U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Plumas National Forest


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Forest Information

The Plumas National Forest is located in northeastern California and is comprised of 1,171,183 acres. There are 48 developed campgrounds of which 31 meet the selection criteria.

The story goes, long ago, a French explorer found a beautiful river in the Sierra Nevada mountains sprinkled with feathers and named that clear, fast flowing body of water "Plumas" (French for feather). Years past and gold was discovered in the area. People, looking for riches and a better life, came and changed the river's name to "Feather." Although many admired the area's beauty, few found riches and did not stay to make their home in this land of towering mountains, wide meadows, and thick forests.

In March 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Plumas National Forest roughly along the Feather River and its branches. Today, the sparsely populated Plumas National Forest, with more than 1,000 miles of rivers and streams, 100 sparkling lakes, and five large reservoirs, offers a wide variety of recreation opportunities and camping locations. Everything from a quiet canoe trip to the thrill of wind surfing, solitude of a challenging hike in the high-country to the comradery of a campfire, or landing a magnificent Rainbow trout to capturing a perfect photography, all can be found here, with a pleasant developed campground nearby.

The Middle Fork of the Feather River flows through the middle of Plumas National Forest. One of the first rivers in the nation designated wild and scenic, Middle Fork of Feather River is divided into five "river zones". Ranging from "wild" canyons that are rugged and difficult to access with precipitous cliffs, waterfalls, and a waterway dotted with huge boulders to "recreational" zones with several communities and a few developed campgrounds nearby. The Milsap campground (considered undeveloped and not included in this campground review) offers a rustic camping experiences in the River's "scenic" zone, where the area is a little bit "recreational" and a whole lot of "wild". (Note: Access to Milsap campground is beautiful but a true "white-knuckle" experience - definitely not a road for any type of recreational vehicles.)

Tucked away beside the North Fork of the Feather River are three sweet little campgrounds. Gansner Bar, meandering across a grassy flat meadow lined with oak, cedar, pine trees and hedges of berry bushes, offers the most recreation vehicle (RV) or motorhome-friendly camping in this cluster. A bit further up the valley are North Fork and Queen Lily campgrounds, featuring some excellent tent sites along the river's edge among trees. Still farther up the valley, on Caribou Rd, is Butt Valley Reservoir, which is probably the least discovered of all the Forest's reservoirs and great for car and tent camping enthusiasts.

One of the Forest's most popular lakes, with private homes dotting the access route, must be Lake Davis. Just north of the quaint town of Portola, this 4,026-acre lake offers a wide range of water sports and some good trout fishing. Along Lake Davis's eastern shore are three pleasant campgrounds - Lightning Tree campground, the northern most, has intentionally retained its rustic nature, offering an alternative to the more developed Grizzly and Grasshopper Flat campgrounds. These campgrounds feature flush toilets, hot showers, and an RV dump station but lack the primitive rustic atmosphere of Lightning Tree.

To the east and beyond the enormous expanse of Sierra Valley is Frenchman Lake, the Feather River's headwaters. To reach this area, you must travel through Little Last Chance Canyon Scenic Area. This beautiful canyon is the result of several geological events including volcanic eruptions and much weathering. On the way, nestled next to Last Chance Creek, is Chilcoot campground. While each of the campgrounds in the Frenchman Lake Recreation Area have something special, Chilcoot, well away from the Lake, is notable for its quiet atmosphere and abundant shade.

Another Plumas National Forest magical place is the Strawberry campground on Sly Creek Reservoir. Stretching along the east side of the Reservoir, campsites are tucked in among grand old fir trees. Cool and shady, there is almost a magical fairyland feel to this campground, particularly with misty shades and wild strawberries all around.

Perhaps the most challenging reservoir to reach in the Plumas National Forest is the Little Grass Valley Reservoir. From the town of Quincy, CA, visitors must drive many curving miles, up and down engine straining and brake screaming grades along the recently paved Forest Route 120. While the road from Oroville in the west isn't as treacherous, it is a long and winding route with many turns and twists. The reward for the effort is a group of campgrounds lining the Lake's shore and many days of varied recreational options. Trout fishing, power and float boating opportunities, and miles of trails provide just a few ways to enjoy the Little Grass Valley Reservoir. Day trips to nearby Poker Flat, for history buffs and 4X4 enthusiasts, and La Porte for supplies and a cook's-night-out, are two other alternative activities.

Just west of Quincy is Bucks Lake Wilderness and several sweet little campgrounds just outside the wilderness's boundary. Both Sundew and Mill Creek campgrounds overlook Bucks Lake while Whitehorse, located on the opposite side of the Lake and along Bucks Creek, features quiet secluded camp sites. Mill Creek campground is the closest to the wilderness and provides easy access to the network of trails that cris-cross the Wilderness. Sundew campground, with its terraced construction, provides the best views of Bucks Lake and wilderness beyond. Making a choice is a challenge, so try each at some point.

There is a lot to see and do in the Plumas National Forest and one place that is a "must" visit is the Lakes Basin Recreation Area. South of Graeagle, this area features breathtaking scenery and many crystal clear lakes. Composed of granitic ridges and glacially serrated rock outcropping, the Lakes Basin also offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities. From bird watching to leisurely walks to towering waterfalls, canoeing, backpacking, and more, much time can be spent in this corner of Plumas National Forest. There are many nice locations for dispersed camping but Lakes Basin campground is the Recreation Area's only developed campground. This campground is a good base camp from which to explore the area plus the remnants of the old Smith Lodge, a swimming hole nearby, and some petroglyphs right there to explore.

Than there are Antelope Lake, Frazier and Feather Falls, Chips Creek, Silver Lake, Big Bald Rock, and the historic Crocker Cabin to discover. There is just too much to do in the Plumas National Forest not to return time and again.

SUPERVISOR OFFICE 159 Lawrence St. POB 11500 Quincy, California 95971 530-283-2050 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Beckwourth POB 7 Mohawk Rd. Blairsden, California 96103 530-836-2575 Feather River 875 Mitchell Oroville, California 95965-4699 530-534-6500 Mt. Hough 39696 Hwy. 70 Quincy, California 95971 530-283-0555

Fred and Suzi Dow