Middle Fork Feather
Nelson Point to Milsap Bar Road
Length: 33 miles/ 2 to 4 days
Class: V (2+ portages)
Gradient: 70 ft/mile
As one of the original eight National Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Middle Fork Feather is must do for any class V paddler. If you are bucket listing California Whitewater’s top Class V runs (Cherry Creek, Forks of the Kern, Upper Kings, South Fork Trinity, Burnt Ranch, and the Middle Fork Feather), the Middle Feather is by far the most challenging. The rapids are on the level of Cherry Creek but over 3 days and there is a stout portage. By the end of each day running class V rapids almost feels like a chore.
Around 2009 Sierra Mac had permission for the Plumas National Forest to run commercial raft trips on the river for a summer. The next year the Forest did not renew their special use permit. There have been other groups that have tried to run illegal commercial raft trips on the river. Rumor is one group paid a helicopter to come in and fly out most of the group because they had swum so many times and did not want to continue.
Above 2000 cfs the river gets much more pushy particularly in some of the narrow walled canyons. There have been trips were the water has come up and groups have had to wait it out or hike out. There have also been many trips that took extra days even when the water was ideal. Get on he water early and go with someone who knows the run well to save time scouting. Expect to still scout numerous times each day if you are rafting.While everyone talks about the challenge of portaging Granite Dome Falls. There are other rapids portaged routinely on this run.
Middle Fork Feather Rafting and Kayaking Highlights:
Put-in at Redbridge Campground just off Quincy La Porte Road. People have camped here the night before their trips. Paddlers have also met some interesting folks while camping at Redbridge.
Mile 0: Nelson Point Put-in
The first few miles below put-in are class 3.
Mile 2: The Seive (IV)
In this section there is a rapid with a class 2 run-in that all of a sudden comes around a bend into a fairly significant drop on the left side of the canyon. After that is a seivey drop between two rocks that can have wood in it. In another mile or so is The Big One (Chunky Monkey) an easy class V rapid. There is a boulder garden entrance leading to the drop.
Mile 4-14: Manky First Canyon
Some fun paddling for those that like slamming around in rocks. A couple miles below Chunky Monkey is a nice boof that can lead straight into a rock. Many more manky drops including one that rafts may have to drag their boats through. Then some nice flat water where it is easy to make some miles down to the bridge.
Mile 14.5: Footbridge
This marks the beginning of Franklin Canyon. The rapids are much cleaner from here down.
Mile 15: Franklin Falls
Franklin Falls is a 10 to15 foot drop (on the left) or steep slide (on the right). Just upstream is a challenging Class IV lead-in. Nice scout/portage/lining route on the left.
Mile 15: Potential Portage (IV-V+)
Most of the river goes left of a huge flat rock. If the water is high enough there is a cheat route to the right of the rock. The left chute goes into a meaty hole. Below here is fun class IV+ for a couple of miles before picking up to some hard class V in the Heart of Franklin Canyon.
Mile 19: What Dream Are Made Of (V)
A cascading creek comes in on river right as the river bends to the left and then back to the right. This is a fun read and run class V rapid that ends in a picturesque gorge.
Mile 22: Hartman’s Bar
Hartman’s Bar is where the old Pacific Trail footbridge crosses the river. This is a popular camp. Below the bridge are some fun rapids and then one where the drop takes you straight into a rock that’s difficult to miss.
Mile 24: Landslide Rapid (V)
This is a fun rapid with a fun drop at the bottom like Lewis’s Leap on Cherry Creek except immediately after the drop paddlers need to turn and work right to head downstream. Below Landslide is a a junky rapid called Island Drop (IV+). Below here is a spicy double drop rapid and then an easy rapid with a huge terrifying boil that could take a casual boater back into a huge hole that would be difficult to access.
Mile 28: Portage above the Portage (V+)
Some more fun easy class V and then a tall ribbon waterfall comes in on river left. Below here is Portage above the Portage. Scout on river left. After a pool is Granite Dome Falls (VI)
Mile 28.3: Granite Dome Falls (VI)
There is a line and there is a trail on river right. People have lined rafts here but it isn’t easier than carrying. Lots of Poison Oak on the trail.
Mile 29: Helicopter Rapid (V)
Below Granite Dome Falls is a little class IV warm-up before arriving at Helicopter Rapid. It is called an unportageable rapid. The rapid is intimidating but doable even at higher flows. Running the rapid is also by far your best option. Below Helicopter is another fun class IV drop before Grand Finale (V)
Mile 30: Grand Finale (V)
The last class V rapid of the trip and it’s legit. Scout on the right. Below here is “easy” class IV to take-out.
Mile 33: Take-Out Milsap Road Bridge
A short carry on river right leads up to the bridge. Hope that the road is open so your vehicle can make down to take out.