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.
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:Awetstate-CanyonCreek
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.
We have had releases on this reach but don't show any currently. This information is
gathered by the public. If you know about releases then contact us about them. If
you would volunteer to enter the releases, then reach out to us.
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.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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.
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.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!