Multiple racers approach a series of rapids on the North Fork of the Feather River during Feather Fest 2018. Photo by Mari Erin Roth

Final 2019 water release on the Feather River this weekend

Pacific Gas and Electric Company urges the public to take extra safety precautions as water flows will be higher through the weekend of Sept. 28-29 for whitewater recreation in the Rock Creek Reach of the North Fork Feather River in Plumas County.

This portion of the river contains Class III, IV and V rapids, which are only appropriate for skilled paddlers, and not appropriate for tubing.

The Rock Creek Reach is the 8.3-mile portion of the North Fork of the Feather River in the Plumas National Forest between PG&E’s Rock Creek dam and the Rock Creek powerhouse near Storrie.

Starting at 9 a.m. this Saturday, Sept. 28, PG&E will increase flows to 900 cubic feet per second (cfs) and hold them there until Sunday, Sept. 29, at 2 p.m. Afterward, flows will gradually decrease to the season normal of approximately 450 cfs.

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The recreational flows are conducted in cooperation with the American Whitewater Organization and the Rock Creek–Cresta Ecological Resource Committee and are usually held four weekends a year, in June, July, August and September.

PG&E offers the following water safety tips:

– Stay out of cold water. Sudden immersion in cold water can stimulate the “gasp reflex,” causing an involuntary inhalation of air or water. It can even trigger cardiac arrest, temporary paralysis, hypothermia and drowning. When faced with swift water, even the strongest swimmers may be easily overwhelmed.

– Many unseen obstacles can be lurking below the water’s surface. Swift water can make these obstacles even more treacherous. Guided trips for inexperienced paddlers are strongly recommended.

– Recreating in PG&E canals and flumes is strictly prohibited. Stay out of canals and flumes, which are very dangerous due to slippery sides, sub-surface obstacles, fast moving water, and transitions to full tunnels and pipes. For more water safety tips visit pge.com/hydrosafety.

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Other than that, enjoy the bounty of the Feather River and its world-class whitewater runs.

Feather Fest

The end of season Feather River Festival (Feather Fest) will occur over the final release weekend, Sept. 27 through 29, centering around “Indian Jim” School and the adjacent campground located at Plumas County mile marker 8.22 on Highway 70 near Tobin. A search for “Injun Jim Campground” will provide the exact location on Google Maps.

What to expect

The 29th annual Feather Fest offers a film festival, Class II and III slalom races for all vessels and levels, Class IV and Class V downriver races, primitive camping, dinner, adult beverages, celebration, silent auction, drawing prizes, clinics and scheduled water releases from Rock Creek Dam for boating opportunities on the North Fork Feather River.

The event is intended to be fun with stretches of river for all levels of boaters. It is a family-friendly weekend, though after 10 p.m., Saturday’s party is more appropriate for adults.

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The event is a Leave No Trace event. Pack it in and pack it out. There are no trash cans nor is there trash pick-up available at the event.

Bring your own water; there is not drinking water available at the festival. There is free camping at the festival site. Additional free camping is available one-mile up-stream at Roger’s Flat or one-mile down-stream at Tobin Vista.

Parking is tight so carpooling is highly recommended. There is no shuttle service; however, California Canoe & Kayak will post a schedule for some shuttles and there are hundreds of cool boater folk in attendance ready to share a ride.

No open fires are allowed. Fires are a serious hazard as evidenced by the ride up the canyon and the devastation from last year’s Camp Fire. Please do not park on dry grass or leave a car running unattended. Anyone using any camp stove is required to have a free permit from the Forest Service website. Fire marshals visit the festival every year, so be sure to print out your permits. The link to obtain one is: preventwildfirec

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a.org/Campfire-Permit.

Whitewater events will have on-site registrations only. Downriver race and slalom fees range from $20 to $40. Low flow slalom course practice takes place all day Friday. The film festival and drawing take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a $10 entry fee.

Saturday registration is open from 8:30 a.m. to noon. There is a race participant meeting at 12:30 p.m. Staggered starts for races begin at 1 p.m. Rock Creek Class II and III Slalom practice is open all day. American Whitewater party, silent auction and drawing take place from 7 p.m. to midnight, with a $5 entry free.

The final day of the festival, Sunday, features the Rock Creek Class II and Class III Slalom races. Registration is from 8 a.m. through 10:30 a.m. Slalom participant meeting takes place at 10:45 a.m. with the race beginning at 11 a.m.

Hardcore-serious whitewater

The Tobin Downriver Race is a challenging Class V race covering 1.8 miles. From the start line to the Rock Crest Bridge (a noticeable Green Bridge), the river drops 150 vertical feet for 1.2 miles with the 0.9 miles between the Twin Bridges and the Rock Crest Bridge being where the action really happens.

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There is no lack of challenging whitewater. The action-packed Class V reach has giant boulder gardens with only a few named rapids, classics like “Cleaver,” “El Patron/Double Drop” and “Piece of Risa.”

There are also a number of unnamed rapids that require racers to know the lines well and stay focused the entire race. The finish line is upstream of the Storrie Bridge, where racers are cheered across the finish line.

There are four categories: Men’s Long Boat, Women’s Long Boat, Men’s Short Boat and Women’s Short Boat. Racers must have Class V experience and two years experience on Tobin. All racers must use familiar equipment (boat and paddle); no demo gear is allowed.

The proceeds from the weekend go toward supporting American Whitewater in its mission to conserve and restore America’s whitewater resources and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.

Less intense whitewater

The Lobin Class IV Inflatable Downriver Race is an exciting Class IV race covering 0.6 miles.

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Starting at the Rock Crest Bridge, racers are required to navigate three major Class IV drops in rapid succession. These challenging rapids require racers to know the lines well and stay focused the entire race.

The first rapid bears special attention with a wrap rock in the main channel just downstream of the first drop. Several rapids in this stretch are blind with difficult features. The finish line is upstream of the Storrie Bridge.

There are two categories: R2 and inflatable kayak with an addition R4 category open if there is a minimum of three R4 teams competing. Individual racers and all members of the race team must have Class IV experience. Additionally, individual racers and one member of a race team must be familiar with the lines and have two years experience on Lobin. All racers must use familiar gear; again, no demo gear allowed.