|Difficulty:||Class V+ (portages)|
|Flows:||1000 – 1500 cfs|
This Middle Fork of the Feather is one of the eight original rivers declared “Wild and Scenic” by Congress in 1968. This river trip travels through three distinct canyons (unnamed volcanic, Franklin Canyon, and Devil’s Canyon) with many Class V and V+ rapids and one long portage. Rafting this run is reccommended only for teams of experts at favorable water levels.
The key to doing this run in a raft is to have enough water at put in to negiotiate the initial volcanic caynon, but not too much water in Devil’s Canyon where the narrow and vertical granite walls create huge rapids. When the Middle Feather gauge at Milsap bar reads 1500 and dropping, the flow is ideal. This will give you around a 1000 cfs at put-in which will allow you to negotiate the shallow rapids in the first canyon. By the time you reach Devil’s Canyon if you have 1200-1300 cfs you’ll be very happy. Above 1500 cfs the hydraulics become stompy and the rapids more continuous.
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During the first day of this three day trip you’ll be tested with technical Class IV rapids and boulder gardens. There is one larger rapid this day with a Class IV entrance that leads into a large drop that is portaged by most rafters. You’ll probably camp below Horsehoe Bend.
The second day involves several great rapids in Franklin Canyon including the Class V Franklin Falls. Franklin Canyon is characterized by steep rapids created by metamorphic bedrock. This section will involve much scouting and some portaging due to poorly placed sharp rocks. There are many great places to camp on your second night, and one of the best is probably just below a footbridge for the Pacific Crest Trail. This campsite is still officically in Franklin Canyon, but is far enough down the canyon to leave time to complete the river and strenuous portage required the next day. Carpenter Creek which enters on river right also makes a great walk for adventurous hikers.
The final day of a Middle Fork Feather trip is the best. The towering granite walls are staggering and the rapids are awesome! In the heart of Devil’s Canyon you’ll have to portage Granite Dome Fallswhich is a quarter-mile long series of Class V+ drops. The portage requires de-rigging and deflating all of your rubber for a walk through bushes and trees on river right. There are also many great runnable Class V rapids including Double Diagonal, Uncle Maytag, and Freshie-Fresh (just before the portage).
At take-out you’ll have a feeling of exhaustion, invincibilitiy, and awe at the same time. Below Milsap Bar the river enters Bald Rock Canyon which is an even more difficult stretch of whitewater that ends with a bang in Lake Oroville.
If you’re interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out Creekin’s Middle Fork Feather description.
Most groups will start their trip in either the Reno/Truckee area or the Sacramento area and drive to put-in the night before. Then they’ll have a few people run a reverse shuttle and leave a few cars at take out. You may also want to find a “local” to help you drive your shuttle and save the effort.
To reach Nelson Point (put-in): You’ll want to get onto Highway 70 in Oroville and head up the North Fork of the Feather river canyon. Just past Quincy, take a right onto La Porte Road and follow that about eight miles to a bridge across the Middle Fork. You can put in at a campground on the right just before the bridge. From Reno or Truckee you can get on Highway 70 from either 89 North or 395 North.
To reach Milsap Bar (take-out): Get back onto Higway 70 and head back to Oroville where you should look for Highway 162 East. Follow Highway 162 until you see a sign for Bald Rock Road on the right. Take Bald Rock Road for about a mile and then hang a left onto Milsap Bar road. This is a seven mile dirt road down to a great campground along the river.
There are no outfitters with permitted to run this section of the Middle Fork of the Feather, although a few “pirate” trips have been reported.