Category Archives: Kayaking

Kayakers enjoy “good clean fun” on the Pit

Saturday August 13, Kayakers from Northern California, Nevada, and Oregon gathered at the Madesi River Access above Big Bend to enjoy the thrill of riding level III, IV, and V rapids on a 9.3 mile stretch of the Pit River.

Gang of six

Gang of six

This was the first day of the first of two weekends in 2016 that PG&E will be providing high water flows on the Pit 5 Reach of the Pit River from Pit 5 Dam to the J.B. Black Powerhouse.

By 10 a.m. PG&E had increased the flows from 450 to 1500 cubic feet per second. They remained at this level until about 4 p.m. when they were gradually reduced to 600. Sunday morning the flows were raised again to 1500 and the after 4 p.m. gradually lowered back to 450 feet per second.

An interesting helmet - no wet suit

An interesting helmet – no wet suit

The most challenging stretch is from Madesi River Access to the bridge at Big Bend. There is river access just below the bridge. From Big Bend to J.B. Black Powerhouse the ride is easier.

My wife Linda and I arrived at 12:30 p.m. to watch the kayakers come round the bend in the river and ride the white water above the bridge. It’s fun for the kayakers but it’s fun for photographers too.

Here they come

Good clean fun

Spring River Watchers

Spring River Watchers

As we walked out onto the bridge, we saw two watchers from Spring Rivers. Spring Rivers is a company that provides biological and physical assessments of aquatic and riparian ecosystems. PG&E contracts with them to monitor the event, registering the kayakers at the Madesi access and then keeping count as they pass under the bridge and disembark at the Bridge access or J.B. Black Powerhouse.

By the time we arrived, one raft and 13 kayakers had passed below the bridge. A Spring Rivers truck arrived and told us that so far 32 kayakers had registered.

As we waited for more to appear round the bend of the river upstream, we met two of the group of 32, Sarah from Fair Oaks and Erica Gold from Oakland.

Sarah from Fair Oaks and Erica Gold from Oakland

Sarah from Fair Oaks and Erica Gold from Oakland

Sarah and Erica had opted to wait for some friends to ride the current to the bridge and then join them to ride down to J.B. Black Powerhouse. One of them had done this run in a previous year. The other hadn’t but had kayaked the Pit One run that goes over Pit River Falls to the Pit One campground. She said that was really exciting.

They told me that they were part of a group of kayakers that had gathered together for the weekend. In addition to Fair Oaks and Oakland, friends came from Reno, San Jose, Coloma near Placerville, and Trinity County.

It was a perfect day for kayaking, bright and sunny with a clear blue sky. Cool in the water, but hot on the bridge. The two young ladies went to get some shade. I told them I would call when their friends rounded the bend

And soon they did. A whole slew of them riding the rapids.

Here they come

Here they come

After they had passed under the bridge, I went down toward the access  to meet some of the kayakers.

Two Tylers - Bushnell and Bachtell from Oregon

Two Tylers – Bushnell and Bachtell from Oregon

I asked one of the Tylers from Oregon how the ride was.

Flushed with adrenaline, he responded, “Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Nothing but smiles!”

Climbing up the bank to a waiting vehicle, Yann from Gold Hill Oregon added, “Good clean fun!”

Yann from Gold Hill Oregon

Yann from Gold Hill Oregon

They loaded their kayaks on a vehicle to head up for another run.

I went back to the bridge. Linda and I were thinking of heading home. However, I looked upstream and another batch of kayakers had just rounded the bend.

I think that more riders must have registered because we were now well above our count of 32.

In the groove

In the groove

Most of the kayakers planned to ride the river through the afternoon up till 4 p.m. and then camp together overnight so they could enjoy more runs the next day. More will probably come on Sunday to join in the fun.

Sarah had explained that whitewater kayakers are a community. Many are friends who have kayaked together at various locations. American Whitewater advertises the whitewater opportunities and groups of friends reconnoiter to navigate the flows.

The next weekend that PG&E will increase flows will be September 10-11. On both of those days, they will raise the flow to 1200 cubic feet per second.

It certainly is a rush when the rivers are rising and the riders are riding the whitewater flows.

 

 

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Filed under Big Bend, Kayaking, PG&E, Pit River

PG&E to provide high whitewater flows on 9.3 miles of Pit River over two weekends

The following is from a press release from PG&E dated August 8:

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will provide high whitewater flows on the Pit 5 Reach of the Pit River in eastern Shasta County over two weekends, the company announced today.

The higher flows will occur on August 13-14 and September 10-11. Those recreating in or near this portion of the river are encouraged to use extra caution during the increased flows. This portion of the river contains Class III, IV and V rapids, which are appropriate only for skilled paddlers. The reach is not appropriate for tubing.

The Pit 5 Reach is the 9.3-mile portion of the Pit River that extends from PG&E’s Pit 5 Dam and the J.B. Black Powerhouse near Big Bend.

Prior to the increase for August 13-14, flows in the Pit 5 Reach will be about 450 cubic feet per second (cfs).  On early Saturday morning PG&E will gradually increase water flows until it reaches 1,500 cfs, before 10 a.m. The flows will be held at this level until about 4 p.m. that day when flows will gradually be reduced to 600 cfs.

The higher flows will be repeated the next day at the same times, then, after 4 pm, gradually decreased to the normal flow of about 450 cfs.

On the weekend of September 10-11, PG&E will increase flows to 1,200 cfs on both days. As with the previous releases, starting early in the morning the flows will gradually be increased to the target level by 10 a.m. and then after 4 p.m. gradually decreased to more normal flow levels.

The whitewater flows are a requirement of PG&E’s license conditions for the Pit 3, 4, and 5 Hydroelectric Project.

Despite the drought, water flows in the Pit River watershed are near normal as the Pit River is largely fed by springs that steadily release water from large volcanic aquifers, even in dry years.

Due to the high fire danger this year, the higher flow dates are subject to change. PG&E recommends verifying the dates via the PG&E recreation website www.pge.com/recreation/.

PG&E offers the following water safety tips:

  • 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 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 and fast moving wate

About PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com and www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/index.page

To view articles on Kayakers from last years flows see

Kayakers ride the Pit
Pit River Whitewater Draws Kayakers

 

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Filed under Kayaking, PG&E, Pit River

Kayakers ride the Pit

On September 12th and 13th,  PG&E increased the water flow below Pit 5 to between 1250 to 1500 cubic feet per second for the second time this year. Each day, more than 50 Northern California kayakers came to enjoy the thrill of riding level III, IV, and V rapids between the Madesi River Access and J.B. Black Powerhouse.

Kayakers above the bridge at Big Bend

Kayakers above the bridge at Big Bend

The entry point was the Madesi River Access. At 10 a.m. Saturday, the area was buzzing with people unloading their kayaking gear and camping equipment for the two-day event.

Steve and Christina Figone and friends from Chico

Steve and Christina Figone and friends from Chico

Lauren Bridgeman and Linda Holdren from Spring Rivers, a company that provides biological and physical assessments of aquatic and riparian ecosystems, came to register the kayakers and monitor the event for PG&E. Downriver, below the Big Bend Bridge and at J.B. Black Powerhouse there were two more Spring River employees to track the kayakers and make sure that everyone who entered the river completed the one-and-a-half-hour course down the river safely.

 Spring River monitors registering kayakers

Spring River monitors registering kayakers

As the kayakers gathered and mixed and mingled, I met groups of people who had come from Sacramento, Placerville, Chico, Lake Tahoe, Trinity County, and Redding. It was a really cheerful, friendly gathering. Groups began entering the river about 10:30 a.m.

Kayakers entering the river at Madesi River Access

Kayakers entering the river at Madesi River Access

Ian Janoska from Placerville organized a race, the “Pit 5 River Games.”  The race took place  Saturday afternoon about 1:30. Ten people participated, racing about one mile. The rest of the course was free kayaking.

As the kayakers came to enter the river Saturday morning, Janoska and his friend, Lauren Burlison, a student at Simpson College in Redding, were there to sign people up for the race.

Janoska and Bunison signing up racers

Janoska and Burlison signing up racers

A few people had come to join the kayakers in rafts.

Heading out to ride the rapids

Heading out to ride the rapids

One of the kayakers from Redding told me that there were two overlooks on the way back to Big Bend where I could catch a view. I found one of them. It actually was kind of scary standing on the dirt edge of a 100 foot drop-off looking down, but just as I got there a few of the kayakers passed underneath.

View from the overlook

View from the overlook

Then down to the bridge at Big Bend.

White water rapids above Big Bend

White water rapids above Big Bend

The bridge at Big Bend was the best of the few places to watch the kayakers. They had been riding the river for over an hour. Only the kayakers themselves know the full thrill the river held as they surged through the beautiful tree-lined gorge.

Here comes the raft

Here comes the raft

The bridge is also a fun place to meet others who want to watch. One lady from Lake Tahoe had come up with her husband and was patiently waiting for him to come round the bend. Another woman showed me pictures she had taken of the kayaking on Feather River. I also met Juniper Rose, a kayaker from Trinity County, as she watched some of her friends master the white water.

 Juniper Rose from Trinity County

Juniper Rose from Trinity County

As we talked, I discovered that she was the sister-in-law of a friend from Oak Run that I have played music with.

I spent quite a few hours on Saturday out on the bridge taking hundreds of pictures. On Sunday afternoon, I returned with my wife Linda and we met more people as the last runs finished.

Coming out of the river below the bridge

Coming out of the river below the bridge

At 4:00 PG&E began lowering the flow back to 450 cfs. Thus ended the Pit 5 Reach Whitewater Flow for 2015. For more on the whitewater flows see Pit River Whitewater Draws Kayakers.

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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

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Steve Knoch recounts Knoch family and Fall River history

The Knoch family has been living in Pit River Country for four generations. Steve Knoch lives in Glenburn. His great-grandfather, Friedrich came to New York in 1867, then went to Panama, crossed the isthmus to the Pacific Ocean and sailed up to San Francisco.

After spending some time looking for gold in Feather River country, he came to Fall River and began working for Captain William H. Winter, the “founder of Fall City.” Friedrich and his brother-in-law Dietrich made improvement to and ran the toll road and bridge that led to Burney Valley.  They had a stage station and small hotel in Carbon. Knoch received the land which became the Knoch Ranch from Winter in payment for money owed for working on the toll road.

Here Steve recounts some of the story as it has come down the family and also comments on various other topics of historical interest.

Part 1

Part 2:

Part 3

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Filed under Baum Lake, Fall River, Fall River Mills, Kayaking, Pacific Crest Trail, PG&E, Pit River Area History

Flatwater Kayaking in Pit River Country

Article by Alex Colvin 05/27/15 — As the Pit River flows through eastern Shasta County, it is fed by the springs and streams of Fall River Valley and Hat Creek, creating numerous delightful locations for flatwater kayaking. Ahjumawi State Park, Baum Lake, Lake Britton, and selected areas of the Pit River around Hwy. 299 provide opportunities to experience natural beauty and wildlife while paddling serenely over the water.

Deer, raccoons, coyote, otters, muskrat, and beaver thrive in the area. Bald eagles, osprey, and a variety of hawks soar above. American pelicans, egrets, great blue heron, grebes, geese, and ducks frequent the waters. The area offers incredible views of the Cascades, including Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen.

Ahjumawi is a word from the language of the Pit River Native Americans who inhabit the area. It means “Where the waters come together.” Water from the snowmelt of Medicine Lake Volcano forms one of the largest systems of underground springs in the country. These springs feed over a billion gallons of water a day into Eastman Lake, Big Lake, Tule River, Ja-She Creek, Lava Creek, and Fall River.

Donna Sylvester's grandaughter Lexi on Baum Lake - Photo by Donna Sylvester

Donna Sylvester’s grandaughter, Lexie, on Baum Lake, photo by Donna Sylvester

According to Donna Sylvester, certified Kayak instructor and owner of Eagle Eyes Kayak, “Spring and early summer is the best time to Kayak, especially on Lake Britton and Ahjumawi State Park. Baum Lake is great anytime!” Sylvester instructs and guides kayakers on waterways in the Pit River area. She has 21 kayaks, so she can provide a kayak tailored to the skill, safety, and comfort of each person. For visitors to the area who want to kayak but don’t need a guide, she provides rentals.

The Jiminez Family Kayaking - Photo by Donna Sylvester

The Jimenez Family kayaking, photo by Donna Sylvester

Recently, on May 24, Sylvester guided Paul Jimenez, his wife Lily, and his two cousins Paz and Anna Ruth on a kayak trip in Ahjumawi State Park. Jimenez said he was very pleased at how patiently Sylvester instructed them. The group paddled through Horr Pond up the Tule River to Ja-She Creek. Along the way, Jimenez saw deer, ducks including a cinnamon teal, a white egret, a blue heron, pelicans, geese, a muskrat, and a sunbathing snake. He was also very impressed by the beautiful views of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen. After returning to his home in San Mateo and reflecting on the experience, Jimenez says, “Mejor seria imposible.” (Better would have been impossible!)

To learn more about Eagle Eyes Kayak click here.

Alex Colvin is co-owner of The Lace Gallery in Burney, California. He previously wrote for non-profit corporations in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan Area. Since returning to Burney, where he has deep family roots, Alex and his wife Linda have dedicated themselves to exploring and photographing the natural beauty of Northern California.

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Filed under Ajumawi State Park, Baum Lake, Crystal Lake, Fall River, Hat Creek, Kayaking, Pit River Area History, Pit River Tribe