American Whitewater 2021 CA Recreational Releases

Hi All,

That time of year again when I start up the rec flow boof thread! I’ll start with some opportunities on NF Feather and PIT 4&5. As always check back throughout the year for other release schedules - I’ll post them as I get them!

Freshet flows AKA pulse flows are typical requirements of a hydropower license to maintain the river channel. These flows mimic the magnitude and timing of runoff associated with rain and snowmelt events that occur within a natural hydrograph. They maintain the river channel, transport sediment, build and maintain meadow systems through flooding and deposition of fine materials and they can trigger biological processes. But for our purposes they can also provide opportunities to boat!!! Here are some opportunities on NF Feather and Pit 5 when PG&E releases required pulse flows!


Rock Creek Dam:

On 2/28 at approximately 1:00 am. Start of 1000 CFS pulse flow.

On 2/28 at approximately 1:00 pm. End of 12 hour 1000 CFS pulse flow.

Cresta Dam:

On 2/28 at approximately 6:00 am. Start of 1000 CFS pulse flow.

On 2/28 at approximately 6:00 pm. End of 12 hour 1000 CFS pulse flow


March 5, 2021- begin ramping up to 1500 CFS

March 6- March 7- Maintain peak flow of 1500 CFS

March 8- March 12- begin ramping down, flows will decrease to ≈ 1348 CFS

March 12- March 17- next ramp down, flows will decrease to ≈ 1132

March 17- March 22- next ramp down, flows will decrease to ≈ 920 CFS

March 22- March 26- next ramp down, flows will decrease to ≈ 708 CFS.

One final note – the savvy opportunistic boaters may have noticed the gauge for PIT 4 which has been running at a flow of 2000+ cfs for the past month – PG&E reports the dual outage of their powerhouses should keep the flows boatable until 4/15/2021.

NF Feather below Cresta - APRIL 2021 Releases

Throughout the pandemic American Whitewater, managing agencies and Pacific Gas & Electric have been following a collaborative COVID protocol for scheduled recreational releases taking the lead from the local counties. We are happy to report Plumas County supports moving forward with planned boating flows for the NF Feather below Cresta provided paddlers continue to follow COVID guidelines. Paddlers can expect recreational releases of 750 cfs for the NF Feather below Cresta on April 10th and 11th.

Please take the time to review the following COVID Guidance provided by PG&E and Plumas County - happy paddling!

COVID Guidance:

Horseshoe Bend - San Joaquin River

Paddlers get your boating gear together for annual recreational flow releases on the Horseshoe Bend reach of the San Joaquin River. After nearly two decades of direct advocacy and engagement, American Whitewater is pleased to announce the fruits of our labor. In March 2021 Southern California Edison (SCE) announced they finally secured approval of Long Term Operating Rules for operation of the Big Creek 4 Hydroelectric Project on the San Joaquin River. These rules outline long awaited flow improvements that will begin this Spring. In a win for American Whitewater, managing agencies, and the North Fork Mono Tribe, SCE will now provide flow releases that restore more natural flow patterns that are both optimal for recreational paddling and protective of native aquatic species.

This year recreational flows will be provided the weekend of June 5th & 6th. Flows will range between 2500 cfs to 2000 cfs on Saturday and between 2000 cfs and 1600 cfs on Sunday.

Mokelumne - Tiger Creek & Electra 2021 Releases

Annually, in accordance with the negotiated 2001 License Order and Settlement Agreement for the Mokelumne River Hydropower Project, American Whitewater coordinates recreational releases with Pacific Gas & Electric, the Ecological Resource Committee including the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. These annual releases are determined by the water year type which is predicated on the forecasted inflow into the downstream Pardee Reservoir. This year’s water year type is Critically Dry which allows for recreational flows on Tiger Creek and Electra in May & June.

Scheduled recreational releases for 2021 are as follows:

Tiger Creek 700 cfs 10 am - 2 pm

May 14( Fri),15 (Sat),22 (Sat),23 (Sun),29 (Sat), & 30 (Sun)

June 5 (Sat),12 (Sat),19 (Sat), & 26 (Sat)

One caveat to remember is PG&E is still working on repairing the washed-out road from the take-out to the put-in along Tiger Creek. The good news is that PG&E has started on these repairs. The bad news is, unfortunately, this work will not be completed until July 2021. Paddlers will need to plan accordingly and use Highway 88 to Tiger Creek Road then drive down past the Tiger Creek afterbay to reach the put-in by vehicle.

Electra 700 cfs 10 am - 4 pm

May 29 (Sat), 30 (Sun)

June 5 (Sat), 12 (Sat)

Chili Bar Release Schedule Update

Heads up - the May bulletin 120 report from the CA Dept of Water Resources which forecasts the amount of water in the American River below Folsom Reservoir has determined the final water year to be Critically Dry. Pairing that with the Dry year from 2020 flows below Chili Bar will change to the Super Dry Schedule. So beginning this Friday we go back to flows only on Sat Sun and Mon until Memorial Day when it will change to Sat Sun Mon Thurs & Fri.

Super Dry Year is defined in the Chili Bar Hydropower License as “any CD year that is immediately preceded by a Dry or CD year or any Dry
year that is immediately preceded by any combination of two Dry or CD


Mokelumne River (CA) Tiger Creek Release Dates Changed

Annually, American Whitewater goes through the process of helping to coordinate release dates on the Mokelumne River with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the Ecological Resource Committee including the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. This year is shaping up to be a drought year in California and collaboratively we must adapt to changing situations on the ground. Therefore, we are posting changes to the release days on Tiger Creek. PG&E has canceled the release dates of Saturday June 19th and Saturday June 26th. These releases are now rescheduled for Wednesday June 2nd and (tentatively) Wednesday June 9th.

In a nutshell, during the month of June in Critically Dry Water Years, PG&E is operationally unable to provide enough water for two consecutive days of recreational flows on Tiger Creek without violating conditions of their hydropower license. (i.e. providing the required duration of ramp up and ramp down flows). PG&E is highly dependent on accretion from side tributaries for Tiger Creek recreational releases. Currently, there is little to no flow contributions coming from the side tributaries to the NF Mokelumne. Without this accretion PG&E is forced to either apply for flow variances with managing agency consent and approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) or simply stagger the days of recreational releases. This year, PG&E chose the latter.

Staggering the release day leaves a choice of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, since Saturday releases are already scheduled for the first two weeks in June. American Whitewater suggested providing recreational releases mid-week on Wednesdays. It is our hope that paddlers who work on the weekends and specifically those who work for commercial outfitters can find the time to enjoy the releases on Tiger Creek. So correct your calendars and enjoy the flows!

Fordyce Creek


Pacific Gas and Electric reached out to American Whitewater with an opportunity for boating flows on Fordyce Creek. We took the chance to respond to PG&E and communicate preferred paddling flows. Thus, in good faith, PG&E is planning to open the outlet at Fordyce on Wednesday June 2. There is a good chance by the weekend (Saturday June 4) flows will be approximately 400 cfs and will persist in this range for at least the first few days. Flows will then drop from there and should stay in the range of 350 cfs until June 13…

A quick check with the PG&E operator at Fordyce has confirmed that the Spaulding day use area and campground will open. Local paddler, Trevor Tanoff, was kind enough to get out on the ground to survey conditions. He provides beta and pictures FYI.

“The lake is about 2/3 to 3/4 full so first couple of days of the release should provide for decent head pressure on the valve. The road is really rough from the pass down, roughly 6 miles up the dirt road. High clearance, 4x4 only as its still rally wet and muddy to. There was already a lot of PG& E related traffic as I passed 4 big trucks going up there this evening.”

American Whitewater appreciates the information that PG&E is willing to share regarding opportunities on Fordyce Creek. We will stay in contact and report out any changes or beta that comes our way. Make your #paddlewise plans and enjoy!

Hi Theresa,

Thank you for posting the release info here.

I was wondering if you have any word on the North Fork Feather releases for this summer, 2021.
They’re not on the American Whitewater release calendar and I was wondering if they got canceled.



Yo Garrett! Looks like the 4th weekend of July just made it onto the AW Calendar. My understanding is that the 4th weekends of August and September will also have water.
Stoked to see you up there!!

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Today’s Ecological Resource Committee (ERC) meeting for Rock Creek/Cresta with Pacfic Gas & Electric, including USFS and Plumas County highlighted the impacts of the Dixie Fire and the challenges we face for the North Fork Feather watershed. As we have all suspected there will be no recreational flows for Rock Creek this weekend July 24 and 25. Currently in place are County evacuation orders, Highway 70 is closed, and Plumas National Forest has issued a closure order.

All our remaining recreational flows for NF Feather are fluid and may change given the combined efforts to keep everyone safe and the ever-increasing pressure of keeping California’s power grid flexible. During our next ERC meeting in August, American Whitewater will discuss opportunities to reschedule Rock Creek recreational flows and we will keep you informed.


American Whitewater in consultation with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and managing agencies has confirmed recreational releases for 2021 on the Pit watershed.

PG&E has made a schedule change to required recreational releases on Pit 5 for 2021. This is due to resource adequacy requirements from the California Independent System Operator which maintains reliability for the State’s power grid. Scheduled whitewater releases for Pit 5 are still confirmed for August 7th & 8th at 1500 cfs from 10 am to 4 pm. However, the scheduled flows for September have been moved to the weekend of October 30th & 31st. These flows will be at 1200 cfs from 10 am to 4pm.

Upstream on Pit 1, as a direct result of our discussions last fall regarding hydropower license requirements to consult on recreational flow dates and opportunities for boating flows, PG&E is now supplying forecasts for Pit 1 Fall River Mills. They have confirmed the following dates for scheduled releases October 2nd & 3rd and October 16th & 17th. Additionally, scheduled dual powerhouse maintenance occurring October through December will provide boating opportunities at 590 cfs or greater. PG&E caveats that this forecast is subject to change due to actual weather, runoff, and operating conditions so keep your eye on the gauges:

Flow Data from CDEC

  • Station PP1 – Flows below Pit 1 PH

  • Station P55 – Releases from Pit 1 PH

  • To calculate flows for Pit 1 Fall River Mills - PP1 minus P55