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Difficulty III+(V)
Length 9 Miles
Gauge Pit At Big Bend
Flow Range 800 - 4000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 4 hours ago 430 [CFS]
Next Release 2020-09-12
Reach Info Last Updated 11/08/2016 3:48 pm

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

Rapid Descriptions

African Queen

Class - IV Mile - 0.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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

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

Upper Ledge

Class - III+ Mile - 1

A natural river wide dam

Spin City

Class - N/A Mile - 1.1

River Wide Playspot


Class - IV Mile - 1.25


Class - III+ Mile - 2.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Braided at the top.  Long Class III +

Big Bend Bridge

Class - Mile - 3.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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

Bad Alder

Class - III+ Mile - 4

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

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.


Class - N/A Mile - 5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Long Class III

Kosk Creek

Class - III Mile - 5.3

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


Release Schedule

More Information
Date Start Time End Time Flow
09/12/2020 10:00:00 16:00:00 0-1200
09/13/2020 10:00:00 16:00:00 0-1200

Gage Descriptions

Look to the AW release calendar to the right on this page  for schedules of flow releases.  Look to the release calendar page for release information in California and across the Country.

Realtime flow information is also available at CDEC Pit River at Big Bend
Historical data for this reach is available at the USGS page for this gauge #11363000.    Gauge site information  
This USGS Pit/McCloud Schematic.pdf  shows dams, diversions, reservoirs and gauges. 

LOCATION.--Lat 41°01'10", long 121°54'36" referenced to North American Datum of 1927, in NW ¼ SW ¼ sec.31, T.37 N., R.1 E., Shasta County, CA, Hydrologic Unit 18020003, on left bank at Big Bend, 0.4 mi downstream from Nelson Creek, 1.5 mi upstream from Kosk Creek, and 3.1 mi downstream from Pit No. 5 Dam.
DRAINAGE AREA.--4,711 mi2, excluding Goose Lake Basin.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports




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CA Scheduled Releases Mokelumne, NF Feather & Pit

Theresa Simsiman

In California, American Whitewater is working with Pacific Gas & Electric and the managing agencies, including USFS and BLM, to provide the following scheduled releases for the Mokelumne, North Fork Feather & the PIT River. Please note that each release has been and is subject to circumstances on the ground regarding COVID 19. All parties keeping in mind the current California State Order as well as local County Health Guidelines.

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Theresa Simsiman

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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2018 Recreational Flows (CA)

Theresa Simsiman

American Whitewater continues to play an important role in negotiating and implementing the recreational flows provided by hydropower licenses throughout California. Here are some of the scheduled recreational releases for 2018. Enjoy!

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The Pit River Flows!

Dave Steindorf

As part of the new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, PG&E released flows for paddlers for the first time this past weekend. Elite padder Macy Burnham had this to say about the run, "Cali has many amazing class III and Class IV rivers that are accessible to your average kayaker; unfortunately, it does not have many solid class IV rivers.  The Pit 5 stretch from Madesi to Big Bend Bridge definitely fills that void.  It is a great little stretch of whitewater." 

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Paul D. Martzen

Middle Fork American, Pit River, Tuolumne flow updates

Several utilities periodically report flows to us for river segments that do not have online gauges.   They sometimes make estimates of upcoming flows based on predicted weather conditions.   We will try to update that information to this news article when we receive the new information.   

Middle Fork American River
Blw French Meadows:  220 cfs
Duncan Creek blw Diversion: 165
Abv Middle Fork Interbay:  500 cfs
Blw Middle Fork Interbay:  525 cfs (estimate)
Abv Ralston Afterbay:  600 cfs

Rubicon River
Hell Hole Elevation: 4631.68 ft
Ellicotts:  1610 cfs
Abv Ralston Afterbay:  1990 cfs

North Fork of the Middle Fork American:   540 cfs

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PG&E Flows

ryan groth

Summary and collection of PG&E and AW resources and the latest in flow data for the website.


Dave Steindorf


Thomas O'Keefe


Paul Martzen


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1202640 09/05/13 Dave Steindorf
1202416 07/17/13 Dave Steindorf
1202419 07/20/13 Dave Steindorf
1202420 07/20/13 Dave Steindorf
1207565 05/19/17 Thomas O'Keefe title change
1202563 08/08/13 Dave Steindorf
1200550 08/23/11 Paul Martzen Added gauge links
1198326 10/07/10 Paul Martzen slight coordinates change
1200541 08/23/11 Paul Martzen flow phone link added
1200781 10/31/11 Paul Martzen added schematic link
1201382 06/06/12 Paul Martzen wetstate links
1201643 11/02/12 Dave Steindorf
1202379 07/13/13 Dave Steindorf
1202564 08/08/13 Dave Steindorf
1202565 08/09/13 Dave Steindorf
1202729 10/04/13 Dave Steindorf
1203169 05/08/14 Paul Martzen Changed gauge, removed PG&E -AW gauge references
1206737 11/08/16 Thomas O'Keefe title change
1207002 11/12/16 Thomas O'Keefe title change
1207115 01/04/17 Thomas O'Keefe title change
1207250 02/17/17 Thomas O'Keefe title change
1207866 07/03/17 Thomas O'Keefe title change
1190059 12/27/08 n/a n/a