Conejos TR - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 07-04-2010   #1
 
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Buena Vista, Colorado
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Conejos TR

A couple of other paddlers and myself just returned from a 7/3 trip down the Conejos River in the San Juan Mountains. It was beautiful, but rainy...

We put in about 1-2 miles below Platoro Reservoir, this added around 5-6 miles to the trip described in WWSR. The best action was in this top stretch, a little of it was roadside, but much of the whitewater was contained in small, wooded mini-gorges that were hard to scout. Here are a couple of pics from the roadside action towards the top of the run:





In the first "mini-gorge" we encoutered two landslides, each of which created long III+/IV- boulder garden rapids...the action was fun and continous all the way down to Lake Fork Campground (about 4 miles from put-in, and where we camped).
From Lake Fork the river was relatively calm with less gradient (class II, with 1 river-wide pourover) down to the recommended access point of Trail Creek (another 2 miles or so).
Then we dropped into the Pinnacle Gorge. The scenery was absolutely amazing! There were sheer walls of volcanic rock coming down to the river in many places offering little escape if something were to go wrong, but the whitewater was manageable (mostly class II, but there were a couple of steeper, solid III's).
Below the rapids we did encouter 1 mandatory portage around a river-wide strainer...it was a messy pile of trees on a blind corner, but with a good eddy above on the left. There was a decent amount of wood on the run, a few limbo moves were necessary, but this was the only portage.
I found it to be a fun, worthwhile river trip in a wilderness setting with top-notch scenery and solid class III whitewater.

It should be noted though that the take-out at the South Fork trailhead requires a 1/2 mile, 300 foot hike out the parking lot...and NONE of the guide books or AW say anything about that...

The flow was 325 cfs when we kayaked.

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Old 07-04-2010   #2
 
Jenks, Oklahoma
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Thanks for the Trip Report!

Brought back a lot of fun memories.

Back in the mid80's, several of us Tulsa Oklahoma boaters kayaked that same stretch. We put in at the first access point we could find down stream of the dam.

I had been trout fishing on the lower section for several years and driven by the "Gorge Area" on the way to the lodge by the lake which at that time had great meals. There was super camp sites along the lower section of the river.

Always wanted to float from the Dam thru the Gorge area. Finally, our little group made a special drive over from the Taos Box to make the run. That drive by the way is worth the time, just to see Northern New Mexico scenery at it's finest. Very different from the southern or middle section scenery in that scenic state.

Our experience was about the same as yours. IE a beautiful little Rocky Mt stream with a few very manageable rapids to add a little spice.

The attraction was the wildlife which was every where on our float and the scenery.

Have not had the chance to do the float again. Your Trip Report and photos are appreciated.
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Old 07-04-2010   #3
 
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Thanks for the comment Okieboater. It really is an incredible stretch of river...

here are a couple more pics from the upper roadside section:







BTW I found the stuff from where the river left the road to LF Campground to be the best whitewater of the trip...
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Old 07-05-2010   #4
Abron Cabron
 
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Cool! would like to hit this sometime. I stopped at the 285/Conejos river crossing coming back from BV last week, and wondered if it was worth it...
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Old 07-05-2010   #5
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Would it be possible to raft it during high water? I've heard from locals that their are low bridges that are unpassable at higher flows. Any thoughts?
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Old 07-06-2010   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyCash View Post
Would it be possible to raft it during high water? I've heard from locals that their are low bridges that are unpassable at higher flows. Any thoughts?
There were no bridges or fences in the 12 or so miles we boated.
The major problem I see with trying to take a raft down the upper section is the water depth. At 325 cfs it was fast and shallow, reminiscent of Tenmile Creek (in the event of a flip you get helmet shots and bloody knuckles)...perhaps at higher flows you could, but 325 was in the grass and bushes, at higher flow you would most likely have lots of trees and other debris on the move.
You could possibly float from Lake Fork Campground down to the South Fork Trailhead, it is less continuous and has a deeper, better defined channel, but at the takeout you would have to carry your raft up a 1/2 mile and about 300'.
You can't really continue down past this point because the river immediately braids into multiple, shallow channels, most of which have wood, and at least 1 barb wire fence that runs all the way across the valley.

So I would say it might be possible to raft the Pinnacle Gorge at 350 cfs+, but for the short length (7 miles), limited whitewater, and remoteness, it's probably not worth it.
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Old 07-06-2010   #7
 
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There should have been a bridge less than a mile below the Lake Fork campground. The shuttle road for the upper run is usually slow due to washboarding.

The lower section below CO-17 is pretty with one significant rapid and several bridges. The bridges weren't a problem in a canoe at low water, but could have been at high water.
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Old 07-06-2010   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadster View Post
There should have been a bridge less than a mile below the Lake Fork campground.
Your right Bruce, there was. For some reason I forgot about it. There was plenty of clearance at 325 cfs...there is also a bridge at the takeout at SF trailhead, it had good clearance at 325 also, but you could take out above it if necessary.
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