This photo needs editing.
Difficulty V
Length 5.6 Miles
Gauge Canyon Creek Below French Lake
Flow Range CFS
Flow Rate as of: 3 years ago 140 [CFS]
Next Release 2020-09-19
Reach Info Last Updated 09/10/2014 5:27 pm

River Description

In 2012, American Whitewater completed negotiations for the Yuba Bear hydroelectric project, operated by Nevada Irrigation District (NID). One of the outcomes of these negotiations was that NID would provide flow for whitewater boating in September each year. That condition reads as follows:

YB-RR3 French Dam Supplemental Flows for Whitewater Boating

Licensee shall, beginning in the first full calendar year after license issuance, provide in all water year types a Recreational Streamflow in Canyon Creek below French Dam starting between September 1 and September 30 of each year, until the date that French Lake elevation reaches 6,638 feet (corresponding to a useable storage of approximately 7,500 acre-feet). For the purpose of this measure, a Recreational Streamflow is defined as a target streamflow of between 120 cfs and 150 cfs over a continuous 24-hour period as measured at gage YB-306.

River Description

This write-up is based on a run at 80 cfs. Based on the photos from an earlier descent I'm guessing they had 10-15 cfs more, I think a more optimum flow.

This rarely run creek saw its first descent in 1993. No it's not a South Silver, but it is a cross between Fordyce and the South Yuba-Spaulding run. Just the scenery alone is worth the trip. At times it reminded me of Tuolumne Meadows.

An hour or so hike down a gated road leads to the French Lake dam. The view downstream is impressive - continuous drops surrounded by granite. The canyon starts out with some fun drops. Pay attention, and catch a small eddy on the right to scout a 25' drop. As with many drops on this run, I think another 20 cfs would make it more appealing. Portage on right if so inclined. The drop below this has an intimidating horizon line, best scouted on the left. This is a 7' drop with a sticky hole. Running the middle gives you a boof to easily clear the hole. A few more rapids to Weil Lake, more like a pond really.

Just below Weil Lake is a twisting jolly of joy to an 8' slide. This 20' falls looks quite interesting, but needs a bit more water. These next two rapids and looked very runnable but no-one in our group ran them. The next rapid is straight-forward, following the main flow and boofing the left side of the rock at the bottom. After a short pool is an 8' entrance to a 20' falls. Next is the best slide on the run (Faucherie Lake is in the background). It starts with a 25' slide and into a hole that laid me out on my back deck (the others didn't get their faces wet, go figure). Immediately downstream is a curler followed by a boxed-in hole with an undercut wall on the right.

The paddle across Faucherie Lake is 0.3 miles, not enough time to take in the beautiful granite surroundings. The spillway is to the right and can be paddled over. Shortly below here is an impressive drop that none of us decided to run that day (it was run on the first descent). Once again, just a wee bit more water for this one. Shortly below here is a road crossing that I will use next time for the take-out. I found the rest of the run to Sawmill uninteresting. A group that kayaked a few days prior to our trip, told me that the section from Sawmill to Bowman has a long portage and just one good rapid, although now seeing photos of that drop maybe it is worth it.

All in all, this creek is WELL worth the time and energy.

Write-up courtesy of Chris Shackleton and Dreamflows

Other Information sources:

FERC information:

Nevada Irrigation District - Project Website

The FERC project number is P-2266 and information about the present license can be found at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website.

The initial FERC license for the Project expired on April 30, 2013. The project will continue to recieve annual licneses until the State Water Resouces Control Board issues their Water Quality Certification for this project. American Whitewater, along with our resource agnecy and NGO partners,  negotiated many improvements for whitewater recreation and overall stream health with Nevada Irrigation District (NID).   These have been included in NID's application for new license filed with FERC in June, 2012.

Rapid Descriptions


Release Schedule

More Information
Date Start Time End Time Flow
09/19/2020 00:00:00 00:00:00 0
09/20/2020 00:00:00 00:00:00 0

Gage Descriptions

Daily Flows Realtime Flows Dreamflows Home
Show 30 Days
Show 3 Years



2008 recreational boating releases:


September 5th-8th – Recreation Flow 120 cfs
September 12th-15th – Recreation Flow 100 cfs
September 19th-22nd – Recreation Flow 80 cfs


Some historical flow information for this reach can be found at USGS gauges below the dams, but none of them show flows higher than fish flows of about 3 cfs and they do not measure flows that go over the spillways.  

North and Middle Yuba River Basins pdf is a schematic diagram that includes the lakes and diversions on Canyon Creek.

Directions Description


Reach Elevation Change Distance
French Lake to Weil Lake: 6655' to 6445' 0.5 miles
Weil Lake to Faucherie Lake: 6445' to 6135' 1.4 miles
cross Faucherie Lake (none) 0.3 miles
Faucherie Lake to above Sawmill Lake 6135' to 5875' 1.85 miles
to road crossing (bridge) 5875' to 5845' 0.75 miles
cross Sawmill Lake (none) 0.5 miles
Sawmill Lake to Bowman Lake 5845' to 5565' 0.85 miles
cross Bowman Lake (none) 0.5 miles

Take-out - Take 89 North from Truckee ~14.5 miles. Turn left at a well-marked sign toward Jackson Meadows Res. Drive 17 miles to Jackson Meadows Res. Drive across the dam. Follow signs to Bowman Lake. After 5 miles you will see a small sign for Sawmill Lake, turn left (or continue straight to take-out at Bowman Lake). Drive 1.1 miles to Sawmill Lake. A shorter day alternative is to drive 2.5 miles to where the road crosses Canyon Creek (downstream of Faucherie Lake) and take out here.

Put-in - Drive 1.1 miles back to main road, turn right (left is toward Bowman Lake). Drive 3 miles to Mirror Lake sign, turn right. After 4 miles turn right on an unmarked road. Continue 0.3 miles to locked gate. Hike in from here on a dirt road ~2 miles to the dam. Trail on river right from the dam leads to the creek.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

Flow Studies on Fordyce and Canyon Creek (CA)

Dave Steindorf

As part of the Yuba/Bear relicensing, Fordyce Creek and Canyon Creek will be flowing at the end of August and in September.  Come out and enjoy the flows and help us gather information on these runs.


Paul Martzen


Dave Steindorf


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1196316 10/18/09 Paul Martzen
1196318 10/18/09 Paul Martzen
1203654 09/10/14 Dave Steindorf
1203656 09/10/14 Dave Steindorf
1203655 09/10/14 Dave Steindorf
1203657 09/10/14 Dave Steindorf
1194885 05/08/09 Paul Martzen n/a