Lower McCloud (CA) Has Rare Fall Flows During Powerhouse Maintenance Until 11/12
By: Scott Harding
The Lower McCloud is a stunning class IV overnight run on the cold, turquoise waters that emerge from springs on the south side Mt. Shasta. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) captures these exceptional waters behind a dam and diverts a majority of the river's flow to the adjacent Pit River watershed where it generates hydropower at the James B. Black Powerhouse. This leaves the McCloud River below the dam too low to paddle for most of the year, if not all year.
However, the James B. Black powerhouse is currently undergoing maintenance, and PG&E has stopped diverting the McCloud River. As a result, there are now boatable flows in the Lower McCloud River, a rare occurence anytime, especially in the fall. (If it weren't for the hydropower diversion, the McCloud would have boatable flows all year.) Flows are expected to rise steadily until they reach about 575 cfs, with a possible range from 550 to 700 cfs. These are decent flows on the lower half of the flow range.
The powerhouse maintenance is expected to be complete by approximately November 12, 2022, and once it comes back online, PG&E will resume diversions and the Lower McCloud will cease to run at boatable flows. Until then, this is a great opportunity to get out on one of the best class IV overnight trips on the West Coast. The run is suitable for whitewater boats ranging in size from kayaks to small rafts; however at the flows likely to occur during this brief period, it is best suited to kayaks and similar size inflatables and perhaps the smallest of catarafts. PG&E is also doing maintenance work on the road that provides river access at the base of McCloud Dam and are actively prohibiting all access here: you will need to put in about four miles downstream at the Ah-Di-Nah Campground.
Get all the details and realtime flow info at American Whitewater's Lower McCloud river page. If you make it out on the river, please take photos and post a trip report so other boaters can learn more about this amazing run and get the most current info. Be sure to read the trip reports already filed.
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