visiting Colorado in June... paddling questions. - Mountain Buzz

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Old 03-22-2012   #1
Jefferson city, Tennessee
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 6
visiting Colorado in June... paddling questions.

Hey guys,

A friend and I will be driving out to Colorado June 7th to 17th. We had 3 and the 3rd was from Colorado spring, but he bailed so we are now planning the trip with no CO exp.

I am a class V boater my friend is class IV-. We are interested in running the following:

Browns canyon (warm up)
Royal gorge
Clear creek of the ark.

What else? We also plan on playing in Buena Vista for a day. Also what mountain biking that is fairly beginner friendly is in the area?

Would anyone be interested in showing us around some creeks?



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Old 03-23-2012   #2
Ft Collins, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 213
You should have many options in early June. Get a copy of the guidebook - Whitewater of the Southern Rockies and then check water levels closer to the date. There will be lots of boaters in the Ark drainage so you shouldn't have trouble finding locals. If you're friend is really a IV- boater, he'll want a very solid roll for the runs you listed. Clear Creak of the Ark is not a IV- run and it's dished out some serious butt-kicking (I speak from experience ...). It could be high in early June and it has a bit of a split personality that a class IV boater probably doesn't want to experience. In early June, numbers and Royal Gorge are also likely to be big-water, solid IV's with large and sometimes sticky holes. In Colorado the water is always cold in June, and (especially with high water) the runs tend to be continuous, so swims can be epic and lost gear is common. Not a problem for a class V boater, but you don't want to destroy your boating companion. I've also heard some eastern creekers complain that the Colorado creek runs are hard on boats. We have a lot of roadside runs with blasted rock, and creeks with relatively 'young' rocks that are sharp. I have no experience on eastern creeks, but if you really want to hit the creeks, it might save some heartache to bring a creek boat that's in relatively good condition.

Having said that, I've done a few 'tour de Colorado' trips at about that time, focussing on IV, IV+ and maybe some easy V (not the real gnar). Some good candidate rivers are:

Clear Creek (near Denver) - the Lawson run is a fabulous play run and good warm up if it's over ~500. Other harder and easier runs downstream, but I like the upper. Very cold water.

Maybe hit Gore Creek thru Dowd Chutes on the way to the Ark. I've often looked at Tenmile creek while driving by, but still haven't run it.

Over to the Ark - Granite thru numbers. Carry Pine Creek if you're a class IV boater. If you go for it, be careful. Pine Creek is more powerful and bigger than it looks, and swimming out of the hole - or elsewhere - is a serious undertaking. It's very hard to get out of the river and the rapids are deceptively powerful and continuous for a long ways. Unaccompanied gear goes a long way, very, very quickly.

Maybe Brown's canyon if you can avoid or put up with the rafts. Pretty but not one of my favorites. I'd probably pass on this give the other (more exciting) choices. Ditto Royal Gorge on the rafts - rafts launch at certain times so try to avoid them (I don't know schedules). There are other good runs on the Ark, but numbers and Royal Gorge are so good I never seem to get to them. I think the playing on the Ark is as good as it gets -- nice rounded rocks, well-shaped holes, etc. But I'm old-style so take that into account. If the water is high (say, over 2,000) then I think the play is better on the easier runs - e.g. fractions, which is below numbers.

Clear Creek Ark if the levels is good (I'd say in the 200-400 or so range for most). Then maybe over to lower Dark Canyon/Anthracite Cr. or over Independence Pass (upper if you're a masochastic).

Roaring Fork - Slaughterhouse, maybe with Castle Creek. Then hop over to Crystal. Bogan is an eye-opener if high (say, > 1500) and the narrows is good at lower flows. Have a look at meatgrinder, but only real men run this one, and even they shake at the levels you'll likely have in early June.

If you're up for it, you could then hit the creeks in the Crested Butte area, but they're not class IV.

And if the water level is 'right', a trip on the Animas would be excellent. It's long (~25 miles), very cold, and not really a class IV run. But you can put bags on the train and camp, you're unlikely to see anyone on the river, and it's a really classic trip.

And if you're really luck, the Piedra will still have water in it, so if you're way down in the Durango area, be sure to get on this. But the Piedra comes up early, and it seems like it's hard to get the 'right' levels on both the Piedra and Animas.

Most of these runs are relatively short, and with minimal planning you can do a couple laps in a day do multiple runs. E.g., from the Ark, drop over to the Roaring Fork, do a couple quick laps on Slaughterhouse, then go over and camp at Bogan Flats and do the upper Crystal runs from Marble back to camp.

And I've left out my backyard drainage - the Poudre, which is outstanding, and lots of other great runs. Unless our spring snows fail completely (which is possible with all these days we're having in the 60's and 70's) then you'll have lots of options. Your biggest issues will hopefully avoiding injuries, lost gear, and choosing from the selection of great water.

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Old 03-23-2012   #3
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 586
To re-emphasize what John said...
I have had repeated experiences where Eastern boaters comment about how continuous Colorado runs seem to be compared to what they're used to... I have heard them say this on what I consider to be pool-drop runs.
So if your friend considers himself a 4-minus paddler back East, you should be very careful about doing Colorado Class 4 at high water.
John's run recommendations are great; I totally agree with the Lawson-Dumont suggestion; awesome run, but again if the flow is high, it will feel very very continuous for a 4-minus paddler. In fact, it will probably pummel a 4-minus paddler if the flow is high.
Hit the cardio hard for the next three months and be in shape for that stuff.
The 4-minus boater should train hard to drop the "minus" between now and then.
The Numbers and Royal Gorge are spectacular Class 4 when they are over 2,000, better yet over 3,000, but again they will start to feel continuous.
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Old 03-23-2012   #4
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 586
Also -
I love showing out-of-state folks down their first runs in Colorado. I really enjoy it, and I expect to be on the Ark almost every day in June.
Feel free to hit me up when the time approaches; I'll be around.
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Old 03-23-2012   #5
Denver, Colorado
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"The Fractions" is a blast when it's 2,000 and over, and would be a much more fun warm-up than Browns, BTW.
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Old 03-23-2012   #6
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 443
Go to the Poudre if it is above 3.2 on Poudre Rock Report. It is my definition of Colorado Class III-IV. Stevens gulch down is continuous, but if you are a IV- it will be a great day. One or two Class IVish rapids, but plenty of locals to show you down and its all roadside so you can look and make a judgment call. For Class V there is Spencer heights, narrows, and from the looks of the snowpack maybe bigsouth that time (hopefully not) although the gate will be closed still.
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Old 03-23-2012   #7
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 138
If you are in BV stop by CKS and talk to the people in the shop. They will tell you what's in and where you should go. You can get a guide book there as well. BV is a great staging point for your trip. Tons of options for June. Should be good.
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Old 03-23-2012   #8
MikeThulin1972's Avatar
Conifer, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 135
Southeast boaters

All I'm going to say from a southeast boater..yes the rocks are sharper and the water is colder but there is a reason dagger,wavesport,liquid logic ,Jackson and pyranna live here....
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Old 03-23-2012   #9
Paddling Since: 96
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Good info in this thread. I would add that Number's putin is 8500+- feet. I would suggest starting your trip on a class 3ish warm up run and make sure your cardio is up to speed before you take on class 4 at June flows. Maybe check out the Fractions and see if your 4- buddy is comfortable there. Numbers is solid 4 at higher flows and a swim with unacclimated eastern lungs could really suck. With that in mind, the Animas should be a later in the trip stop (higher elevation) and perhaps start your trip on the Poudre or the front range Clear Creek cuz of their lower elevation. Sounds like a great trip.
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Old 03-25-2012   #10
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Breckenridge, CO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 91
It is Fibark week from June 13 - 19. You will be able to hook up with lots of people to run with. Have fun! Bring some warm stuff...the water is sooo clud....
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