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South Fork Feather - Little Grass Valley Run

*Little Grass Valley Reservoir to South Fork Diversion Dam*

During the gold rush, the 49ers referred to the northern most Sierra as "The Lost Sierra".  The moniker holds true for contemporary kayakers.  For the past two fall seasons we've been enjoying runs on the South Fork of the Feather River that previously remained lost.  What amazes the paddlers who have seen the run is the fact that we didn't know about it sooner.

Last fall, after three runs on the Little Grass Valley section of the South Fork of the Feather, I posted a guidebook description on Dreamflows.  After several more runs with a more diverse group of partners, and at a greater variety of flows, I would like to revise the description.  While I continue to believe that this run is mostly IV+ and V-, I have seen several friends cartwheeling in holes, broached, and trembling a bit on portages.  Class IV boaters have indicated that it makes for a long and edgy day.

I believe that the Little Grass Valley reach on the SF Feather could be enjoyed in a variety of ways:

  • A long day trip from Little Grass Valley Reservoir Dam to South Fork Diversion Dam (8.3 miles);
  • An overnight on the same reach with enjoyable campsites;
  • Little Grass Valley Reservoir Dam to Post Creek with a hike out on river right (just less than 4 miles);
  • Post Creek to South Fork Diversion Dam (5 miles);
  • Hiking about ¾ mile from the dam on river left to avoid the most difficult gorge but still putting in well above Post Creek.

    The run: This is a beautiful small creek with good gradient, great scenery, and abundant whitewater.  The first gorge is V- at flows below 300cfs and class V above 300: Rick in the First Drop Boofing, SF Feather  and Rick in the First Drop Boofing, SF Feather 

    Below 300 cfs, most of the portaging can take place at or near river level: Cody Portaging, SF Feather  Above 300 cfs, portaging requires more work and some sketchy traversing high above the river: Ben Portaging, SF Feather 

    There is a 30' waterfall in the first gorge.  I refer to this as "The Portage".  Rusty ran it at 180 cfs 30 footer, SF Feather  At 400 cfs a member of our group got stuck in a difficult hole 50 feet above the falls.  At lower flows the lead-in rapid is a non-issue.  To scout and/or portage the waterfall, the only choice is an eddy about 15 feet above the drop on river right.  The portage is reasonable but requires a bit of teamwork.  Below the portage there are several good class V drops: First Gorge, SF Feather  Tay Running Tongue, SF Feather  Cody Boofing, SF Feather 

    A sharp S-turn rapid and Indian rhubarb on the banks mark the end of the first gorge.

    After the first gorge there is an abundance of class III rapids and several mini gorges containing class IV+ rapids: Ledge Boof, SF Feather 

    The character of the river makes scouting and portaging necessary contingent on the group's abilities.  The second and third gorges are small but tough.  There are a few sieves and a few rapids that require extra head scratching on the scouts: Slot Rapid, SF Feather 

    Shortly after the third gorge opens up, Post Creek appears on river right near mile 4 (Post Creek runs at about 5 cfs).  It is marked by a huge Ponderosa Pine lodged at river level on the main river.  Take out as soon as you see the tree.  If you go down to the tree, the hike out is a bit dicey for the first 100 or so yards.  Hiking out at Post Creek is difficult but it only lasts about 40 minutes.  Begin by hiking up the creek bed for about 200 feet: Hiking Out, SF Feather  Start angling up and left until you find a grubby trail.  Keep in mind that this trail has not been maintained.  It is difficult to follow at times.  If you lose the trail you can follow the fall line straight up until you hit the forest road (21N65).

    Below Post Creek paddlers will find plenty of interesting rapids.  Several need to be scouted.

    There is a 25 foot waterfall that requires a portage on the right: Scout, SF Feather 

    After the 25 footer there are a few more rapids of note.  The last 2-3 miles are mostly class II-III.

    I feel that this run is similar in difficulty to Deer Creek, Mill Creek, and Upper Butte Creek.  While it is only 8.3 miles long, it makes for a long day.  Plan an early put-in and spend some time looking at maps.  This is a remote canyon requiring full protocol ... be prepared to take care of yourself ... it is unlikely that others will be there to assist ...  Hitch hiking and bike shuttles are out of the question.  Have two vehicles.  None of the roads requires 4wd but Honda Civics would take a beating.  Bring a copy of the Plumas National Forest map and American House 7.5 topo ...

    Note:  Boater/Search and Rescue maps for this reach, showing rapid locations, rescue access and egress routes, are downloadable from the AW website.


    To get to Little Grass Valley Reservoir Dam: From Quincy it's about an hour on LaPorte Road.  Turn right where the PCT crosses the road.  From Oroville it's at least an hour and a half.  The Dam is on the west side of the Reservoir ...  We hiked down the left side of the spillway and proceeded to scramble down a bit of a cliff Put-In, SF Feather  (the difficulty is similar to the Box Canyon put-in on the Upper Sac).  You can also park at the Forest Service toilet and hike down on river left.  The hike on river left is a bit easier but it brings you into the gorge below the first rapid ...


    We took out at the South Fork Diversion Dam.  The road into this small reservoir is 21N11Y.  There is a new sign at the top of the road making it much easier to find.


    After trying a variety of routes, I've decided that the most reasonable shuttle from South Fork Diversion Dam to Post Creek or Little Grass Valley Reservoir Dam is on river right.  From the takeout road drive downstream (right) to Golden Trout Crossing (Road 24).  At the top of the crossing take a right.  Please keep your maps and eyes open ... this is an easy place to get lost, and I don't want you cussing me out because you thought a one paragraph description would suffice.

    Getting to the Post Creek hike trailhead Look for a "trail" that crosses 21N65 near McNair Saddle on river right.  21N65 is marked.  The trailhead, however, is not.  Follow 21N65 down and to the left.  We have placed a large rock cairn on the ground where the trail starts.

    Narrative copyright 2005.  Contact Rick Stock.  This page was last updated Oct 1, 2008.