and decided that the drop would be much better with more water. The lower flow made the entry kicker worse, and made it harder to avoid the pothole. I hope to be able to return next year to see what the drop looks like with high water.

Enjoy the edit I put together from the day’s action. I missed Rush’s line, so you’ll have to catch that somewhere else!

Sliding through the beautiful valley with Half Dome in the background.

Comments Closed

  1. Do they rent double tubes for this slide?

  2. Jennifer Ball /

    What was the CFS on this? I only go to Yosemite a couple of times a year, but this is the highest I’ve seen it!

    • Hey Jennifer,

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog. There isn’t a gauge on this one, but I’d guess the creek had about 200 cfs. Hope you can make the kayaking bum lifestyle work!

      Dan