This section of the South Fork of Silver Creek is significantly different in character than most other runs in the Sierra. Its 75 feet per mile gradient is surprisingly low for a run at 5000. The river channel is much more accessible in this section than in the steep canyons below Junction Reservoir. The reach is also unique in that the nine-mile shuttle is actually shorter than the 11.2-mile river reach. Most of the reach is in the area burned by the 1992 Cleveland Fire, which diminishes the natural beauty of the run and has created wood hazards in the river. As the trees grow back, the aesthetics of this reach will continue to improve. If you choose to put-in at the dam (google map) the first rapid, named Pea Shooter during the flow study, starts the run off with a bang. The water released from the base of Ice House Dam, projects a forceful stream about 150 feet downstream of the release outlet. This makes entering the first rapid rather exciting. Several boaters during the flow study chose to portage this rapid. Below Pee Shooter, this first section was one of the only rapids on the run that seemed very rocky or boney at 400cfs. Shortly below the stream flow gauge, the boaters encountered several class IV rapids the last of which is clean on the far right. The next mile of the run is class II/III until a short class IV section just above the beginning of the Cleveland Fire burn area at river-mile 2.1. In this section there are two class IV rapids and one class IV+ that has several ledges that lead into substantial hole. The next eight miles are very continuous class III with very few distinct rapids but an amazing number of surf waves. The run changes character again at river-mile 6, just above Chicken Hawk Springs. Here the run enters a mini gorge and there are several large logs spanning the river. The amount of wood in the river increased throughout this section during the flow study, particularly in the area below Chicken Hawk Springs. While it is possible to maneuver around numerous other logs, many of these logs are quite mobile and will continue to move from year to year. The last mile of the run contains several class IV rapids, including a river wide ledge that is generally run on the right. Just below this final rapid is the Bryant Springs Road Bridge. You can either take out on the right below the bridge or finished the run by padding approximately 10 minutes across Junction Reservoir to the boat ramp area.
Other sources of information: Wet State
Paddle right out of the eddie into the spray coming out of the dam valve and into the Pee Shooter. Long bouncy rapid. Exciting way to start the run.
River Wide Gauging Weir.
This is the begining of the steepest section of the upper run down to Ice House Road.
A busy little rapid. Tight eddie catch at the bottom before the next drop. Generally run river right, eddie left
Junky boulder pile on the left. Nice slab grind down the right. This is the last rapid on the upper section.
Big Rapid with a nasty hole at the bottom.
River wide ledge. Run on the left or right.
Ran it 6/23/18 at 500 cfs. Fun and fast. Still a bit shrubby along the banks. Very few eddies. Launched at the campground at the bridge a mile or so below the dam. Big river-wide log just upstream of the campground. Two semi-submerged logs just downstream in slow moving water sections. Floated easily over the top. This same section is also choked with willow/alder, but manageable. Then things open up. That was the last of the logs. Thanks AW. Pretty fun river segment.
There is no real time gauge currently available, however, a real time gauge will be provided as part of the new settlement with SMUD.
Historical daily average flows are available from the USGS #11441500 gauge page (SF Silver Creek Near Ice House). SMUD generally keeps total control of flows in this reach. On very rare occasions high flows of over 1,000 cfs have occurred. See this Table of Flows in 1996-97. The spills of '96 & '97 were brought back to minimum releases within a few days. Minimum instream releases appear to range from about 3.3 cfs, up to about 10 cfs. Other than the minimum release, SMUD diverts the entire flow of the SF Silver Creek to the Jones Fork Powerhouse and then into Union Valley Reservoir on the main fork Silver Creek. Jones Fork Powerhouse appears to have a maximum capacity of around 260 cfs.
Boatable releases of up to 500 cfs have happened in October of some years. AW volunteers will announce releases here and on various forums when they find out about them.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Bit of Brush
Entering the Pee Shooter
One of the Many
The Ultimate Attainment Move
Rafting Triple Drop
Charlie Guilbault Triple Drop
Steven V at the lunch spot
Brendan going deep
Brendan Curran going for a dip.
Ice House Run
Ice House Above burn area
Last Gorge on the Ice House 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
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
American Whitewater participated in the Upper American River Project Consultation Meeting to set the scheduled recreational flows for Ice House and Slab Creek. We have mapped out the possible flows for 2020 with Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), California Outdoors, the U. S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the State Water Resource Control Board. While all current conditions point to a Dry Water Year, following is the flow schedule for four possible water year type scenarios:
Here are the 2019 scheduled recreational releases for hydropower projects American Whitewater negotiated across California.
Photo by Barry Kruse - Pit 1
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!
Recently, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) made an unexpected move to advocate for policies that would undermine environmental protections in the Clean Water Act and the Federal Power Act. American Whitewater worked with SMUD and other stakeholders in negotiating a settlement agreement for the Upper American River Hydroelectric Project (UARP) that was signed by all parties in 2007. The final license for the project was issued in 2014 and included whitewater recreation flows to mitigate the impacts of its project.
The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), American Whitewater and other consultation group members including Jim Eicher, BLM Mother Lode Associate Field Manager, have scheduled the required 2016 recreational flows for South Fork Silver Creek below Ice House Reservoir and the South Fork American River below Slab Creek Dam.
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