The Big Picture Vision:

What is truly wonderful is that the Bear River is changing from top to bottom, from Bear Valley and the Headwaters to the Confluence with the Feather River. The Bear has historically been the most traveled, utilized and industrialized river in the Sierra Nevada. Today, one little section at a time, the Bear is being transformed yet again. The arc of history is bending toward preservation and restoration of the whole Bear River Watershed. This is one of the most hopeful stories of our time. Take a look for yourself, as BearPARC surveys the watershed to further these opportunities to assure the Bear is awakening and becoming one of the great rivers in the Sierra Nevada range.

Bear River Watershed Priority Map

River Fire and Bear River Park

(formerly Bear River Campground and now signage reading Bear River Fishing Access)

Priority 1, timeline: NOW until January 2025

The River Fire changed everything at our Bear River Campground and Park. Placer County was just months away from renewing its long term lease from CA Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW). Fearing liability resulting from the fire and with a new understanding of wildfire risk in this area, Placer County closed the campground permanently, and entered into a two year temporary lease agreement to operate the facility with day use access only. That two year lease expires January 2025. 

Access to Bear River is an integral part of our foothill community, and we have enjoyed this Bear River Park for over half a century since its inception in 1966. Placer County must renew this lease with DFW and continue to operate this day use access to the Bear River. 

This is BearPARC’s highest priority campaign right now. Letters, petitions, and public input to Placer County Parks and Placer County Board of Supervisors are all important action steps for everyone who loves this river and have made Bear River part of our lives and our community.

See Action Steps, and get involved. 

Priority 2: Re-purpose lands NID purchased for Centennial Dam.

This issue is profiled above.

Upper Watershed: Bear Valley to Rollins Reservoir

Bear Valley. Timeline 2-10 years.

PG&E has retained ownership of this crown jewel of the headlands. Bear Valley has huge potential for restoration. It has Native American sites, water resource potential, already is a hiking/cross country skiing site, and will be a valued wildland when restored. PG&E is currently divesting its hydro resources to a subsidiary company, sparking a lawsuit from Placer County Water Agency.  Ultimately, divestment to public ownership is anticipated, and may occur within a few years. While PG&E has entered into a conservation easement with Bear Yuba Land Trust, the easement does not require meadow restoration and full watershed function. If the PG&E assets are sold to public ownership like PCWA, a much greater level of restoration will be achieved. Stay tuned, as this is a prime California water politics story that has a huge impact on local ecological resource management.

Bear Valley to Drum Powerhouse. Timeline: 2-10 years.

PG&E divested most of its lands though the Pacific Forest & Watershed Lands Stewardship Council to CalFire, but again in this segment of Bear River watershed PG&E retained most of its lands. These will also be subject to transfer if the Drum Spaulding system is divested by PG&E. A watershed wide forest plan will be developed by Placer County. Additional private parcels need to be acquired through Placer Legacy to link all these public lands in a contiguous habitat preservation area. The old abandoned Boardman Canal and the old Towle logging railroad beds have high potential for hiking and biking trails. 

Drum to Rollins. Timeline: 2-10 years.

This segment is similar as above from Drum to Bear Valley. Public access needs to be enhanced on the existing PG&E utility road. Two of the currently closed public access points to the river need to be re-opened. Trails need to be connected. This area is used for fishing, biking, hunting, shooting, and scenic drives. Drum Afterbay was a popular fishing and picnicking spot, but was recently gated off by PG&E. There are historic mining sites, river crossings, and access to the Steep Hollow watershed. This is addressed by a BearPARC proposal for a watershed trail from headland to confluence with the Feather River. 

Rollins Reservoir. Timeline: 2 years

ARWI proposed a trail around the reservoir in the 2013 FERC relicensing process. Though not yet released, it appears this trail will be mandated for NID.
This development needs oversight and watchdogging from BearPARC. 

Mid and Lower Watershed:  Combie Reservoir to Feather River

Combie Reservoir: Timeline: ?

This NID reservoir was built by public funds, yet has extremely limited public access. NID made an agreement with a private homeowners association to limit access. This public facility needs to have public recreational access for boating as well as a link in the watershed trail for hiking and continuous connection of river access. Combie Road on the Placer County side used to connect with Rutherford Road on the Nevada County side, but these access points to the river were closed giving the Teichert quarry exclusive access to the river. This fully industrialized access to the river needs to be re-designed to accommodate our modern community’s need to be redesigned for open space and river/reservoir access. 

Rt 49 to Camp Far West Reservoir

Placer County Conservation Plan was developed over twenty years with a full habitat conservation plan. All the lands along the Bear River are zoned and slated for acquisition, restoration, preservation and recreational public access. This is a superb program by Placer county, which was negotiated over decades through a consensus process. This needs to be a model for rest of the Bear River. Bear Yuba Land Trust is also making great strides with acquisitions and conservation easements on the Nevada County side of the river

Camp Far West to Feather River Levee setback and Park

The lower river through the valley is a generational project. Flows and temperature could be modified for salmonids, which already use the Dry Creek tributary to the Valley Bear River for spawning. Fish passage might be possible at Camp Far West. Historic records show salmon running as high as Meadow Vista in the mid-Bear River. The existing agricultural use is relatively low value and is subject to flooding. With additional levee setbacks, the lower Bear could be similar to its neighbor to the south, the American River Parkway. This generational project is cause for dreaming and thinking big picture. TBD

In a generation, the whole Bear River will be a regional watershed green space and will reflect the shift of values that is taking place throughout the Sierra foothills and in the minds and hearts of those of use who live here. Stay tuned, and become part of the Bear River Preservation and Restoration Collaborative: