Bear - Drum Afterbay to Dutch Flat Afterbay

Bear, California, US


Drum Afterbay to Dutch Flat Afterbay

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 130 fpm
Max Gradient 150 fpm

Up from 2 logs

Up from 2 logs
Photo by Pete Arpin taken 09/02/09

River Description

It is unkown whether this reach has ever been run.   However, the difficulty of the reach is expected to be about class 4 in the beginning, and increasing to class 5 by the end of the run. 


Take out:   Take I-80 east to the Dutch Flat exit. Turn left, cross over I-80, continue straight. This is Sacramento St.  Follow it until it bends to the right and turns into Main St of the little town of Dutch Flat. Half way through town, turn left, by the Post Office, on Diggins Rd. Follow Diggins to the Dutch Flat Afterbay. Cross the dam, park at the gravel boat ramp next to the powerhouse. The river comes in less than a ¼ mile upstream. It’s a short paddle out.

Put in:  The best put in appears to be down a dirt road, behind a green gate, just down stream of the dam.  There is a small flat near a cable car that provides easy to access to the river.


Boating Releases for Labor Day Weekend, 2009 have been postponed untill 2010.


When boating flows are released in 2010, please take advantage of them.  Afterwards fill out the survey information.   To fill out a survey, go to:


Other Information Sources: 
Nevada Irrigation District
controls Drum powerhouse and Dutch Flat powerhousel.
NID's Public Relicensing Website FERC license #2266



Scouting Report: Drum After Bay to Dutch Flat After Bay
August 29, 2009
Pete Arpin

In preparation for the Flow Study Release scheduled Sept 5-7, 2009,  Bob Center, Moira McSweeney, Riley (the dog) and I hiked ~ 2 miles of the 4+ mile river bed, down from the put in.

Our goal was to determine if paddling this stretch, at any flow, was a reasonable undertaking.
The flow on our hike was ~ 12cfs.  Release flows will be 200, 250 and 300cfs.

At the put in, the river is ~ 25’-35’ wide.  It is a constant gradient gravel river bed.  The features range from small cobble rocks to boulders up to ~ 4’ in diameter.  The gradient is steep (100’+/mile?) but the difficulty is ~class 3.  Generally the river can be seen down stream for distances of between 50 and 100 yards.  In other words, no blind corners or horizon lines to blunder into.


~ 200 yards from put in, is the bushiest section.  1/3 of the river goes left, 2/3 goes right.  GO RIGHT.  It is the main channel and clear of brush.  


Limbo Log ½ -1 mile down stream is a HANGING 8” pine log you should be able to paddle under with no difficulty.  THIS IS THE WARNING for the only log jam we saw. Its MAYBE 100 yds down stream?
The log jam is around the only blind corner (of course).  Things to notice:  1) the limbo pine log 2) the canyon opens up to a bench on the left 3) the right wall going into the bend is a real cliff ~ 25’ high 4) Bob and I posted orange survey ribbons, hanging in branches over the river, near the entrance and portage/scout eddy 5) Bob and I posted an old 2x6 board in a vertical position at the suggested take out eddy.


Should you miss these clues, the water is slow, but moving, up to the jam.  You MIGHT be able to sneak far right, between the root ball and the cliff, this is an emergency move.  It should be scouted or portaged.  If you scout the jam by climbing on it, watch out for the bee hive!


Below the jam is more of the same bouncy class 3 for another mile.  We stopped scouting at river level where a service road crossed the river on a cemented in low water ford.  We ESTIMATE this was about 2 miles in, or about half way.  WE COULD BE WAY OFF on our mileage estimate.  The road to river left comes out on the put in road, about 2.2 miles from put in.  It has a rusty gate.  We followed the road to river right for another ¼ mile.  It soon climbed up away from the river so we couldn’t scout well from it.  WHAT WE DID SEE, appeared to be more of the same bouncy class 3.  ALTHOUGH, the gradient did appear to get steeper in this area. 

Because of time constraints we turned around at this point.

On the drive out, we were able to see the river from various points on the road, HIGH above the river.  It looked to be green water and medium sized rocks.  More class 3. However, experience has taught me that even the biggest rapids look small from the helicopter!

There are fisherman trails and mining roads through out the canyon, making scouting or a hike out reasonable if need be.  To try and quantify, by area, 1/3-1/2 of the canyon is bush or trees.  It is not a jungle.


We only walked ~ half the river, but is was very consistent in nature and gradient.  I would normally call it class 3, but accounting for the isolation and possible wood, I would call the part we saw, easy class 4.  Extrapolating from 12cfs to 200cfs is an inexact art.


We did not see the last half.  The gradient appears to pick up and the canyon deepens.  However, based on the upper part, I would think the river bed is generally free of live brush and trees.  Downed trees are a potential hazard, but I don’t expect them to be frequent.  We only saw one down tree (the log jam) in the upper section.


Put In.  The best put in appears to be down a dirt road, behind a green gate, just down stream of the dam.  There is a small flat near a cable car that provides easy to access to the river.

Summary:  The first half is bouncy class 3 and 4.  There are plenty of eddies.  The river bed is almost entirely free of trees and bushes.  The second half is unknown, but based on clues and INTUITION.  I don’t think it would be much different.  DON’T take my opinion though.  BE PREPARED for anything.  However, I do think this has to be one of the easier 1st decent possibilities left.


Scouting Report: The bottom end of the Drum Afterbay reach of the Bear River
August 31, 2009
Pete Arpin


The is a report of what we found hiking UP the Bear River from the Dutch Flat Afterbay.
The flow was still ~12 cfs.  We hiked ~ 1 mile.  Estimating that we hiked DOWN from Drum Afterbay about 2 miles on Aug 28th, we have covered between half and ¾ of the run.  The “middle” section of 1-2 miles is still unknown.

This last mile of the run was much steeper and harder than the first 1-2 miles of the run.

It is class 5 with a number of potential portages.

Due to time constraints, we turned back after about 1 mile.  The place we turned back, I’ll call Two Log Falls.  Upstream, as far as we could see was busy class 4/4+.  To ID Two Log Falls, as it comes into view, there are two large logs, parallel to each other and pointing generally upstream.  They bridge two large boulders and are not a hazard.  A large pile of debris is stacked against the left wall.  The current goes right, over a horizon line.  Any boater in control would eddy out left for look at this point.  Eddies exist, but are class 4+/5- moves in busy water.  The falls should be scouted from the left.  An abandoned road ends about 20’ above the falls. The road appears to now be a frequently used trail, PROBABLY accessible to quads and dirt bikes.  It goes up (and out?) on river left.

Decide on running after scouting.  Look for the potential undercut on the bottom of the drop, river left.
There is a LARGE pool at the bottom.  It is spanned by a high log with a rope ladder hanging from it.  The very next (?) rapid down stream is a class4+ with a 10’ log across the main 6’ channel.  Scout.  It may have alternate routes with more water.  It should be an easy river level portage otherwise.

The rapids downstream are pool drop boulder fences.  IF the flow isn’t too fast(?) they could be a fun slalom course, Class 4+.  Some of the drops are hard to see from he top, all go UNTIL ~ ½ mile down stream.  I call this Hard Hat Falls.  Hard Hat Falls is actually a land slide mixed with a log jam.   I would venture to call it unrunnable, but you decide.  I placed a yellow hard hat on a rock ~ 4’ above the river, on the right.  Again, anyone in control would eddy out by the hardhat.  All you will see of the drop is a large log jam.  Scout from the right.  Portaging will be difficult.  The left may be the easiest portage, unless the river is too high.  Scout right and decide.

About 50 yds below Hard Hat is the last class 5.  It would be class 4+ except for a nasty undercut on river left.  It appears as a mini (25’) gorge with a total drop of ~ 8’.  Scout.

It may be cleaner with more water.

Below this is fun class 4 for a short while.  The gradient eases but the bushes start encroaching.  Bushes will begin hanging into the river from above but will not be in the riverbed UNTIL the bottom changes back to cobble.  At the first “wall of bushes” you encounter, 2/3 of the river goes left.  1/3, or less goes right.  Either paddle or wet portage down the RIGHT chute.  It is ~ 10yds until you break out into an open pool.

SHOULD YOU BLOW it and go left. Stay straight and you’ll break through the bushes in ~ 10 ft.  I hung an orange surveyors ribbon from a tree branch on river right, where the suggested sneak/portage is.  I tied a little three pronged Y at the bottom of my ribbon.

From here the gradient eases way off.  You’ll come to the second “Wall of Bushes”.  It is now time to get out. I tied three ribbons with Ys on a tree limb over the take out eddy, on river left.  Follow the dry streambed/fisherman trail on the left shore for an easy, level carry of ~50 yards.  When you emerge, you’ll be at the afterbay lake.

In summary:  This section is a STEEP, class 5 boulder slalom with a number of potential portages.  The nature is generally pool/drop.  There are many eddies.  Bush was not a problem until right near the very end.  We didn’t not scout the middle 1-2 miles of this 4 mile run.  This is overall a class 5 run.  Lesser boaters should not participate in the first descent.  I believe 200 CFS will be plenty of water.  100 CFS would probably be enough.   300 CFS would be very busy, though cleaner.

I regularly paddle class4+/5- and the occasional solid 5 (Cherry Ck, Bridgeport).  I’ll not do the 1st descent because of the unknown stretch above and lack of experience pioneering new runs.

I do think top tier boaters would enjoy the experience. 

Directions to take out.  Take I-80 east to the Dutch Flat exit.  Turn left, cross over I-80, continue straight.  This is Sacramento St.  Follow it until it bends to the right and turns into Main St of the little town of Dutch Flat.  Half way through town, turn left, by the Post Office, on  Diggins Rd.  Follow Diggins to the Dutch Flat Afterbay.  Cross the dam, park at the gravel boat ramp next to the powerhouse.  The river comes in less than a ¼ mile upstream.  It’s a short paddle out.

August 29, 2009
Pete Arpin

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-12-12 21:57:08


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.

No Comments

Do more than just check gauges; join over 5,000 AW members today.

Or, consider donating


Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

December 2018



Associated Rivers

Associated Projects

  • Yuba and Bear Rivers (CA)
    The Yuba and Bear rivers are some of the best whitewater resources in California. American Whitewater is an active participant in the FERC relicensing negotiations that impact these rivers.