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2022 Recreational Releases for South Fork Silver Creek and Slab Creek (CA)

Posted: 05/13/2022
By: Theresa Lorejo-Simsiman

Annually, American Whitewater and Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) coordinate required recreational flows on South Fork Silver Creek below Icehouse Reservoir and South Fork American River below Slab Creek Reservoir.  The final water year forecast that will determine scheduled recreational flows will be released on May 9th. Recreational flows will vary depending on the final forecast which will either be a DRY or a BELOW NORMAL water year. The schedules for recreational releases by water year are below.


South Fork Silver Creek below Ice House Dam


DRY Water Year:

May 14, 15 & 21: 10am – 3pm, 300 cfs



May 14 & 15: 10am – 3pm, 500 cfs 

May 21 & 22: 10am – 3pm, 400 cfs


Regardless of the water year, paddlers should mark your calendars and make plans now for Ice House because the more use recorded on South Fork Silver Creek during recreational releases will result in additional days provided by SMUD. When boating numbers reach a 5-year average of 68 paddlers per recreational day, SMUD will provide between 1 to 7 more days of scheduled recreational flows depending on the water year type. In other words, USE IT OR LOSE IT!


South Fork American River below Slab Creek Dam Scheduled Recreational Flows


DRY Water Year:

No Releases


BELOW NORMAL Water Year:**

May 14 & 15: 10 am – 1 pm, 1400-1500 cfs, 1:30pm to 4 pm, 850 – 950 cfs

May 21 & 22: 10 am – 1 pm, 1400-1500 cfs, 1:30 pm to 4 pm, 850-950 cfs

May 28, 29 & 30: 10 am – 1pm, 1400-1500 cfs, 1:30 pm to 4 pm, 850-950 cfs


**Please keep in mind there is a caveat to Slab Creek flows that is in place to protect Foothill Yellow Legged Frogs which are deemed to be a threatened species in this Sierra region by California Department of Fish & Wildlife. Once the 7-day moving average of water temperature exceeds 12°C flows, what is known to be a temperature trigger for breeding, recreational flows will not be released. SMUD has reported as of 5-4-2022 we are now at 11.4°C 7-day moving average.


In terms of access, SMUD’s installation of the automatic gate at the top of Slab Creek Reservoir Road down to Put-in has started this month with an ETA for completion of mid-May. Once completed this gate will be open from sunrise to sunset. US Forest Service will have the gate at the bottom of Slab Creek Reservoir Road open during scheduled recreational flow days to accommodate for turn around access and equipment drop off. Downstream at the Rock Creek take-out the Bureau of Land Management will have the gate & parking opened for the scheduled recreational dates as well.


South Fork American River below Slab Creek Minimum Instream Flows


If a BELOW NORMAL year is forecasted on May 9th, required minimum instream flows for Slab Creek will provide opportunity for inflatable kayaks and pack rafts for the remaining month of May and first two weeks in June. These flows will be maintained as follows:



            Week 2: 286 - 316 cfs

            Week 3: 297 - 327 cfs

            Week 4: 303 - 333 cfs



            Week 1: 255 – 285 cfs

            Week 2: 210 – 240 cfs


American Whitewater is reaching out to USFS and BLM to advocate for the gates at the put-in and take-out to be open during these minimum instream flow releases.


UPDATE as of 5-9-22

SMUD has confirmed a Below Normal water year and informed AW that temperatures have reached a 7-day moving average of 12˚C which is a biological cue for Foothill Yellow Legged Frogs to begin laying eggs. As required by the hydropower license SMUD has cancelled scheduled recreational flows for Slab Creek. Minimum instream flows  for Slab Creek will still provide low flow paddle opportunities and will follow the Below Normal schedule as outlined above. There will be 4 days of recreational flows as outlined above for South Silver Creek below Ice House Reservoir.



Photo by Dave Steindorf

Theresa Simsiman

Sacramento, CA

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Associated Rivers

American, South Fork CA
Silver Creek, S.Fork CA
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