River’s Rare Waves Attract White Water Kayakers, Surfers

Surf’s up, in the middle of Redding.

The Bureau of Reclamation has released 36,000 cubic feet per second of water from Shasta Dam. One result is that the water flowing over the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District (ACID) dam in Caldwell Park located in central Redding has formed a condition that white water enthusiasts refer to as a “standing and breaking” wave.

The Bureau is continuing the high-volume release of water from Shasta Lake in response to the recent series of storms. Releases from Shasta and Keswick dams ranged between 32,000 and 35,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) on Friday.

The Bureau of Reclamation is continuing the high-volume release of water from Shasta Lake in response to the recent series of storms. Releases from Shasta and Keswick dams ranged between 32,000 and 35,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) on Friday. The high flows had the Sacramento River running high through Redding and adventurous kayakers couldn't pass up the opportunity for a little whitewater action in the middle of town. Photo by Jon Lewis.

The high flows had the Sacramento River running high through Redding and adventurous kayakers couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a little white water action in the middle of town. Photo by Jon Lewis.

 

The Bureau of Reclamation is continuing the high-volume release of water from Shasta Lake in response to the recent series of storms. Releases from Shasta and Keswick dams ranged between 32,000 and 35,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) on Friday. The high flows had the Sacramento River running high through Redding and adventurous kayakers couldn't pass up the opportunity for a little whitewater action in the middle of town. Photo by Jon Lewis.

A few hearty souls also attempted to surf on the waves created as the current crested over the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District (ACID) diversion dam adjacent to the fish viewing facility in Caldwell Park. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Kayaking enthusiast Ron Rogers of Redding cautioned that kayakers must be white-water proficient and properly equipped for big water conditions.

The current white water conditions on the Sacramento River near the ACID dam are not for amateurs. Photo by Jon Lewis.

The current white water conditions on the Sacramento River near the ACID dam are not for amateurs. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Rogers also strongly encouraged kayakers to take advantage of the high flows in groups. “Don’t do this activity solo!” he added.

A lone kayaker rides the waves at the ACID dam near Caldwell Park in Redding. Photo by Jon Lewis.

A lone kayaker rides the waves at the ACID dam near Caldwell Park in Redding. Photo by Jon Lewis.

Shasta Lake had reached 83 percent of its capacity as of midnight Thursday with a whopping 3.76 million acre-feet of water held in check by the massive Shasta Dam. The level is 28 feet from the dam crest. That storage is 129 percent of the historical average for Jan. 12, according to dam operators.
The release of so much water from Shasta Dam has resulted in this "standing wave" at the ACID diversion dam located in Caldwell Park in central Redding. Photo courtesy of Drew Cole.

The release of so much water from Shasta Dam has resulted in this relatively rare phenomena in Redding’s center; a “standing and breaking wave” at the ACID diversion dam located near Caldwell Park in central Redding. Photo courtesy of Drew Cole.

Drew Coe of Redding said his goal, and that of many other expert water enthusiasts, is to keep this current wave feature open for competent paddlers.

“It’s a class 3/4 wave, so time on the water is key to success,” he said. “Solid bracing and rolling are a necessity.”

People ignorant of those terms would be advised to admire the white water action from the shore’s safety.

Coe warns people to not enter the waves along that stretch of the ACID dam unless they have fundamental whitewater skills and whitewater rescue skills. But for those who are experienced, and who do possess those skills, these white-water conditions are a rare and exciting opportunity.

The fact that this condition is within Redding city limits also sparks conversations and dreams of a “whitewater park” recreation area that would bring people like Coe and Rogers from far and wide for the chance to surf or kayak a class of big water winter waves not typically seen in this region.

“It really makes downtown Redding one of the best places in the West to be a paddler for a couple of weeks every decade,” he said. “Plus, I literally walk from my house with my boat on my shoulder.”

Kayaking enthusiast Rogers recommends that everyone who intends to enter that stretch of water should first call and inform the Shasta County Sheriff’s dispatch at 530-245-6540.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service is forecasting pleasant weather through the weekend but another “atmospheric river” is expected to slam into the West Coast Tuesday night and into Wednesday, with rain continuing through the following Monday.

Video by Jon Lewis.

Doni Chamberlain contributed to this story.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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5 Responses

  1. A. Jacoby says:

    BRRRRRRRR . . . and SCARY . . .. . !!

  2. K. Beck says:

    …just as long as those folks who do not have the skills to do these things, and do them anyway, need to be rescued pay for the rescue out of their own pockets!

  3. R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

    LOL, we were crossing the bridge and saw the kayakers doing their thing. Hardcore!

  4. Kristen Matthews says:

    **Drew Coe** (not Cole) ?

  5. Sally says:

    I have lived here a LOOOOOONG time and have never seen scenes like this!  As always, thanks Jon!