It’s difficult to determine the exact location where a river begins, but according to Phil Coffin in his book, “A Nature Guide to Berkeley Tuolumne Camp”, the South Fork originates as a small creek at 9000 feet just east of the Tioga Road near the Tuolumne/Mariposa County borders.
From its origins, the South Fork flows 28 miles dropping some 7,500 feet in elevation. In its first 10 miles the South Fork drops over 5,000 feet mostly inside the protection of Yosemite National Park. As it passes Carlon Falls it leaves the Park and heads toward Italian Bar and finally through Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.
Along the way it is fed by small streams such as Soldier Creek just above Breakfast Rock on the way to Small Falls, or Thimbleberry Creek, which runs through the center of Camp, or Big Creek, which enters the South Fork just down river from Sandy Beach (for old timers) /Cobble Beach.
After passing through Hardin Flat the river enters another steep canyon. It was at this site that a dam was proposed in the early 1980’s, which if successfully built, would have submerged Camp under 200 feet of water. This proposed project inspired the formation of
The South Fork plunges for four miles below Hardin Flat down a steep forbidding canyon until it arrives at Rainbow Pool and its 20 foot waterfall. At that point, the river continues to plunge down through the Cascades where it meets up with the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne. From there it’s a straight shot to a rendezvous with the Main “Wild and Scenic” stem of the Tuolumne.
I’m going to take an overnight river raft trip down the Main Fork later this summer. I’ll report on that adventure in our Fall newsletter.
Have a great summer and remember “There’s no place like Camp Tuolumne”.
– Craig Fendel, FOBTC Board