The Three Bears refer to three Class IV rapids below Surprise Creek. Boaters typically take out at the Low Bridge (mile 5.5) or continue to Sandy Bar (mile 12.5), however, this can be run as one long day to Salyer (no easy road access). Below the Low Water Bridge the South Fork is Class II but there are several mid-channel strainers that create dangerous hazards--be aware.
See the Three Bears description on cacreeks.com.
Ran a few weeks ago in January 2019 around 2000 cfs, here’s a video with the rapids - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4byeizw1wgk
At the beginning you have a few class 2 riffles here and there before reaching your first major rapid.
Todd Creek - This rapid is a falls that has 3 channels. First channel is just a class II channel, middle channel looked like it might go, and far right was a class III channel, maybe 5 foot drop that had a pin rock in the middle and a flake on the far right. Left side of the drop is good to go however.
Papa bear - funkyish entry center right, working to the far left, then back middle. Lots of decent sized rocks and holes in this one. Possibly the hardest of the 3 bears in my opinion because of the technicalness and all the junk on the sides. Easy to spot, big beach left bunch of rocks in the middle and at 2000 all the water was going to the far right channels.
Mama Bear - short rapid with the main feature being 3 slots. Pretty sure all go in a kayak but I went in the middle which at 2000 was about a 4 or 5 foot drop, had a lateral wave coming off the rock and then a second hole behind that. Both looked pretty meaty, but the first one did nothing and the second one stopped our momentum but didn’t hold us. Stopped us like we went over a very shallow rock I suspect.
Baby Bear - Longest rapid of the 3 bears. Begin by heading right. When you reach an eddy of slow water, start working left, avoiding the rock jumble on the right that you are about to hit. Then stay middle, middle-right to finish out the rapid. Fairly mild read and run.
Then you’re basically done, a few class II wave trains and splashy rapids until the low bridge take out.
The road to put-in was graded this year (from what I hear), and is no longer 4x4 preferred. As of January 12, the road was in great shape and was fine for 2 wheel drive low-clearance vehicle.
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