Foothills Water Network

The Bear River Watershed: Basic Orientation

The Bear River rises on the west side of the Sierra Nevada just below Lake Spaulding at the 5,500 foot elevation.  From there it flows southwest some 65 miles to its confluence with the Feather River at mile 12 of the Feather, draining portions of Nevada, Placer, Sutter and Yuba counties.

The 292 square mile Bear River watershed includes over 990 miles of streams, creeks, and rivers, and reaches 20 miles across at its greatest width.  It can be divided into at least three major segments: 

  • The upper Bear, including approximately eight miles of relatively undeveloped river from its spring-fed headwaters above Bear Valley to the Drum afterbay at approximately 3300 feet elevation. 
  • The middle Bear, stretching from the Drum afterbay to Rollins Reservoir about 15 miles downstream at 2100 foot elevation; then another 10 miles to Lake Combie at 1600 foot elevation; then another 17 miles to New Camp Far West Reservoir at the 300 foot elevation. 
  • The lower Bear, running from New Camp Far West Reservoir 16 miles to its confluence with the Feather River at 23 foot elevation. 

The main tributaries of the Bear River include Steephollow and Greenhorn creeks above Rollins Reservoir; and Wolf and Little Wolf creeks between Lake Combie and Camp Far West Reservoir.  Rock Creek drains into Camp Far West Reservoir.  Dry Creek runs through the Spenceville Wildlife Area and into the Bear River below Wheatland.  Yankee Slough, from the south, and Best Slough, from the north, enter the Bear just below the confluence with Dry Creek.

An excellent GIS-based overview of the Bear River watershed is contained in the Bear River Watershed Disturbance Inventory.  For additional information, see bear ecology and bear river summary on the accompanying project CD. 


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