Feather, N. Fork - 3) Cresta Dam to Poe Dam

Feather, N. Fork, California, US


3) Cresta Dam to Poe Dam (Cresta Run)

Usual Difficulty III-V (for normal flows)
Length 6.5 Miles

County Line

County Line
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 10/05/05 @ 1100 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
cdec-F56 400 - 2000 cfs III-V 05h51m 1226 cfs (running)

River Description

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:

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-04-13 19:01:27

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Cresta DamPutin Photo
0.0Grizzly DomeIII+Photo
0.0County Line RapidIV+Photo
0.0Rapid Above Rest AreaIVPhoto
0.0Powerhouse RapidIII+Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Cresta Dam

Cresta Dam put-in

Cresta Dam put-in
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 10/05/05 @ 1100 cfs

The put-in is at the base of Cresta Dam.

Grizzly Dome (Class III+)

Grizzly Dome

Grizzly Dome
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe taken 10/05/05 @ 1100 cfs

A fun little rapid at the confluence with Grizzly Creek.

County Line Rapid (Class IV+)

County Line

County Line
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 10/05/05 @ 1100 cfs

County Line rapid finishes off with a fun boof.

Rapid Above Rest Area (Class IV)

Rapid Above the Rest Area

Rapid Above the Rest Area
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe taken 10/05/05 @ 1100 cfs

A sequence through some big boulders marks the last significant drop before you reach the Rest Area.

Powerhouse Rapid (Class III+)

Powerhouse Rapid

Powerhouse Rapid
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe taken 10/05/05 @ 1100 cfs

Rapid at the Cresta Powerhouse. The take-out is on river left.

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