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Old 02-26-2011   #1
Heaven, Wisconsin
Paddling Since: 1981
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 14
Spring CO Trip: Looking for Class III-IV Suggestions

I'm bringing a group of intermediates/advanced to CO in late May for some sections of the Ark.

Beyond that we're looking to boat either easier "read-n-run" low volume creeks (Class III-IV, chiefly boatscoutable) or near continuous medium volume (III-IV) for 3-10 mile stretches within 3-4 hours of BV. I have "CCR", but am looking for some Buzzards to point me in the right direction based on experience. Don't need the hyper-gnar, just a few relaxed days of fun boating on accessible and continuous runs.

We will be in BV and Crested Butte but would be willing to drive to wherever as we will have 8 days to boat.

Any suggestions?


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Old 02-26-2011   #2
Lakewood, Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 504
The canyon section of the Taylor is sort of low volume, creeky 3. The Shelly's Cottages section of the N. St. Vrain would also fall in that category, but it's a ways from the Ark (2-3 hrs, near Boulder). Foxton on the NF S. Platte is a fantastic run that is fairly continuous 3+ near Denver.

For rivers, Brown's Canyon, Fractions, Parkdale, and the Royal Gorge fit your bill, depending on flows. If it's cold and low, the Numbers would be good too. The Granite run is awesome and sees little traffic. Just know the two portages you'll likely need to make: the old dam and Pine Creek rapid. The Gunnson Gorge is an excellent easy 3 run through wilderness and is a couple hrs from CB. The Eagle River has some continuous sections. From Minturn to Edwards is a lot of class 3 with a little 4, except for Dowd Chute which can be a lot 4. Gore Creek is also nearby, which is called 3-4 but I've never run it. Clear Creek near Denver is an awesome river, with some class 3 (Idaho Springs town run) and 4 (upper/lower canyon and Lawson, which is my favorite run around).

That should get you started.

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Old 02-26-2011   #3
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 221
Also.... be aware of the fact that there are many sections of the same river that go by different names. I really had trouble with this when I cam out here.

Example....... Bailey Creek..... one of my favorite runs (class IV) you won't find Bailey Creek on any map...... it the North Fork Of The South Platt I think. Browns, Numbers, Fractions, Granite so on and so forth..... all on the Ark.

same thing on every stretch of river it seems....... the rivers are just so long here.

Looking forward to getting on the Lower Big Sandy next month...... if there is really alot of water I may hit the Upper Big Sandy as well...... ahhhh back to Wv to wait for the snow to melt
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Old 02-26-2011   #4
Heaven, Wisconsin
Paddling Since: 1981
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 14
Thanks both. I've been there and done Granite/PineCreek, Numbers, and Royal Gorge. All worthy runs in that vein. I just wanted to mix it up with a few lower volume creeks that would justify the drive. I did the Upper and Lower Snake out of Keystone and wanted more of that. Read and run. I like tight stuff and don't mind mank if the run is interesting and continuous. With our diverse crew, Class V isn't an option for all creeks, and we would rather spend our vacation paddling than scouting/running safety.

We actually plan on hitting the Taylor Canyon on our way to OBJ and Crested Butte. (not all of us will be doing CB creeking).

Anyone else who could offer more alternatives as well?

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Old 02-26-2011   #5
Lakewood, Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 504
Yeah Bailey might me good for you. 4-4+ with three Vs that are easily walkable though not too easy to identify on approach. Could combine with Foxton, which is a few miles downstream. If Elevenmile Canyon on the S. Platte is running at 400 or higher (rare) it would be a good day trip from BV. Two Vs sandwich a lot of 3+. The Big Thompson is a super fun creek with sections from 3+ to 5+, about 3 hrs from BV or an hour north of Denver. If it's 400 or above it is worth the drive. The Poudre is a fun river with lots of 2-5 but it's pushing your 4 hr radius from BV. You should consider the Piedra as well: 19 miles of wilderness 3-4, although the interesting whitewater is confined to maybe 5 of those miles. One or two Vs in there. Drive over Independence Pass (2 hrs from BV) for the Roaring Ford River (medium volume fun 3-4), Castle Creek (never done it, 4+ creek that feeds into Slaughterhouse on the RF), Fryingpan River (low volume river, lower is fun 3-4 and upper (never done it) is 4+), and Crystal River (medium volume creeky river with sections of 3-5, getting harder as you go up the canyon).

If I were driving from MN, I would boat either Bailey/Foxton or Clear Creek on the way to the Ark, then spend a day doing either Granite to BV in the morning and Brown's in the afternoon or Parkdale/Royal Gorge on the Ark, stay the night and make a day trip to Aspen, then do the Taylor on the way to your CB creeks.
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Old 02-26-2011   #6
Ricky NM's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 04
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 166
Originally Posted by mjpowhound View Post
If I were driving from MN, I would boat either Bailey/Foxton or Clear Creek on the way to the Ark, then spend a day doing either Granite to BV in the morning and Brown's in the afternoon or Parkdale/Royal Gorge on the Ark, stay the night and make a day trip to Aspen, then do the Taylor on the way to your CB creeks.
I second that but I would also add the Poudre. There's free camping further up the canyon, if you get off the main road. Also, there are a ton of paddling options: Poudre Park to Bridges (3-4 depending on flows), Lower Mishiwaka (3), Upper Mish (3-4), Middle Narrows (4), and then if its low (~1-2 feet on the pineview gauge) you could lap the Lower Narrows (4-4+) at those flows, but it gets burly as flows increase.
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Old 02-26-2011   #7
cooldork's Avatar
Westminster, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 43
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Ten mile creek is another quick run. might be running late may. check 'er out.

this creek is right along I-70 near copper
+ pUn-JaB +
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Old 02-26-2011   #8
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,097
My take...

Gore creek running through vail is a good III+/IV- creek, not too low volume... around 600-900 cfs is a good medium to juicy flow. Most of the low volume III/IV is really rocky and tough to paddle unless its peak. Odds are last week of may is just before peak. I think this is 1-1.5 hrs from the ark.

Another good option might be the roaring fork. Its about 1.5 hrs from the ark near aspen. There is a class IV section (slaughterhouse) and III/IV sections below (woody creek?).

Shoshone is a big water III/IV run on the colorado river just outside glenwood springs. While very short, its a blast of big water colorado river running in late may. Its about 45 mins to a hour downstream from aspen.

The ark can keep you busy for days. You can loop through aspen, glenwood, and vail, and back to the ark to get the other runs I noted above.

Foxton is a creeky III+ run, but it usually isn't running that time of year, and needs some additional water from diversions to be worthy. I would think bailey is a step up from what you want, its IV/IV+ away from the road with some continuous IV above tricky V- drops. Significantly more committing than the ark or other III/IV runs. While I love the north fork of the south platte, I doubt it will deliver in your time frame.

Lower clear creek is mostly III/III+ with two class IV rapids, and is a hoot. Good place to stop off on the way to the ark. Roadside with easy shuttle or a quick hitch.

If you haven't been to the poudre thats a good one too. Stevens to bridges takeout is classic III/IV river running of about 10 miles if I remember right.

Enjoy your trip! Lots of options at that time.
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Old 02-26-2011   #9
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Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,032
This is kind of a like Colorado WW trivia game. Name runs 3-10 miles long, 3-4 hrs from BV, class III-IV low volume read and run or medium volume continuous.

I'll give it a shot. Everything's continuous, so that's pretty easy. Volume can be a little tough to guess. Be aware we're on track for a large snow pack and big runoff for much of the state. I'm sure I don't have to tell you ratings can vary widely with water levels. CRC is a good guide for ratings. The new guidebook WWSF delineates the rating by water levels even further.

Vail Area
- Gore Creek (through town of Vail): low volume, III-IV, mostly read and run. Option to tack on Dowd Chute at the end.
- Upper/Lower Eagle: option to tack on Dowd Chute at the beginning. Larger volume, if water is low more like III, if higher more like III+/IV-

Aspen Area
- Slaughterhouse is similar to #s but a little shorter and most people think a tad harder.
- Lower Frying Pan if it has water.

Front Range
- Clear Creek:
-Lawson/Dumont (lower volume creek, IV-)
-Lower Clear Creek (lower volume creek, III+ with a couple IV-/IV)
- Foxton: easier than clear creek - III with a little IV-. low volume. mostly dam released so hard to know if it will be running or not.
- Alto-Alto (South Boulder Creek): cold water, pretty area, can range from low volume tight creek III/IV- to IV hyper-continuous at high water. Know your takeout so you don't drop into the V+ section below it.

Poudre River Drainage
- runs below the Narrows at lower water or above the Narrows at higher water.

Good luck with your trip, hope this helps.
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Old 02-27-2011   #10
Heaven, Wisconsin
Paddling Since: 1981
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 14
Thanks a million, friends. All great suggestions and exactly what I'm looking for. We're trying to find runs that bridge skill levels and make for less intense scouting.

The free camping thing in CO is really cool and I hope you guys know how lucky you are to have this. I think you do, because when I was out there, people kept it clean and were respectful. In MN, it's beautiful, but rarely free in most places. We have to get "creative". If anybody ever finds themselves up in MN and wants to boat, I can hook you up! We have a much shorter season, but our WW quality, scenery, and access is phenomenal.

Keep the suggestions coming!

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class ii, class iii

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