Bear River (Highway 174)
|Stretch:||Highway 174 to Taylor's Crossing|
|Difficulty:||Class IV+ (V at flows > 1000 or so)|
|Distance:||2.1 miles (half day)|
|Flows:||300 - 1500 cfs (my lower limit is 550, also, dont go in over 700 unless someone knows the lines, Spanky and the Gang is blind over ~700). Current Dreamflows Daily Plot|
|Gradient:||74 fpm average|
|Shuttle:||6 miles (15 minutes) one-way|
|Season:||Spring Spill or Fall release|
|Featured in A Wet State's contribution to World Kayak's Video Guide|
`So after two years of trying, I was finally able to get on this run. It seems like every chance I had to boat this stretch either the water has been high or I have been at class or work. Finally, after two days of getting phone calls from friends heading up to it while I was sitting in my cubical, Saturday came around and I was able to boat it. Of course, in that time the weather had gone from 50 degrees and sunny to ~32 and snowing.
The day started with a little woodsmanship. A tree was blocking the road to the take out about a mile from the river. My friends had just been hiking it all week, however, Nick is rough and tough enough that he owns a saw. So we cut the tree up real good and drove all the way down to take out. No longer than two minutes after we arrived, another group of kayaks showed up with an even bigger saw, and an look of disappointment that they didn't get to play mountain man as well. Sorry guys.
The Stanley Holbek book says the flows to run this at are between 300 and 600 cfs. Our day we had about 2.67 feet or so, which is about 600-650 cfs. I think the book is just outdated. In their defense they do say they only did it once and it was at the low flow. I know some people run it up in the high 1000s, however that is not for the normal boater and I am sure that it is class V at that level (Update: I ran this today at 850 and was surprised it was not any harder than at 550-650. If anything it was cleaner. However, if it was your first time on the "Hair of the Bear," and did not know the lines, this flow would be stressfull as eddies were not plentiful). As it were, I thought our flow was perfect. None of the rapids were pushy, the rocks were mostly covered, and eddies were still existent.
This river although not that hard when being run successful should still be respected. The nature of the river is sieves. Shackleton related to me his experiences from seeing it at very low flows, and told of honeycombed river bottom, potholes six feet deep, and paddles that disappeared in the middle a rapid, never to be seen again. So, the rapids at my flow were class IV to IV+, but apparently both higher and lower are more difficult.
So with all that said, I really enjoyed my day on the water. Don't expect to spend a long day. If you know the lines, it will only take about 30 minutes to do the run. Even with the tree cutting, shuttle, photos, scouting, photos of the other group of boaters, watching them run rapids etc, it still only took 3 hours total... gas station meeting to parting at the freeway. This though is one of the nice things about the run, it is perfect to get on some great whitewater but not have to make a whole day of it. Well anyways, enough blabbering, I liked it and will be back... perhaps though in a few years if the trend for me and this river continues.
One last thing, the only rapid names I know of on this run are "Trash Can" and "Spanky and the Gang." The rest are generic... but those two are real, just thought all should know.
- Put in (III-). Immediately downstream of put in is a small dam. There is an easy line on the left shore. There is a more hero line on the right shore. The line we took was to boof off the rock in the center next to the worst part of the hole. Just don't melt it or you would start the day off badly.
Mini Gorge (III-). The river enters a very small gorge just downstream of the put in. There is a small ledge in it that isn't a big deal and provides a good enough warm up for the stuff downstream.
- The rapids really pick up, it is on for the next three quarters of a mile. They all kind of blend together so have someone who knows the lines with you.
Ledge (IV). The river splits around a jumble. There is a line down the left side, not sure what it is though. We ran down the right shore to a ledge which we boofed. Below that there is a hole where the channels combine again.
Left All the Way (IV) I dont know why I am calling this "Left All the Way," the left goes all the way down the two tiered drop, but I like cutting behind the midstream rock in the middle tier and boofing out the right. If you dont know the boof is there, you wouldnt give the left a second thought.
Left Wall (IV-). A small chute on the left wall tightens as the left wall extends into the channel. Just try not to piton it.
Left Ease (III-). A line down the left side of the river keeps you from the junk in the middle of the river. You can go right, but then just make sure to cut back left or hit a lot of rocks.
Trash Can (IV+). Apparently the flow we had is the best for this rapid. It is occasionally portaged or snuck down the left side (which doesn't look clean at all to me, but what do I know). The entrance is a hole on the right, backed up by a rock. At certain flows it is gross so I have been told. One way to attack it is from the river right eddy just at the lip of the drop. This will allow you to get right to left momentum to hit the friendlier side of the hole. From there, the river splits. You want to go left down a couple of pinches and over a pinch ledge hole. The right side looked very ugly from the little look I took. Part of the difficulty of this rapid is the danger, the river is very sieved out under the water, and the hole would hold you for a while. There is a good scout from the left, but it is a bit hard to portage from there. I would think to portage you would want to be on the right shore.
Exit Rapid (III-). A easy enough rapid, the only reason it stuck in my mind is because I noticed a large cave on the right shore to end up in.
Spanky and the Gang (IV+). Officially a two rapid pair, the first part is "Spanky." Here the river falls over a steep cascade and due to its choices is also called "Three Doors." We took the left most door. Just at the top of the rapid is a eddy on the left shore. From there you line up and drop down the left side, straighten out and shoot the rest of the drop wherever. Thomas and some of the others ran down the middle over a mid river rock. At 600 cfs the two rapids were one. Between the two there is small ledge to run, but is easy enough. "The Gang" is a hole. At certain flow I can see this hole becoming sticky. At our flow it was a fun little hole to plug of boof over.
Right or Left (IV(+)). I really only want to give this a IV rating, but something tells me to think about what happens if you are a bit off line, so maybe it is IV+. Anyways, a small ramp leads to a hole. You will then be approaching a rock. You can either go left of it and squeeze between it and some other rocks, or you can go to the right of it and bang you way between some rocks.
Last (III-). One last hole to run, straight forward down the gut.
- The rapids from here on out at non existent. Just flat water till the end.
Take out: It is a bit hard, but here are the directions. From Colfax Take out S. Canyon Way (follow signs towards historical Colfax). Turn left at Grass Valley St. (no choice, the road ends otherwise). After the historical part of town turn left on Rising Sun St. At the T, turn right on Ben Taylor Rd. Continue 0.7 miles to a fork in the road. Take the left road marked by "Pavement Ends" down the 1.4 miles further to the water.
Put in: Going back to the town of Colfax, get on 174 and go north 3 miles out of town. Once you cross over the Bear River, turn right and park in the small lot next to the bridge. A trail starts under the bridge and leads down the 100 feet to the water.
View Bear River, Below Highway 174 in a larger map
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