Tag Archives: feather

Bald Rock, Middle Fork of the Feather

There are rivers, and then there is Bald Rock Canyon on the Middle Fork of the Feather. Just north of Oroville, California, this granitic masterpiece is a close equivalent to Yosemite Valley, except for the fact that there is an extremely exciting and challenging class V river run coursing through the middle of it.

I have paddled Bald Rock at many varying levels and at different times of the year. The major obstacle to contend with is Atom Bomb Falls, and the higher the water level the harder it is to navigate the must-make ferry above it. It is the only mandatory portage, and the rest of the rapids are boatable in some form or another. Optimal flow is 1,000 cfs, but the run certainly goes quite well anywhere between 800-1500cfs.

What is unique about Bald Rock is the geologic composition. White gleaming granite walls quickly envelope you as you meander downstream into the maw. Flakes of rock and giant boulders have sloughed off the sides of the canyon and fallen into the riverbed to form rapids. If you imagine the canyon as a giant V-shape with debris falling into its middle, you can also imagine the undercuts that ensue because of this action.

Nevertheless, the majority of the rapids are good-to-go, and a solid team with good scouting and reasonable judgement can make it down unscathed.

Many paddlers opt to camp overnight at Atom Bomb Falls. It is a beautiful array of rock and sleeping spots are numerous. If you elect to do the run in one day, keep in mind that the Middle Fork of the Feather flows into Oroville Reservoir, and unless you are lucky enough to get a tow across the lake from a motorboat, you will have a 3-mile paddle out across flat water. Following that is and a steep climb up to the dirt road that serves as the take-out. It’s a long day no matter what.

 My most memorable moment on Bald Rock was a trip I did in mid-February. I was fortunate enough to have a friend, Kevin Greggerson along with his motorboat, and his girlfriend was kind enough to run shuttle for us. We were bombing down the run with me in the lead, and just as we were coming to the lip of Curtain Falls a Bald Eagle flew directly over our heads. Instead of stopping to scout, I stroked off the lip and landed comfortably at the bottom. Kevin and Andrew followed directly afterwards, and each of them had perfect lines. We were all smiles when we reached the boat and the warm clothes, beers, and smiling female faces inside.

My second most memorable trip was with Grant Korgan, and I will never forget watching him get absolutely trundled in a rapid to the point where I thought he might drown. I hate those situations in kayaking when you are in a position where you simply cannot access the person in need. Fortunately, he escaped the jaws of death, and he is still plunging into giant rapids today. The infamous rapid is halfway down the run, right above Curtain Falls, and it is marked by a giant pyramid rock at the bottom. Another friend of mine, Kells burst his ear drum in the same rapid.

As far as the combination of scenery, quality whitewater, and lack of crowds is concerned, Bald Rock is a true gem. It is logistically difficult to access, but it is definitely worth the effort. 

North Fork of the Feather

On Sunday, I headed over to the North Fork of the Feather with some friends to take advantage of what is basically the last of any boatable flows until the rain and snow begin.

From Reno, we headed north on 395 to Hallelujah Junction and then took 70 west through Quincy to the Belden area. Be advised: we got pulled over for speeding on 395 because it is patrolled by aircraft. Needless to say, when we pulled off at the Junction, a patrolman was waiting.

The North Fork of the Feather is a roadside run that is the result of a deal that the American Whitewater organization negotiated with PG&E. The deal guarantees flows on the last weekend of each month, June – October from 10am-4pm. I have been a member of AW for quite some time, and if you are a whitewater enthusiast I recommend that you join and support them.

The run itself is class III-V with most of the difficulty crammed into about approximately a 1 mile stretch. Our group was able to run it 3 times because of the ease of access and the relatively short shuttle.

This season has been slim for me as far as kayaking; in fact, worst season on record since I started kayaking 10 years ago.  I bought a brand new Jefe in the spring and never had a chance to take it out because of extensive house projects. Aside from the Rogue last weekend, where I boated a Kingpin, I had not been paddling at all.

My maiden voyage in the Jefe had me excited. I had heard many good things about this creek boat, but had never experienced them myself. I had also been warned that there is a break in period, and some of my friends had actually swam because of its nuances.

Well, swim I did. One the second run, I got pushed up against a boulder, flipped, and could not roll the damn thing. I tried several times to no avail. Eventually, I pulled my skirt and swam the most difficult section of the river. I couldn’t believe it! I used to paddle this very exact run in a playboat. It’s amazing how fast someone like myself can quickly get out of shape and out of his element.

After my Jefe disappeared for a while behind a big house sized boulder, it eventually emerged fairly unscathed. My friends pulled it to the side of the river and, after catching my breathe, I continued on. In fact, I went back for a third run to cure any psychological hiccups.

On the same disastrous second run, we came upon a group that had  unfortunately experienced a vertical pin. Apparently, the paddler had to cut his kevlar skirt to get out. While the NF of the Feather is not remote or considered to be difficult class V, it has the ability to throw some surprises at the unexpected paddler.

There are numerous undercuts and sieves, and because of its ease of access and popularity there are significant possibilities for future incidents, injuries and even deaths. I hope that never happens.

Regardless, I am pleased with AW’s efforts, and it represents the opportunity to get on a fun fall run when little else is flowing.

Update: A recent post on boof.com details the pin, as well as provides some shocking pictures of the sieve that the paddler was stuck in. Check out these Flickr Photos -

http://www.flickr.com/photos/92776479@N00/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/77403227@N00/

Scary!