Fordyce Creek - Fordyce Lake to Lake Spaulding

Fordyce Creek, California, US


Fordyce Lake to Lake Spaulding

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 12 Miles
Avg. Gradient 100 fpm
Max Gradient 200 fpm

Split Falls

Split Falls
Photo of Steve Wallace probing 20' Split Falls by Brett Valle taken 1998

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Fordyce Creek Below Fordyce Dam
dream-063 300 - 600 cfs IV-V 01h57m 23 cfs (too low)

River Description


Fordyce Creek, Release Schedule

Varies somewhat from year to year -see side calendar. 

Put in:  On I-80 take the Cisco turnoff and go north.   Turn left on Hampshire Rocks Road and immediately right onto Fordyce Lake Road.   Park at the edge of the dam and hike down to the creek. 

Take out:  Backtrack on freeway I-80 to the highway 20 exit.   You should see sign leading to Spaulding Lake/reservoir.   Turn right onto Lake Spaulding Road and park at a boat ramp at the dam end of the reservoir. 

Comments from Paddlers:

Fordyce is a definite classic!!! Few other runs of this caliber can be done without a serious hike or a night under the stars. Having driven 7 hours to paddle, I tried to make the most of it and was able to get in 3 runs over a 3 day period. The first two at the reported 300cfs which was good (personal minimum) but the third was somewhere around 400ish. The higher flow made for a cleaner and much more enjoyable run. If you've never been fortunate enough to catch this section of river when it's flowing, I suggest you put it on the top of your list for next year. You won't be disappointed!      J.D. Batove

Six other paddlers and I (six from the bay area, one from Reno) ran fordyce this past saturday october 22. the flow was estimated at 320 cfs, definitely far lower than optimal. This was my first opportunity to get up there. I would go back many times a year during fall releases, especially at flows >400 cfs. We found the scenery and whitewater to be of the highest quality, even at this low flow.      Carl

I got a chance to boat Fordyce for the first time with the October 22nd (~320 cfs) crew, and it was one of the best runs I've ever done. It's remote, it's gorgeous, and it has amazing rapids; the uglies are easily portaged, and the big drops feel clean and fun. I would love to get on there again with a flow closer to 400-450 cfs.      Anonymous

the 3 times I did it last year sealed this high alpine creek as one of my favorite class V runs. The scenery is amazing and mile for mile, the rapids are some of the best I have ever boated. I hope that in the near future, kayakable flows from 350-700 cfs will be released from Lake Fordyce to ensure that this top notch whitewater run will flow during portions of the summer kayaking season. I absolutely love this run and I can't wait until the next time I am shouldering my boat at the put in, Viva Fordyce!!     Zach Latham

I've been able to paddle it at a wide variety of flows..... from about 275cfs to 550 cfs. I would say a nice minimum for the run would be 350cfs as less than that it seems to get fairly rocky below that level. Earlier this season we did it at 375-400 cfs which seemed on the low side of the optimum range as I think the extra water actually cleans up a lot of the rapids. At 550 it was a little pushy but everything was padded out and Donner Party seems to get easier at higher flows with a nice left line opening up around 400cfs. This is one of the most beautiful runs and probably one of my favorite in the state.        Cornbread


CaCreeker reported:      

Yesterday we kayaked Fordyce from the top to mile 7.5

on the 150 cfs release, probably the IK minimum.
We removed some wood, but three logs remain.
Note that this report does not include below mile 7.5
(Pierce Meadow trailhead) to Spaulding reservoir.

1. The rapid above Eraserhead has a river-wide log
at the top, easily seen. You can semi-portage on the left.

2. Around a bend after the straight-away below Rotator Cuff,
a river-wide log could perhaps be jumped on the left side
at higher flows.

3. Squeeze 2, which I believe is between Where's Barry
and Bad Seed. This log will be hard to see at higher flows,
but could cause an impact or pin. Recognition: low granite
on the left, higher granite on the right, narrow class 3 chute.

Aside from Squeeze 2, one of us ran all the rapids
(except Insanity Falls) including Bad Seed right channel.

Fordyce Lake:  The dam was first constructed in 1873 but it has been raised and modified many times over the years.  It now holds 49,900 acre-feet of water when full.   Water is stored in the Spring, then released down the creek, through the summer to Spaulding reservoir for diversion to powerplants.  Three small reservoirs also feed this lake. 

Other Information Sources: 

Holbek and Stanley

Fordyce Creek above Spaulding Reservoir  at

The For-De-Shay Creek   2008 trip report and photos by Taylor Cavin

FERC information: 

Fordyce Lake is part of PG&E's Drum-Spaulding Hydroelectric Project

The FERC project number is P-2310 and information about the present license  can be found at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website.  As of 2018 the new hydropower license has yet to be filed. The project is advancing through the last stages of the regulatory process which is 401 Certification from the State Water Resource Control Board then the final license order issued by FERC.

Many licensing studies were handled in coordination with NID Yuba-Bear Hydroelectric Project Relicensing.

Foothills Water Network also has information and links related to licensing this project.



StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-08-14 13:21:31

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
September 1 2011 (2633 days ago)
Chris BellDetails
According to a video of a successful rescue 8/21/2011, high water has changed the last rapid above
the boulder garden: It now has a dangerous sieve in the normal line. As the text posted with the
video warns, "Be very careful here -- scout." Here's a link to the video:

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Associated Projects

  • Yuba and Bear Rivers (CA)
    The Yuba and Bear rivers are some of the best whitewater resources in California. American Whitewater is an active participant in the FERC relicensing negotiations that impact these rivers.


Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

September 2018

CA, Fordyce Creek Releases

PG&E Reports flows will ramp up on Wednesday Aug 15 and stay around 400 CFS thru Labor Day Sept 3 Exact start and end times are unknown.

CA, Fordyce Creek Releases

PG&E Reports flows will ramp up on Wednesday Aug 15 and stay around 400 CFS thru Labor Day Sept 3 Exact start and end times are unknown.

CA, Fordyce Creek Releases

PG&E Reports flows will ramp up on Wednesday Aug 15 and stay around 400 CFS thru Labor Day Sept 3 Exact start and end times are unknown.


CA, Fordyce Creek Releases Cisco Grove,CA runs 08/28/08 - 09/03/18
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Associated Rivers