Pit River (Pit Falls)
|Stretch:||PG&E Parking Lot to Powerhouse #1|
|Difficulty:||Class III+ or IV- with optional V|
|Flows:||800 - ~2,000 cfs after subtracting Power #1’s take. Current Dreamflows (est) gauge|
|Take-out:||Campsite at Powerhouse #1|
|Shuttle:||10 miles, 10-15 minutes one-way|
|Season:||spring into summer, Recreational releases are new|
|Featured in Video Fourteen.|
So his year was an American Whitewater study thanks to PG&E rezoning. Basically, they are pondering the idea of releasing a boatable amount of water on this run a few times a year, this study meant that for a few weekends this year, there was varying levels of water for us to run down on to report to them optimal levels. I found this run to be very worthwhile the second day which had a release of 1,250 cfs. At this flow there were pushier hydraulics and some waves to run through. Furthermore the manky rocks were more covered up making the average rapid less like gorilla boating. Finally, at the higher flows all the lines down the falls were runnable. At lower flows the rapids were junkier and most lines down the falls did not go, or involve partial portages. However, during the summer when nothing else is running, this run is worthwhile either way…just more worthwhile with more water.
This run is interesting to me because of two reasons: first is the scenery. The river runs through lava flow so every rapid is formed by lava rocks and some from very obvious lava damns. This makes for a fairly unique and beautiful experience. Second, and more important is the amazing falls. This falls has four run lines of varying degrees of difficulty. For the person trying some verticality for the first time you can run just the 20’ slide. For the full steep creek experience you can try doing the lower right line below the slide. For small waterfalls there is the left most line. and of course for big waterfalls there are the center lines, whichever you choose, you are bound to have a good time and some adrenaline pumping through your blood.
- At the put-in there is a large eddy with all the exits willow choked. This is a
stressful site. There are however numerous lines that go. We went down the
center and headed left…it choked off to two feet wide, but went. We also went
right and headed center which involved ducking under some over growth, but it
Exit Willows (II+). Go to the right most channel, and run the little slot, beware of the current pushing into the strainers on the left.
Pillow (III+). The first big rapid comes almost immediately after the exit from the willows. This rapid comes on a left turn and involves a little cascade. The far left runs into a pillow, back up by a bush. The right side of the pillow sinks into a seam. You can run the seam at lower flows with ease, or at all other flows run high on the pillow near the bush. The backwash recirculates a little to the right and back into the cascade.
Ledge (IV). There are two lines, one is an S-turn which is run at lower flows. It all goes but is class IV- in nature. The second line is for when there is 1,250 cfs or more. You can go right off the lava damn ledge . You can scout from the little eddy on the lava damn itself. This drop is a vertical 6-8 foot or so.
Cascade (III-). A straight-forward rapid is made difficult at lower flows by submerged rocks pocking up in all the lines. Just avoid them while running down the middle, if anything cheat a little left.
- Rocky Rapid (IV). This rapid was the hardest on the run in my mind. It is a bolder field
that gets very choked off. Lines not involving rocks are hard to find. At low to medium
flows only the center and right side of the rivers are not horrible. There is a chute on
the far right which will bypass a lot of the exit mank. There is a line right of center
between some mank, then moving to dodge a big exit rock.
- First Long One (IV). The first long one starts as many rapids in this section, with a bolder
choked entry. Enter anywhere, but moved left by the time the rapid kicks in. The right side
drops off a ledge, runnable at some flows, rocky or sticky at others. The left side is
straight forward. Below this, the river splits. The left line is very straight forward
class II, the right line is an S-turn with a sieve and undercut to avoid, more class IIIish.
- Stick Rapid (III+). Long bolder bar rapid. The line that we ran was down the right. At one
point there was a small ledge that had a stick right of center in it. We boofed off the left
to avoid it all together.
- Third Long One (IV-). Another long boulder bar with some very turbulent water at the end.
Best line is to end on the left. Make the move early or half way down. The other side is very
rocky and junky.
Pit Falls (V- to V+). This is a very spectacular falls, easily seen from the vista point on 299 about a mile away. There are four lines for this drop, I will rate each one individually.
Right (V-). A twenty foot near vertical slide with an auto boof about half way down much be taken as far left as possible. The right side lands you in shallow water. From here, you head to the far right channel. Enter the slide center, use the deeper water on the left to eddy turn and power to the left side of the channel. Take the 6 foot boof an either eddy out left or power to the crack against the midstream island, hitting it with right boof angle. This line can only be run at flows of about 1,100 cfs and above.
Devin’s (V+). A non-vertical drop with a tricky entrance and tricky landing. There is a green ramp that leads to a 35 foot drop. Run the ramp and down the near vertical slide, boof of the bottom to clear the hole.
Vertical 30 Footer (V). The left most channel of the main falls, this drop has a chute leading into the drop. You want to make sure you avoid melting off the left side of it as it meets some rocks. Try to boof out a little to clear the hole at the bottom.
Fish Ladder (V). The first drop (10’) is walled in and has a few lead in holes/laterals to throw you off before its lip. You want to make sure that you hit the left side of the drop as the right side lands in shallow water. There is a little calm area before the next drop (5’) which is taken on the right. There is now mank to run down the gut in order to get to the bottom.
- Ledge (III+). A ledge drop which is blocked by many rocks which is easily run on left or right,
just make sure to carry momentum to clear the holes at the bottom of the drop.
Another Long Rapid (IV). This long rapid has a few options for the top, either stay center right or stay far left near the shore. The ending of the rapid involves a little cascade down a few holes and over a few rocks. Stay center left, working to center right or the left channel.
- Rock at End (III-). Waves and a few rocks in the lead in before the river is split around a
midstream bolder. Choose to go either left or right of it, either way is fine.
Rocky Cascade (III-). A simple class II rapid…only the exit has many rocks and at low flows clean lines are nearly impossible. Try to stay upright as you will hit many rocks at the end if you are upside down.
Take out: Take 299 some75 miles East of Redding. Once you have crossed Highway 89 and crossed the Pit River, drive on another 3 miles. Right before the road starts to climb, you will see a road leading down to the Powerhouse #1 to the right. Take it and follow to the campground. There is access in the day use area of the campground.
Put in: Driving East again on 299, go to the town of Fall River Mills. Once in the town, look for the street “Mechanic,” take the next right, there should be a Napa Auto Parts right there. Follow down and at the top of the lake look for the PG&E parking lot... as of 2013 you now have to park here and paddle 1.8 miles of flat water to get to the run... sorta makes laps a bit more difficult.
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