Feather, N. Fork - 1) Caribou to East Branch Confluence

Feather, N. Fork, California, US


1) Caribou to East Branch Confluence (Caribou)

Usual Difficulty III+ (for normal flows)
Length 6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 78 fpm

Belden Top Section

Belden Top Section
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 05/27/18

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
cdec-F70 350 - 1000 cfs III+ 04h17m 98 cfs (too low)

River Description

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. 

CampingThe Caribou Corners, Gansner Bar, North Fork, and Queen Lily Campgrounds are next to or near the Belden Reach.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-07-04 00:07:20

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
1.2Upper CanyonN/AWaterfall Photo
1.8PG&E Tunnel Adit Spoil PileN/A
2.8Mosquito CreekN/A
3.0Busy BusyN/APhoto
3.6Blowout N/A
4.0Pumpkin SeedN/APhoto
4.5Queen LillyN/APhoto

Rapid Descriptions

Upper Canyon (Class N/A, Mile 1.2)

Cascades South

Cascades South
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 05/27/18

This section feels like you are in the Cascades, probably because you are.

Bramble (Class N/A, Mile 2.3)

Exiting Bramble

Exiting Bramble
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 05/27/18

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 (Class N/A, Mile 2.8)

Mosquito Creek enters on the right.  This is an alternative access point.

Busy Busy (Class N/A, Mile 3.0)

Busy Busy

Busy Busy
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 05/23/18

Long busy rapid

Blowout (Class N/A, Mile 3.6)

Debris flow comes in on river left.  Rapid below

Pumpkin Seed (Class N/A, Mile 4.0)

Pumpkin Seed

Pumpkin Seed
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 09/02/12 @ 425 cfs

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.

Queen Lilly (Class N/A, Mile 4.5)

Queen Lilly Rapid Post 2017

Queen Lilly Rapid Post 2017
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 05/23/18 @ 150 cfs

This rapid is viewable from the bridge just upstream of the Queen Lilly campground.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 29 2018 (194 days ago)
Lance Petrack-ZunichDetails
Great run at 420 CFS. Not as bumpy / boney as you might think. Note: last 1.5 miles is a just class
2 continuous.
September 12 2012 (2279 days ago)
Paul MartzenDetails
PG&E will be releasing high flows of 1600 cfs into this reach in mid September, 2012. These flows
will be extremely hazardous in this narrow and overgrown river bed. Many large trees were also cut
down across the river during the 2012 CHIPS fire.

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