This river section has terrain that is like eastern Oregon desert with a basalt riverbed. Long class 2 rapids are spread evenly through the distance. Pools allow plenty of sight seeing time or fishing without being overly long. The section is suitable for experienced canoists and beginning kayakers with moving water experience. The section is particularly popular with fishermen in rafts or drift boats.
Because flows are returned to the river at the powerhouse you can boat this section most of the year. If you are continuing down on a trip that started up above the powerhouse you will find that the gradient eases but in the final few miles to the take-out, the observant paddler can find several nice surfing waves. This section provides a nice class II run and offers whitewater boating fun for the whole family with some waves and play holes.
There is a convenient river access and parking on the downstream, east side of the Highway 299 bridge. The turn off is narrow and unmarked. It is about 100 yards past the end of the bridge on the left as you drive east, towards the put in. The gravel road leads away from the main road for 100 yards then turns back to a turn around next to the bridge. The take out ramp is mostly underneath the bridge. The water seems deepest on the downstream side of the bridge (at 800 cfs). Elevation above sea level is about 2764 feet.
Paddlers could also continue down a short ways further into Lake Britton, but there does not appear to be any easy take out access. There are gravel roads providing access to the lake but not anywhere near the river entrance.
Put in: Continue east on 299E to the turn off for the Pit #1 powerhouse. Drive 1.4 miles down to the Pit River Campground. There is a boat ramp in the day use area that is open from 7 AM to dusk. Elevation is about 2850 feet above sea level.
Pit River Campground has 8 regular sites and one group site. Regular sites are $8 per night. The campground host is very helpful. There are 2 pit toilets. There is no water supplied at the campground, so bring plenty. There is a clear spring a few hundred yards downstream at a Lions Club picnic area.
Three Leaf Sumac (Rhus trilobata) grows thick around the campsites. It has edible berries and the stems are often used for basket making. It looks similar to Poison Oak as they are both in the sumac family. Some Poison-oak does grow in the area so try to see the difference.
There is no shortage of gas stations, groceries, restaurants and such in the area. Fall River Mills has a gas station, large grocery store, several resteraunts, single screen movie theater, auto parts store and other amenities. Nearby Burney has several reasonably priced gas stations, a Safeway market, auto repair shops, etc..
Other Information Sources: Pit River AllianceClearwater Lodge
The powerhouse typically releases high flows during the day, year round. At night the powerhouse shuts off, leaving a base flow in the river of around 500 cfs.
There is a boat ramp in the day use area at the downstream end of the campground. The ramp accomodates trailers unloading rafts and drift boats for fishing float trips.
The ramp is in a small protected lagoon. From the lagoon, boaters float past a small fishing area and out into the lower half of campground rapid.
The put in is below the steepest half of this rapid, but the lower half is still a nice drop with fun waves.
A Lions Club Picnic area is hidden in the trees on river right at the start of this rapid. A small spring also enters the river from the picnic area. The rapid is long and straight with the biggest drop at the very end. A distinct basalt cliff looms over the end where the river turns left.
Boaters could take out or put in at the picnic area, since there is road access close to the river.
Water from a spring enters the river on the right at the bottom of Lion's Club rapid, just before a basalt cliff. It is easy to miss the spring from the river, but you can hike down to it from the campground.
One of many easy but busy rapids in this reach.
The river pushes up against the right bank and forms waves underneath these trees. We managed to get a bit of surfing on the waves.
A wide left turn with multiple channels past islands, leads to a right turn and this view of the bridge.
Pull out under the river right side of the bridge. A bridge support with entertaining graffiti blocks the take out and I found the water deeper on the downstream side (at 800 cfs). A gravel road / boat ramp comes right to the water.
This take out is regularly used by fishermen using rafts and maybe dories. There is plenty of parking and a big turn around circle.
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PG&E is required to maintain a minimum of 500 cfs below the Pit 1 powerhouse at all times, though a short term deviation of -10% is allowed. Actual flows will usually be slightly higher to stay above the minimum. Typical combined outflow from the powerhouse and upstream river is around 2,000 cfs.
USGS has a pdf showing all the dams, diversions, powerhouses and gauges in the Pit and McCloud River Basins.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Pit River Rapid
Launching from Pit River Campground
Take Out at 299
Approaching Highway 299 bridge
Scenery near the end
Pit 1 class II run
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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American Whitewater continues to weigh in on PG&E's efforts to permanently cancel the summer flushing/whitewater flows on the Pit River at the Pit 1 Hydroelectric Project in Northern California. Currently, the proposal is undergoing review by the State Water Resources Control Board ("SWRCB") under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). American Whitewater's comments, which were submitted on Monday, June 24th, can be viewed here. The paddling community will have opportunity to comment again after the SWRCB releases its Draft Environmental Impact Report.
Over American Whitewater’s objections, Pacific Gas & Electric is again planning on a single four-day release on Pit 1 over the Columbus Day weekend. While we understand that this is their option per the language of the FERC license condition, we do not feel that PG&E's rationale for doing this again is in the spirit of the agreement negotiated during relicensing. Last year, the change by PG&E to move the fall releases to 4 consecutive days over Columbus Day weekend effectively reduced boating opportunity to two days since the overwhelming majority of paddlers could only boat on the weekend.
Here are the 2019 scheduled recreational releases for hydropower projects American Whitewater negotiated across California.
Photo by Barry Kruse - Pit 1
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