Pitt River (Reach 4)
|Stretch:||Pitt 4 Dam to Pitt 4 Powerhouse|
|Difficulty:||Class IV- to IV|
|Gradient:||39.2 fpm (61 fpm for the last 3 miles)|
|Put-in:||Pitt 4 Dam|
|Take-out:||Pitt 4 Powerhouse|
|Shuttle:||8 miles (15 minutes)|
|Season:||Very rare from PG&E release|
After a cold night (~25 degrees) with a sleeping bag that is only good down to 40 Degrees, we woke up to frozen gear, boats, and bones. After a quick cup of coffee we headed up river from our Pitt 5 Powerhouse campsite (not actually allowed). On the way to take-out there was an unfortunate incident involving a boat falling off of the car and taking out Orion's side mirror, but on the bright side it allowed some passing boaters who boated the Pitt 4 stretch the day before to give us some beta… solid class IV with a class V in there. Skeptical, I began never the less to get nervous about my choice to take the playboat (which I am ~20 lbs too heavy for).
Arriving at take out the sun was shinning and the temperature had warmed up to about 35 degrees with a 10 degree wind chill to factor in… great boating weather. So after being again dismayed that there were no other boaters, we began heading up the road to put in. Around the first corner we finally found more boaters, letting us again believe there were kayakers in the world who would not let a once-every-10-year release go to waste. So after merging our two small groups, we headed up river. After an hour delay to gear left at take out, I realized I had left most of my under layers at take out… too late now, so we headed off with the prospects of becoming very cold looking bright.
Once on the water, we found the first several miles to be class II+ but having several nice splats, cartwheel holes, and waves to downriver on. Soon we began to doubt that the water would be class IV as it had been described by the 1974 guidebook. Sure enough, after 3 or 4 miles, the gradient noticeably gets steeper and several long class II+ to III- rapids occur. Not long after that, the fun begins and class III+ to IV- rapids start, followed by a stout class IV (maybe class IV+), and again followed by fun water to take out. The run went by surprisingly quick, for 7.5 miles it only took some 2 hours, and that was with playing, talking and floating.
I would love to do this run again, and for sure I would again take my playboat. There were countless waves to wave wheel off of, along with a nice eddy-serviced hole to boot. Only the hardest rapid was anything to worry about and all the rapids were clear of wood. Great times were had by all, until we were finished and began our 4 hour drive home…
Mi 3 or 4:
- Right Bend (IV-). The river bends right and drops into the first serious rapid. We ran along the right shore which looked to have more water. There were a few larger holes to negotiate. The left side of the river got really shallow and junky, right was the correct choice.
Some Boogie class III/III+.
- Harder One (IV to IV+). You can tell you are at the hardest rapid as it is totally blind from the top. Large rocks block the river. The right shore offers a good glimpse downstream, this would also be the side to scout on. We all entered different ways, but ended up in the middle half way down running straight down the center for the remainder. The only play you didn't want to be is on the right in the middle as there were several very large pour overs.
More class III/III+ boogie.
- Rocky (IV to IV+). I am sure there were easier lines down this one, however we were all just floating, then noticed a large rapid approaching and no eddies to catch to look down from. We ran down the middle which involved running a small crack with a rock to one side and a rock backing the hole. With our line this rapid was probably the most difficult on the run. I saw an easier line on the right side and someone else said they saw an easier line on the far left side.
When you see the powerhouse approaching, the river splits around some brush. Apparently the right side goes into a river wide strainer, so go left… this beta was passed down to us so I am just going to trust it.
Take out: There are two ways to get to take-out. I think the quicker is: To get to take-out, take Big Bend Rd off of Highway 299 (about 4 miles after the town of Montgomery Creek) and head north. Follow for 15 miles or so to the town of Big Bend, before you get the bridge take a right on Hagen Flat Rd and continue up the occasionally paved road. After 3 or 4 miles you will cross the dam for Pitt 5, continue up the road to the right for another half mile, park on the other side of the Powerhouse.
Put-in: Continue driving up the dirt road, up the river. Drive for 7 or 8 miles. You will see the Pitt 4 Dam, this also means you have gone about 100 yards too far. Just back a little ways is a road that leads steeply down to the water, it is 4-wheel drive with sharp rocks. We parked at the top in the turn out and walked the 200 yards to the water. There was also access about 1 mile down via some turn outs. Also, I would really enjoy finding an access about 3 miles down to skip the top half, but I didn't have time to look, let me know if you find one though… it would make the run a bit better to not have to paddle the top part every time.
Alternate route: You can also come in from the other direction, if you are going to do Pitt 3 one day, or if you live on the eastern side of 299, this would be the better bet. I estimated it took us 30 minutes longer to get home though driving out this way then it took us to get in. So anyways, continue on 299 out of Redding until you get to Highway89. Head North for about 4 miles until you get to Clark Creek Road. This drive is very pleasant, completely forested and paved. After 4 or 5 miles you will cross the dam. Continue until you get to the 3 way intersection. Head sharp left (uphill and back). This road turns to dirt and after 8 or 9 miles will lead you to the Pitt 4 dam. You can continue down this road to get to the Pitt 5 reach as well as it is the same road connecting all the runs.
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