Bear River (Feather River)

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Coordinates: 38°56′23″N 121°34′51″W / 38.93972°N 121.58083°W / 38.93972; -121.58083
Bear River
Country United States
State California
 - location Sierra Nevada
 - elevation 8,242 ft (2,512 m) [1]
 - coordinates 39°18′29″N 120°39′23″W / 39.30806°N 120.65639°W / 39.30806; -120.65639 [2]
Mouth Feather River
 - location Sacramento Valley, United States
 - elevation 23 ft (7 m) [2]
 - coordinates 38°56′23″N 121°34′51″W / 38.93972°N 121.58083°W / 38.93972; -121.58083 [2]
Length 73 mi (117 km)
Basin 295 sq mi (764 km2)
Discharge for Wheatland, CA [3]
 - average 410 cu ft/s (12 m3/s)
 - max 48,000 cu ft/s (1,359 m3/s)
 - min 0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)
Map of the Feather River watershed showing the Bear River

The Bear River is a tributary of the Feather River in the Sierra Nevada, winding through four California counties: Yuba, Sutter, Placer, and Nevada.

The river originates in Tahoe National Forest south of the South Fork Yuba River and north of the North Fork American River. It begins south and west of Lake Spaulding (Reservoir). The river travels southwest and is impounded at Rollins Reservoir, Lake Combie (Reservoir), and Camp Far West Reservoir before joining the Feather River south of Yuba City/Marysville.[4]


Gold miners using hydraulic mining to excavate an eroded bluff with jets of water at Dutch Flat, California, sometime between 1857 and 1870.

The Bear River basin is in California's Gold Country and was one of the richest areas of the 19th century California Gold Rush. Major mining sites in the Bear River basin included You Bet, Red Dog, Dutch Flat, Gold Run, Waloupa, Little York, and Chalk Bluff.[5]

Large amounts of land in the Bear River drainage were radically altered by hydraulic mining.[5] At You Bet and Red Dog 47,000,000 cubic yards (36,000,000 m3) of gold-bearing gravel was washed out; at Dutch Flat 105,000,000 cubic yards (80,000,000 m3); and at Gold Run 128,000,000 cubic yards (98,000,000 m3).[6]

Dam proposal[edit]

In July 2011, a new dam project for the Bear River was revealed to be under study by a consortium of out of area water districts. The South Sutter Water District (Trowbridge), along with the cities of Napa, American Canyon, and Palmdale, the Castaic Lake Water Agency, and the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, issued a preliminary study on siting a new dam north of the present Camp Far West Reservoir and south of Combie and Rollins reservoirs farther upstream. The dam would be in the NID (Nevada Irrigation District) water district and would flood portions of Nevada County and Placer County. The proposed Garden Bar Dam would be located in areas already set aside as conservation and wildlife areas, and the resulting lake would inundate prime wildlife habitat and oak and savannah grasslands.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

Because of concerns that the water that would fill the proposed large reservoir (245,000 to 400,000 acre feet (302,000,000 to 493,000,000 m3), according to the study, the largest option would be 3 square miles (7.8 km2)) is already allocated for existing impoundment lakes by dams on the Bear River at Camp Far West, Combie, and Rollins, the actual feasibility of the project seems speculative, and has raised doubts as to the actual purpose of the proposal.

A quote from the study says "Water Availability: The report acknowledges the existence of "numerous issues that would need to be resolved to confirm the availability of this water and the ability to convey a portion of it through the Delta, if so desired."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elevation derived from Google Earth using GNIS coordinates
  2. ^ a b c "Bear River". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2011-2-25.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ "Water resources data for the United States, Water Year 2007; gage 11424000, Bear River near Wheatland, CA". USGS. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Course info from USGS topographic maps.
  5. ^ a b History of Tahoe National Forest: 1840-1940, Chapter 3, United States Forest Service
  6. ^ McPhee, John (2010). Assembling California. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-374-70602-9. 
  7. ^ "Sierra Watch: South Sutter Water District Releases Bear River Dam Report". Yuba Net. 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  8. ^ "Controversy Mounts Around Proposed Garden Bar Dam on Bear River". Yuba Net. 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  9. ^ "Sierra Watch Comments on Bear River Dam Report". Sierra Foothills Report. 2011-07-05. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  10. ^ "Bear River, Map of proposed reservoir at Garden Bar". Sierra Watch. Retrieved 2011-08-26. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Backers Up Garden Bar Dam Ante, Raising New Concerns". Aquafornia. 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  12. ^ "Garden Bar Preliminary Study". Documents & Notices. 2011-07-05. Retrieved 2011-08-26.