Difficulty II-V
Length 11 Miles
Gauge Bear At Hwy 174 Bridge
Flow Range 200 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 52 minutes ago 135 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 07/04/2020 7:59 pm

River Description

This run includes two sections. 

Upper Run
Highway 174 to Ben Taylor Road:  2.1 miles,  Class IV-V

The Stanley Holbek book says the flows to run this at are between 300 and 600 cfs. Our day we had about 2.67 feet or so, which is about 600-650 cfs. I think the book is just outdated. In their defense they do say they only did it once and it was at the low flow. I know some people run it up in the high 1000s, however that is not for the normal boater and I am sure that it is class V at that level. As it were, I thought our flow was perfect. None of the rapids were pushy, the rocks were mostly covered, and eddies were still existent.

This river although not that hard when being run successful should still be respected. The nature of the river is sieves. Shackleton related to me his experiences from seeing it at very low flows, and told of honeycombed river bottom, potholes six feet deep, and paddles that disappeared in the middle a rapid, never to be seen again. So, the rapids at my flow were class IV to IV+, but apparently both higher and lower are more difficult.

So with all that said, I really enjoyed my day on the water. Don’t expect to spend a long day. If you know the lines, it will only take about 30 minutes to do the run. Even with the tree cutting, shuttle, photos, scouting, photos of the other group of boaters, watching them run rapids etc, it still only took 3 hours total… gas station meeting to parting at the freeway. This though is one of the nice things about the run, it is perfect to get on some great whitewater but not have to make a whole day of it. Well anyways, enough blabbering, I liked it and will be back… perhaps though in a few years if the trend for me and this river continues.

One last thing, the only rapid names I know of on this run are “Trash Can” and “Spanky and the Gang.” The rest are generic… but those two are real, just thought all should know.

–Courtesy of Daniel Brasuell at A Wet State

Lower Run 

Ben Taylor Road to top of Lake Combie:  8-9 miles,   Class II

A low-stress, relatively scenic day trip fit for beginners to moderates. There's no shortage of public and private access points throughout, so expect a lot of gold panners and beachgoers on the shores of a sunny summer day. Take-out access is tricky: the Wild Iris Lane bridge is not accessible to anyone, as it is owned by Bear River Aggregates, a mining operation – and even the CDFW officer we spoke to said they won't return his calls regarding access.  Further down, Lake Combie is also quite tricky (it's mostly private) but after our trip, a local told us that the end of Peaceful Valley Road has an access point. 

Only rapids to speak of are in line with Bill Tuthill's description on CACreeks: Diagonal (II-II+) about 4mi after the put-in, and two unnamed II-II+ rapids about a mile and two miles after the Dog Bar Jim bridge. 

We ran at 380cfs on packrafts and these were all super easy, no scouting necessary. No consequences or serious trap hazards anywhere on this section. CACreeks says the minimum is 200cfs, but I wouldn't want to paddle anything below this level. 

NID has proposed building the 275' Centennial Dam above Lake Combie that would inundate this stretch of the Bear River. Learn more about the efforts to stop this dam here.

–Updated by AW member Dup Crosson, May 2020

Other Information Sources:
CACreeks guide to Bear River, class 2 section.
Nevada Irrigation District  controls the outflow from Rollins Reservoir and the diversion into Bear Canal.
NID's Public Relicensing Website  FERC license #2266

Rapid Descriptions

Ben Taylor Road

Class - Mile - 2.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Ben Taylor Road is an access point that is used as a take out for the upper two miles of class 4 to 5.   It is also used as a put in for the lower 9 miles of class 2 boating. 


Gage Descriptions

Daily FlowsRealtime FlowsDreamflows Home
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Flow for this reach is available on Dreamflows

This flow information is being provided as part of the Yuba/ Bear whitewater flow study.
American Whitewater in cooperation with Pacific Gas & Electric, Nevada Irrigation District, State and Federal Agencies will be collection information on the Middle Yuba, South Yuba and Bear watersheds over the next two years.   Please fill out and online survey if you boat his reach.


Bear River Basin schematic of diversions, reserviors and gauging stations as of 2006.
USGS 11422500 BEAR R BL ROLLINS DAM NR COLFAX CA  provides historical flow and other information about the gauge on this reach. 
USGS 11421900 ROLLINS PH NR COLFAX CA  provides historical statistics and daily data for outflows from the powerhouse, but above the diversion canal. 
USGS 11422000 BEAR R CN NR COLFAX CA  provides historical information on the amount of water diverted out through the Bear Canal.

Directions Description

Take out for the Class IV/V section:

It is a bit hard, but here are the directions from Colfax.   Take S. Canyon Way (follow signs towards historical Colfax). Turn left at Grass Valley St. (no choice, the road ends otherwise). After the historical part of town turn left on Rising Sun St. At the T, turn right on Ben Taylor Rd. Continue 0.7 miles to a fork in the road. Take the left road marked by “Pavement Ends” down the 1.4 miles further to the water.

Put in: Going back to the town of Colfax, get on 174 and go north 3 miles out of town. Once you cross over the Bear River, turn right and park in the small lot next to the bridge. A trail starts under the bridge and leads down the 100 feet to the water. 

Date Flow Result Factor  
2009-05-22 High Fatality High Water Read More



article main photo

Bear River, California, Flows November 14,15; 18 to 22, and 25 to 29, 2009

Bob Center

Nevada Irrigation District (NID) will be releasing 350 cfs into California's Bear River below Rollins Reservoir on Saturday,  and Sunday, November 14 & 15.  Releases will also happen from Wednesday to Sunday, November 18 to 22, 2009.   A third release of 200 cfs will happen from November 25 to 29.   NID, with the cooperation of AW, will conduct an “opportunistic flow study” to take advantage of these flows.



Dup Crosson


Matthew Henry


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1215029 05/24/20 Dup Crosson updated description
1215030 05/24/20 Dup Crosson updated name
1215031 05/24/20 Dup Crosson updated stats
1205827 01/20/16 Matthew Henry Note about closed survey
1215032 05/24/20 Dup Crosson updated description
1212037 04/25/19 Matthew Henry updated image position
1212038 04/25/19 Matthew Henry updated image position
1215043 05/26/20 Dup Crosson updated name
1215033 05/24/20 Dup Crosson updated stats
1189947 02/18/09 n/a n/a
1215393 07/04/20 Dup Crosson updated image position
1212036 04/25/19 Matthew Henry updated image position