Saturday, September 6, 2014

Feather Falls Scenic Area, northeast of the Lake Oroville reservoir in California

Spraying water of the Feather Falls with a rainbow segment

Exposed Bald Rock Pluton: Bald Rock Dome, Sierra Nevada
Bald Rock Dome
The Feather Falls Scenic Area of the Plumas National Forest is named after its landmark water fall site: the Feather Falls on Fall River plunging over 200 meters into a steep canyon. Feather Falls is the fourth highest waterfall in California. The current drought of the western United States is leaving its mark on Californian reservoirs, such as Lake Oroville southwest of the Scenic Area. The reservoir, located in the Sierra foothills downstream from the junction of the major tributaries of the Feather River, is showing a very low water level this year. But the Feather Falls keep plunging—until now.

Fall River, Feather Falls Scenic Area, California
Fall River flowing near Feather Fall's edge
The wild and scenic rivers within the boundaries of the preserve of the Feather Falls Scenic Area include the Fall River and a section of the Middle Fork Feather River, separated from each other by the Watson Ridge and converging at the upper end of Lake Oroville. On its way through a canyon, the Middle Fork Feather River flows to a point where it drops like a veil. That broad waterfall is called Curtain Falls. It is located east of Bald Rock Dome, which can be “visited” via the Dome Trail and seen from certain locations along the Feather Falls Loop Trail. At the Feather Falls Trailhead, you will find the following Scenic Area summary:

The 15,000-acre Feather Falls Scenic Area was established in 1965 to “preserve its unique beauty for public enjoyment and inspiration.” The Scenic Area is a part of the canyon of the Middle Fork Feather River, and three of its tributaries Fall River, Little North Fork, and South Branch. Outstanding features within the Scenic Area include spectacular granite domes and picturesque waterfalls along the Middle Fork Feather River, and Fall River.

The history of the Feather Falls area goes back 140 million years, geologically speaking. Around that time, the two-mile-wide Bald Rock Pluton was formed deep in the Earth's crust and became composed of both resistant and softer, more erodible parts. Millions of years later the pluton surfaced with the rise of the Sierra Nevada. Thereafter, millions of years of weathering removed soft parts and exposed granite portions of the old pluton. Some of those gray exposures, like Bald Rock Dome, took the shape of a polished head or crest. Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park were similarly formed via pluton uplift and subsequent erosion.    

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