Middle Fork American River at French Meadows Inlet

Middle Fork Project

The Middle Fork American River Watershed is located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada between Lake Tahoe and Auburn, California. It is drained by the Middle Fork American River. Placer County Water Agency owns and operates the Middle Fork Project, a multi-purpose water supply and hydroelectric project.

The MFP supplies water for homes, industry, and agriculture within western Placer County and clean, renewable energy to the California electric grid. It includes storage reservoirs, regulating reservoirs, powerhouses and a long tunnel system.

It is the first water project in California built by a county to benefit its residents. Most of the land is public land managed by the Tahoe National Forest, Eldorado National Forest, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, or the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

The MFP includes two major storage reservoirs (French Meadows and Hell Hole), five smaller regulating reservoirs and diversion pools, five powerhouses, and a 20-mile long tunnel system that conveys water out of the watershed.

Middle Fork American River, begins in the Granite Chief Wilderness, near the crest of the Sierra Nevada and ends at the North Fork American River, near Auburn.

Two primary water bodies feed the Middle Fork American River: Duncan Creek and the Rubicon River. These are fed by many smaller streams and creeks, including Long Canyon Creek and the South Fork Rubicon River. All the water that flows into and down the Middle Fork American River eventually makes its way to the North Fork American River, which flows into Folsom Reservoir.

Big Trees Grove is the most northerly stand of California’s Giant Sequoias. The ancient trees in this small, remote grove are an estimated to be 1,000 – 2,000 years old and tower over the rest of the landscape. The grove is accessible along a half-mile long, self-guided interpretive loop trail.

Middle Fork Project Recreation Brochure Map

Middle Fork Project Recreation Brochure Map

Two natural amphitheaters--Big Crater and Little Crater geologic areas--are located on the north slope of Ralston Ridge. These geologic oddities are not actually craters, but the result of enormous landslides that occurred thousands of years ago during one of the last ice ages. Big Crater is vast, covering 175 acres while Little Crater covers a relatively modest 50 acres.

No Hands Bridge, which crosses the North Fork American River near Auburn, was the world’s longest concrete arch bridge when it was built in 1912. No Hands Bridge and the trail segment from Last Chance to Michigan Bluff are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

While on your journey, explore the unique natural and historic features in the Middle Fork American River Watershed.

PCWA Recreation Brochure
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144 Ferguson Rd.

Auburn, CA 95603

(530) 823-4850

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