News.bytes - BLM-California
News.bytes Extra, issue 496

Big Bar Facility is
a new connection to America's rivers and waterways

After decades of work, a new Mokelumne River access point along Highway 49 is open for business. (text continues below)

Sign at the entrance of the Mokelumne river Whitewater Trail.  Sign has the outline of a kayaker.
A new sign welcomes visitors to the Big Bar Launch.

 A trail leads through overgrowth and trees to the river bank.
A trail leads to the river bank.

The new Big Bar put-in/take-out facility for boaters opened to the public Monday. It has 18 parking spaces, restrooms and an interpretive kiosk.

Parking area and restrooms at the Big Bar Facility.

The Bureau of Land Management began exploring the idea for a recreation facility at the site about 25 years ago when the State Lands Commission was acquiring land for public access, said Jim Eicher, associate manager in BLM’s Mother Lode Field Office.

A man and two chilidren enjoy the rocky bank of the Mokelumne River.
A family enjoys the Mokelumne River on a warm summer day.

In 1989, Eicher and Deane Swickard, field office manager at the time, contacted the Luchetti, Zumwalt and Nessler families about acquiring the property, which had been in family ownership since the 1800s. Although they would not sell the property, the families said they would lease it.

A 2001 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing for Pacific Gas & Electric hydropower facilities on the Moklelumne included an agreement for PG&E to help BLM with the lease. BLM also received a California Boating and Waterways grant to help develop the facility.

After multiple proposed designs, BLM and Caltrans agreed on a design that allows drivers to enter the facility with a right turn from either direction.

“This opens up more recreation opportunities, is safer and avoids trespass on private property,” Eicher said.

Boating is a popular recreation activity in Amador County, both private and commercial, and the new facility will be useful for boaters with different skill levels.

The new facility is midway along the river run from the Electra Powerhouse to the Middle Bar Bridge, he added. Electra to Big Bar is more of a whitewater run, while Big Bar to Middle Bar section, after an initial rapid, allows boaters to drift with the current.

The Middle Bar Bridge crosses the Mokelumne River.
This segement of the Mokelumne River allows boaters to drift with the current.

The national America’s Great Outdoors initiatives points out the need to “reconnect Americans, especially children, to America's rivers and waterways...”  With the Big Bar facility now open, the BLM has provided one more reconnection point.

For more information, contact the Mother Lode Field Office at (916) 941-3101.

- David Christy, BLM Central California public affairs, 8/31/11

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