2023 Recreational Releases Confirmed for Slab Creek and Ice House (CA)
By Theresa Lorejo-Simsiman
Recently, American Whitewater participated in the 2023 hydropower license compliance meeting with Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) to coordinate recreational releases for the South Fork American River below Slab Creek Dam and South Fork Silver Creek below Ice House Dam. The scheduled whitewater flow dates and key information are provided below!
South Fork American River below Slab Creek Dam
Scheduled flows for Slab Creek will be on the weekend days of March 18, 19, 25, 26 and April 1 & 2 from 10 am to 4 pm. For each release U.S. Forest Service will manage the parking and access activities at the put-in below Slab Creek Dam while the Bureau of Land Management will manage the parking and access at the Rock Creek Powerhouse take-out. There will also be limited access at Mosquito Road Bridge where we urge the boating community to avoid blocking through traffic on the road with vehicles our activities.
2023 will mark the first time SMUD will utilize the South Fork Powerhouse and Boating Flow Valve to provide scheduled recreational releases on Slab Creek. This new Boating Flow Valve gives SMUD finer control of releases which will accommodate split flow levels during the release days. For instance, advanced paddlers looking for the gnar of the higher flow range will have their chance from 10 am to 1 pm when flows will range from 1400 cfs to 1500 cfs. Likewise, less experienced boaters can dip their paddle into the lower flows from 1:30 pm to 4 pm when flows will range from 850 cfs to 950 cfs. SMUD will target the lower flow ranges of 1400 cfs & 850 cfs on Saturdays and the higher flow ranges of 1500 cfs & 950 cfs on Sundays. See American Whitewater’s release calendar for details.
South Fork Silver Creek below Ice House
Dates for Ice House will vary depending on the final water year type as determined by the California Department of Water Resources May issue of the Bulletin 120 “Report of Water Conditions in California”. If the water year type is reported to be Wet the release schedule will be May 27, June 3, 4, 10 & 11 at 500 cfs. Additionally, June 17, 18, 24 & 25 at 400 cfs. If the water year type isAbove Normal the release days will be June 10, 11, 17, & 18 at 500 cfs and June 24, & 25 at 400 cfs. All Ice House flows will be provided from 10 am to 3 pm. We will post the final dates on the American Whitewater calendar when the water year type is confirmed.
Be aware that large woody debris from the 1992 Cleveland wildfire still pose hazards on the Ice House reach. Fellow boater, Jeff Wasielewski, compiled a report of log hazards (download here) during the last recreational release on May 2022. Gauge records after this release indicate that flows in this reach never exceeded 50 cfs meaning most of the identified logs will likely still be in play for this year’s release. SMUD and the USFS will continue to work with American Whitewater to address log hazards that can be removed or relocated safely.
Mark your calendars, spread the word, and enjoy!
Overall, it is important for paddlers to utilize these recreational dates especially on Icehouse where use counts need to hit an average of 68 boaters over a 5-year period to trigger more flow days. For both reaches SMUD will be monitoring and surveying paddlers to glean information on the quality of the run, put-in, take-out and if there are any hazards. They will also select paddlers to do a post paddling survey over the phone so don’t be shy if you are approached at the put-in or take-out.
Slab Creek photo provided by Trevor Croft – Rafting Magazine