Pit - 6) Pit 5: Pit 5 Dam to Pit 5 Powerhouse

Pit, California, US


6) Pit 5: Pit 5 Dam to Pit 5 Powerhouse

Usual Difficulty III+(V) (for normal flows)
Length 9 Miles
Avg. Gradient 45 fpm
Max Gradient 100 fpm

Split Decision

Split Decision
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 09/05/13

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Pit At Big Bend
dream-046 800 - 4000 cfs III+(V) 03h30m 604 cfs (too low)

River Description

The Pit 5 reach offers both a class III run and a Class IV run. The run has a remote wilderness appeal, with few roads and only a few structures along the way.  The Class IV run begins just below at the newly constructed Madesi put-in below the Pit 5 Dam.  The first rapid below the put-in is very brushy.  This rapid can be avoided by putting in below.  Shortly below this rapid is the one Class V rapid on the run. It is a chunky boulder strewn affair, with a partial portage option is available on river left. From this point down to Big Bend is fairly continuous class III /IV. Be aware, that there are several braided sections where picking the correct braid is important.  If you do not wish to paddle the class III section, you can take out at the bridge in Big Bend.  The best take-out is just below the bridge on river right.

The Class III section begins at the bridge in Big Bend. This is a nice class III section that can be run at the 400 cfs base flows.  The first rapid below the Big Bend Bridge called "Bad Alder" can be tricky,and is a mainly because of vegetation encroachment. Shortly below this rapid there are several hot springs, all on river left.  Take out is just above the Pit 5 powerhouse.

As part of the new licnese that American Whitewater helped to negotiate, releases will be occurring in August and September on the Pit 5 .  Realtime flow information is now available on the American Whitewater Website.   Also look to the release calendar on this page for scheduled flow releases.  Look to the release calendar page for release information in California and across the Country.


To reach the Pit 5 take-out (Lower Run), take Hwy 299 East from Redding.  About 4 miles past the small town of Montgomery Creek turn left on Big Bend Road.  After Traveling 14 miles on Big Bend road you will turn left on Pit 5 Powerhouse road.  Continue down this road 4.3 miles. Just  past the bridge you will see a river access sign.  The take out is across the river from the James B. Black powerhouse.  There is a large parking area and bathroom at the takeout.

To reach the put-in, travel back out to Big Bend Road.  Take a left and Travel to the Town of Big Bend if you wish to do the lower class III section of the Pit 5 reach.  The put-in is on river right, just downstream of the bridge in Big Bend. To reach the put-in for the Class IV section take a right just before you reach Big Bend on Hagen Flat Road.  Continue on this road for 2.8 miles until you see a sign for the Madesi River Access.    Down this road a short distance you will find the river access, bathrooms and camping. 

There is a store in Big Bend for fresh ice and anything else that you might have forgotten.  They also may have information on shuttle drivers.

Other Information Sources:
Pit-5, Upper  Awetstate guide
Pit-5, Lower  Awetstate guide

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-11-08 15:48:38

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.1African QueenIV
0.5Sneak PeekVPhoto
1.0Upper LedgeIII+Photo
1.1Spin CityN/APlayspot Photo
1.3Spillway IVPhoto
2.5Kinner III+
3.1Big Bend BridgeAccess
4.0Bad AlderIII+Photo
4.5Hot Springs III+Photo
5.3Kosk CreekIIIPhoto

Rapid Descriptions

African Queen (Class IV, Mile 0.1)

This rapid is right below the put-in.  Braided and full of vegitation.  The middle channel seems best, but this could change.

Sneak Peek (Class V, Mile 0.5)

Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 08/12/13

Chunky Boulder strewn rapid.  Runnable at higher flows.  It can be difficult to scout.

Upper Ledge (Class III+, Mile 1.0)

The Dam

The Dam
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 07/13/13

A natural river wide dam

Spin City (Class N/A, Mile 1.1)

Chris Shackleton Surfs it up at Spin City

Chris Shackleton Surfs it up at Spin City
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 08/12/13

River Wide Playspot

Spillway (Class IV, Mile 1.3)

Upper Spillway Pit 5

Upper Spillway Pit 5
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 07/14/13

Kinner (Class III+, Mile 2.5)

Braided at the top.  Long Class III +

Big Bend Bridge

The river has class 5 upstream of this access point, but is only class 3 below this bridge. 

Bad Alder (Class III+, Mile 4.0)

Bad Alder

Bad Alder
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 08/12/13

This is a long Class III immediately below Big Bend. This rapid is compicated by the fact that much of the water pushes into the overhanging vegitation on the right bank.

Hot Springs (Class III+, Mile 4.5)

Upper Hot Springs

Upper Hot Springs
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 09/05/13

Long Class III, Hot Springs are at the bottom of this rapid on the left. The river braids at the top of this rapid.  The left channel is generally the best.

Osprey (Class N/A, Mile 5.0)

Long Class III

Kosk Creek (Class III, Mile 5.3)

Kosk Creek Rapid

Kosk Creek Rapid
Photo by Dave Steindorf taken 07/14/13

This rapid is below where Kosk Creek comes in on the right.  One of the prettiest parts of the river.

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Associated News

The Pit River Flows!
August 12, 2013

June 14, 2011

Associated Projects


Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

August 2018

CA, Pit 5 Releases
10:00 am -4:00 pm pst
1500 cfs

CA, Pit 5 Releases
10:00 am -4:00 pm pst
1500 cfs


CA, Pit 5 Releases Burney,CA runs 09/06/14 - 09/09/18, next 08/11/18
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