In the decades following construction of the Cresta Project flows were diverted for hydropower and only 50 cfs flowed through this reach of the North Fork Feather. Spring and winter releases were erratic and nearly impossible to catch. All this changed in June 2001 with the issuance of a new licnese for this project. The staff and volunteers of American Whitewater, Chico PaddleHeads, and Shasta Paddlers spent more than five years, thousands of dollars, and thousands of hours negotiating the new licence. The new license included increased base flows and recreation boating releases. The base flows were designed to bump up incrementyally every five years. In 2006, summer releases were suspended for the Cresta reach because of concern for the Foothill Yellow Legged Frog population in this section of the NF Feather. While it is unclear if reduction population numbers were due to recreation releases or large flow fluctuations in the spring caused by project operations, the prudent decision was to elimnate the summer releases and recraft the spring flow schedule to provide more natural, and frog protective, flow conditions. The practical outcome for paddlers is that the Cresta reach will be boatable every day in April through June in a Dry year and December through July in a wet or normal water year. For more inforamtion on specific flows, see the flow info tab on this page.
The run starts out at the downstream side of the Elephant Butte Tunnel. From this small pull-out there is an informal trail to the river. Continuing approximately 100 yards upstream of the pull out there are ropes to guide your way down to the water. There is a good pool at the base of a rapid that emerges from the base of the dam. You can run this drop if you're willing to hike up on river left but more typically paddlers just put in at the pool below. The action on the first half of the run is generally class III/IV pool-drop. After a short warmup the river plunges through a stout hole at the base of Grizzly Dome. Below this drop Grizzly Creek comes in from river left through a tunnel carved under the highway.
The river bounces through some fun whitewater including one of the longer rapids on the run before you reach County Line Rapid. This drop is located at the Butte/Plumas County Line marked by the sign visible up above on the road on river left. This class IV drop is one of the more challenging drops on the run as much of the river funnels into a big hole at the base of the drop. There is a nice boof flake to the river right side of the hole.
After some more fun whitewater you will be at another challenging rapid, Table Rock, that starts with a move to the right and ends with a nasty undercut on river left. This is Deep Throat and it has been the site of one fatal accident and a couple of close calls. If you end up out of your boat, swim as hard as you can to the right. Below this the river plunges through another great rapid with bouncy holes.
Soon the rapids taper off as you pass the Shady Rest area. This is an alternate access site and there is a decent amount of parking here. Those who want to run laps on the best rapids upstream of this point can flag down the shuttle. Others put in here who want to run the easier rapids downstream of this point. Most just continue paddling down to the Cresta Powerhouse. The rapids from this point on are enjoyable class II/III with a couple of fun moves and decent play spots. The final boulder garden above the powerhouse can be challenging particularly at lower flows but there are a couple different options.
There are two take-out options, ferry across the powerhouse tailrace and then scramble up the loose rock to the parking lot, or paddle downstream and take-out at the beach on river right that is just around the bend. This has a nice trail up to the parking lot.
As of April 2016, PG&E will have the gate to the Cresta parking area open anytime the flows are above 400 cfs. (See flow table on the flow info tab.)
The Feather River Canyon is a short drive from most Northern California locations and a high quality resource. The take-out is located at Cresta Powerhouse, specifically at the large parking area on the downstream side of the powerhouse (with room for approximately 150 cars). The powerhouse is 47 miles south of Quincy and 36 miles north of Oroville on Highway 70. From the take-out the shuttle takes you north on Highway 70. You will pass Shady Rest area (an alternate access point) 2.6 miles form the take-out. At mile 3.8 you will pass County Line Rapid at the Butte/Plumas County Line. The Grizzly Dome access at mile 4.5 is a possibility as a raft launch but parking is limited due in part to the popularity of this site for climbing. The primary access is located at mile 4.8 at the west end (downstream side) of the Elephant Butte Tunnel and just downstream of the Cresta Dam. Parking at this site is prohibited during release days so the shuttle bus can access the site.
Other Information Sources:
AW negotiated real-time flow information and works cooperatively with PG&E to provide it through a web interface (AW Feather gauge). Historical data for this reach can be obtained from the USGS NF Feather bl Grizzly Creek, Station 11404330. Since August 1, 2013 PG&E is using CDEC to report flows for this reach. See:
During spill events, May through September, flows will be ramped down according to the following schedule. This ramping schedule was designed to be more protective of Foothill Yellow Legged Frogs and provide whitewater boating opportunities.
Target Flow Calculated at Radial Gate (cfs)
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.
County Line Rapid
North Fork Feather rapid
Boof at County Line
Table Rock Rapid
Dewatered Feather River
Rapid Above the Rest Area, river level
Rapid Above the Rest Area
County Line from river level
Grizzly Dome at river level
Cresta Dam put-in
Cresta Reach on North Fork Feather River, CA
Cresta Reach on North Fork Feather, CA
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
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
The North Fork of the Feather River will be boatable every day for the rest of 2016! Flows will increase because of a revised flow schedule and the wet year we are having in California. Almost twenty years ago, American Whitewater made it our goal to restore the North Fork Feather River and this new flow regime is a testament to our success.
On June 13, 2017 the Rock Creek Bench river access site on the North Fork Feather River officially opened during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) constructed the site as part of a post FERC licensing agreement with American Whitewater and other members of the Ecological Resources Committee. This access provides a huge safety improvement over how paddlers have accessed this river reach, and marks the completion of the last major goal for American Whitewater in restoring this section of river.
American Whitewater, along with our partners at California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Trout Unlimited, are requesting remediation by Union Pacific Railroad of the ongoing and increasingly serious threat to public safety caused by the instability of the Railroad’s retaining wall and adjacent hill slope on the North Fork of the Feather River near Tobin, California. Flows in the 800 cfs range are expected to start on November 5th and stay high until a maintenance project on the Rock Creek and Cresta Dams are complete. Repairs are expected to finish by November 23rd for the Rock Creek Dam and November 30th for the Cresta Dam.
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