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This article treats the river in California. For other uses see Feather River

The Feather River is a principal tributary of the Sacramento River, in length, in Northern California in the United Statesmarker. It drains part of the northern Sierra Nevada the extreme southern Cascades, and a small portion of the middle of the Sacramento Valley. The river has a rich history of gold mining in the 19th century. It provides water to central and southern California, being the main source of water for the California State Water Project.


The river rises in three separate forks in the Sierra Nevada which unite as arms of the Lake Orovillemarker reservoir in the foothills 5 mi (8 km) northeast of Orovillemarker in eastern Butte Countymarker. The combined stream flows generally south across the Sacramento Valley, east of the Sutter Buttesmarker, past Orovillemarker and Yuba Citymarker-Marysvillemarker and discharges to the Sacramento River from the north approximately 20 mi (30 km) NNW of Sacramento.

It receives the Yuba River from the east at Yuba City and the Bear River from the east 15 mi (25 km) south of Yuba City.

North Fork

The North Fork rises in Cold Boiling Lake and Rice Creek in Lassen Volcanic National Parkmarker, and Buzzard Springs to the south of the Park. It flows southeast through the Lake Almanormarker reservoir, then southwest through the Sierra Nevada, receiving the East Branch North Fork from the east near Beldenmarker. It flows southeast into Butte County, becoming the northern arm of Lake Orovillemarker.

East Branch North Fork

The East Branch North Fork has it headwaters in eastern Plumas County, south of Honey Lake, as Last Chance Creek. The creek flows westward through the Plumas National Forestmarker, through Indian Valley, becoming Indian Creek and the East Branch North Fork. It flows east past Twainmarker and joins the North Fork near Belden.

Middle Fork

The Middle Fork rises in southeastern Plumas County in the Sierra Valley southeast of Beckwourthmarker, combining the short North Branch and the Sierra an inverted delta. It flows generally northwest through the Sierra Nevada, past Blairsdenmarker, then WSW through the Plumas National Forest to become the middle arm of Lake Oroville. Before construction of the Oroville Dam, it joined the South Fork approximately 1 mi (2 km) from the confluence of the North and South forks.
Feather River Crossing at Milsap Bar, Butte County

South Fork

The South Fork rises in the mountains along the Plumas-Sierra county line and flows west southwest, becoming the south arm of Lake Orovillemarker. It formerly received the Middle Fork approximately 1 mile (2 km) upstream from its confluence with the North Fork.

The Feather River Route

The Western Pacific Railroad operated a railroad through the Feather River canyon. This route was selected because it leads to a low pass over the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Western Pacific California Zephyr trains used this route and had a feather in their logo to represent the river.


The riparian area of the Feather River supports a rich biodiversity of native flora and fauna. The Sierra Nevada reaches have considerable wild river features and steep gradients. In lower reaches, after joining of the forks, there is also significant habitat; near Yuba Citymarker, for example, there are extents of the river with numerous valley oak trees with understory of wild grape.


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