Pit River Whitewater Draws Kayakers

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on August 15 and 16, PG&E  increased water flows to 1500 cubic feet per second (cfs) from Pit 5 to the J.B. Black Powerhouse. Fifty-five kayakers came from as far away as Reno to enjoy the opportunity to ride class III, IV, and V rapids over the 9.3 mile stretch.

Kayakers from Reno

Kayakers from Reno

Kayakers entered the Pit at the Madesi River Acccess and paddled downstream past Big Bend to a take out point at J.B. Black Powerhouse.

Madesi River Access

Madesi River Access

I was hoping to get some good shots of young adventurers navigating the whitewater. I couldn’t get away on Saturday or early Sunday. However, knowing that the flow would be high until 4 p.m., I left Burney at 2 p.m. hoping to get the last kayakers as they rode the rapids above the bridge at Big Bend.

White water flows above Big Bend

White water flows above Big Bend

I heard a lady squeal as she splashed in and out of the cold water under the bridge. I also saw a man wading into the river for a dip up at the bend above the rapids. I waited patiently for half an hour, but no kayakers came.

Man wading into the Pit for a dip

Man wading into the Pit for a dip

I walked over to the Big Bend store to ask where the kayakers were putting in. There I met Colby Elliot who had just finished his last run and was getting ready to drive back to his home in Chester. He was beaming. I asked how the ride was. He said, “Awesome.”

Colby Elliot from Chester

Colby Elliot from Chester

I met more kayakers exuberated by their experience and got directions to the Madesi River Access. I had never been there. It was still only 3:30 so I decided to drive up and take a look.

When I arrived, I met a woman named Susan Stalcup. She was sitting at a picnic table filling out forms on a clipboard. Stalcup told me that she had been monitoring the event.

Pit River Reach Whitewater Flow

Pit River Reach Whitewater Flow

She works for Spring Rivers, a company that provides biological and physical assessments of aquatic and riparian ecosystems. When PG&E raises the flow and kayakers come to ride the whitewater, PG&E subcontracts to Spring River to monitor the event. They monitored the event at three locations. Susan recorded the kayakers as they entered the river. There was one person below the bridge at Big Bend. The third recorded the kayakers as they came out of the river. This serves two purposes. It measures use and it provides a safety aspect.

Stalcup said that the kayaking was finished for the day. Twenty-seven kayakers had come on Saturday and 28 had participated on Sunday. Kayakers began gathering at the Madesi access at 8 a.m. and started kayaking around 10 a.m.. On Saturday, they continued kayaking until 4 p.m., but on Sunday, because they needed to drive home, they left earlier. That’s why I missed them.

After Stalcup left, I decided to just sit and enjoy the river. It was wonderful to see the river so high and the current so strong. PG&E periodically provides these whitewater flows in compliance with their licensing provisions for the “Pit 3, 4, and 5 Project” under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

High river flow below Madesi

High river flow below Madesi

As I sat musing, a camper, Nick O’Neill, drove in and went over to read the whitewater notification sign posted by PG&E. He had come up from the East Bay Area with a dozen or so of his buddies to fish and go tubing. They hadn’t been able to go tubing because of the high flows. I told him that PG&E had begun to decrease the flows at 4 p.m and the flows gradually return to about 450 cfs.

Nick O'Neill from Calistoga

We stood watching the river. No apparent decrease yet, but we saw four or five large fish jumping in the river. He was looking forward to fishing. His friends were eager to go out on the river in their tubes.

On September 12 and 13, PG&E increases the flows again to 1200 cfs for another whitewater event. I will be there and I will come early.

Kayakers ride the Pit


1 Comment

Filed under Kayaking, PG&E, Pit River

One response to “Pit River Whitewater Draws Kayakers

  1. The climate in locations resembling this, especially
    throughout the dry season, is totally perfect for anyone in search of
    a calming and cozy getaway.


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