North Fork of the Feather (Big Bend Dam)
|Stretch:||Big Bend Dam|
|Season:||Fall from release, Winter and Spring from spill|
|Featured in Video Seventeen.|
So, ever since I first saw a picture of this dam on Dreamflows I have wanted to run this drop. All I knew was that it was at the put in for a run called “Big Bend.” A class III run with a several mile paddle across Lake Oroville at the end. Furthermore, the run never has water in it as it is at the end of a stretch of river that has a dam every 10 miles or so.
So to continue with the story, there I was taking a break from a First Threat session (not that that is an abnormal thing as anyone who boats with me will attest) when a friend casually mentions that he ran the run the weekend before. He also mentions that is should have water for several weeks, finally to top it off, he adds “next time I go I think I will just park and huck it.” This of course sparked intrigue. I find out that the carry back up the river left side shouldn’t be too bad, and the paddle across the pond from the put in is only 0.25 - 0.5 miles. So, the next weekend we head out there.
Also, I rated this drop a class IV+, but seriously, if you think you are able to line your boat up to a lip, paddle off, and hold on for the ride, you will be fine. This drop hasn’t nothing about it, just paddle off and ride it out. Only being upside down would be very very painful. I scrapped bottom my second time down it so it can’t be too deep.
One final thing, although it is park and huckable, it is a lot more work than any of us expected. We climbed back up the river left side. This required team work to raise boats up a 10 foot wall, then climb up the wall using a small flake to assist you, then handing boats around a corner where you were very exposed to a 30 foot drop down on rocks. A play boat would have made this 10 times easier, and would have been totally ok for the drop. With that said, it was fun to do, I might head back there sometime for a park and huck, but the effort will keep me from making it an annual appearance.
Just to add it, I thought I would discuss the run below the dam. I have never done this run, but this is what I have learned over the past few weeks. The run is pretty easy class III. Box Car, the hardest rapid on the run use to be much harder back when there was a box car in the rapid just below the ledge. I also was told back in 1979 there was a class V rapid which claimed several boaters faces. However, that year the lake was down something ridiculous like 750 feet (vaguely remember this). The low level of the lake also allowed for paddling right up to the boat ramp. Now however, in 2007 the lake was low (don’t know how much, but very low), it was still a 2-3 hour paddle on the lake and the class V was deep underwater or silted over. Furthermore, the road to the takeout had a gate across it. I would check with Dave Steindorf of American Whitewater to check on the status of this gate before heading out there.
Put in/take out: About 14 miles past CA-149, take a right on Big Bend Road. Take an immediate left to stay on this road. After a half mile the road forks, stay right on Big Bend Road. Stay on this for another 0.4 miles. Turn left on Bardees Bar Road and follow for 1.4 miles. The road then makes an abrupt turn back upon itself, follow this (it is easy to see). After another 2.9 miles you arrive at the powerhouse, park somewhere where your car won’t be in the way. The paddle down to the Dam is about 0.75 miles, due to the lack of current, it is not difficult to paddle back to the cars if you are choosing to park and huck it.
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