The Belden Reach is the 8-mile portion of the North Fork of the Feather River in the Plumas National Forest between PG&E's Belden Dam and the confluence of the North Fork of the Feather River and the East Branch of the Feather River near Highway 70. Caribou Road follows the Belden Reach.
Prior to the construction of Belden Powerhouse in 1969, this was a popular kayaking stretch with dependable flows from the Caribou Powerhouse. Slalom races were regularly held on the river between Queen Lily Campground and NF Campground. (Charles Martin, 1974, Sierra Whitewater)
Since 1969 this section seldom sees high flows, so the river bed had become overgrown, brushy and very narrow in many areas. In 2017, the Belden Powerhouse was off line for about six months, requiring PG&E to transfer water down the river in order to supply the powerhouses down stream. 2017 was also a very wet year. The result was high flows, 2000 - 5000 cfs, which cleaned out the rvier channel considerably.
During relicensing of the hydropower project impacting flows on this reach, American Whitewater was able to negotiate flow studies for this reach and the upper, class V, Seneca reach. What we found was a classic class III+, 9 mile long gem. The reach has the feel of a medium-sized creek; it has fun rapids with powerful hydraulics and some great surf waves thrown into the mix. After completing the flow study we got to work negotiating flows with PG&E. Finally, in 2004 we reached agreement with PG&E, resource agencies, Plumas County, and other organizations. This agreement includes restored flows for recreation July through October.
Since 2004 the Settlement Agreement has been under review by the State Water Resources Control Board. The main issue in play here is, how to best cool down the water in the North Fork Feather River in order to restore what was once one of the best trout fisheries in California.
Returning flow to the North Fork Feather River has been a goal of American Whitewater for over a decade. Along with the flows already returned to the Rock Creek and Cresta reaches, the addition of the Belden and Seneca takes us closer to seeing our goal realized.
Put in: Elevation is about 2860 feet above mean sea level. From Highway 70 take Caribou Road 8 miles to just below the Beldon forebay dam. In the area below the dam, dirt/gravel roads lead down along the river. There are many options for parking and launching.
Take out: Elevation above mean sea level is about 2270 feet at the confluence with the East Branch. Plenty of parking is available on the side of Highway 70 just before it crosses the North Fork and heads up the East Branch. Beware of a low head dam 1/4 mile upstream of the confluence; boaters my wish to take out along Caribou Road upstream of this this dam.
Camping: The Caribou Corners, Gansner Bar, North Fork, and Queen Lily Campgrounds are next to or near the Belden Reach.
This section feels like you are in the Cascades, probably because you are.
This rapid cleaned up considerabley in 2017. Right and left lines. Both are still tight, wood in the far left of the left channel as of 2018 You can guess by the name that things get a bit brushy here. An island splits the channel; both sides go but this rapid is prone to collecting wood. This has a committing entrance, and not many eddies. Scouting is recommended from the road. This rapid is .3 miles above the Mosquito Creek, Bridge, the only tributary in on this run.
Mosquito Creek enters on the right. This is an alternative access point.
Long busy rapid
Debris flow comes in on river left. Rapid below
Long rapid that has changed with recent blowouts on river left. Best scouted from the road. The rapid is .5 miles above the Queen Lily Bridge.
This rapid is viewable from the bridge just upstream of the Queen Lilly campground.
Great run at 420 CFS. Not as bumpy / boney as you might think. Note: last 1.5 miles is a just class 2 continuous.
6 years ago
by Paul Martzen
Online flow information is availble as of 5/22/2018. This gage was put online as a result of discussions between American Whitewater and PG&E.
Typical winter minimum mandated flows are 60 cfs, but from March to September, minimum flows are about 150 cfs. Occasional spill flows can be almost 2,000 cfs.
NF Feather Schematic pdf diagram of North Fork Feather River Basin.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Belden Top Section
View From the Put- IN
Queen Lilly Rapid Before 2017
Belden above Queen Lilly
Typical Rapid Before 2017
Below Queen Lilly Bridge
Queen Lilly Rapid Post 2017
Bramble Rapid Left Side
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
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On <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />February 17, 2004, American Whitewater Western Conservation and Access Director, John Gangemi, submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the relicensing of PG&E’s Poe hydropower project located on the North Fork Feather River in California. Filing comments on PG&E’s license application is an important step in the regulatory procedures and a critical role American Whitewater fulfills for the paddling community.
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