Arkansas, Colorado, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||46 fpm|
|ARKANSAS RIVER NEAR WELLSVILLE|
|codwr-ARKWELCO0||150 - 7000 cfs||III-IV||08h34m||1340 cfs (running)|
|ARKANSAS RIVER AT PARKDALE, CO.|
|usgs-07094500||300 - 7000 cfs||III-IV||01h04m||1570 cfs (running)|
Put-in: Parkdale Launch Site, Ten miles west of Canon City on Colorado US HWY 50. There is a sign for Parkdale Recreation Area. This is an AHRA put-in.
A Colorado Parks Pass will cover you. Otherwise, pay the AHRA $7/car.
Reach Description: The Parkdale run on the Arkansas river descends into a deep gorge and creates a paddlers sanctuary.
Train tracks run along river left for the entire run. Jagged rocks from railroad construction exist in the major rapids and steel rails stick out out of the river in the Narrows at all but the highest flows. On the river right bank are the remains of a pipe that carried water into Canon City downstream. The degraded structure is a hazard.
Three miles of flatwater to paddle out.
From the Primero to Ed's Rock there are six miles of rapids. Depending on the flow, the run can hold several half mile long wave trains. The Royal Gorge is over one thousand feet deep and a hundred and fifty feet wide at one point.
Mile 2.0: Primero, Segundo, Tercera and Pumphouse: These rapids are in quick succession and offer a nice introduction to the run. They are II+ at low flows and rise to big water II at the highest flows. If you are finding the rapids to challeging, there are two options for an exit, The first is to hike the couple of miles back to the put-in. The second is to hike up the trail that you can see on river left and walk back to US 50. The run gets harder soon and the only exit on the run is the Funicular train at the Fish Bowl. It is currently closed. I'm only aware that it has been used one time in an extreme emergency. You are going downriver as you are in a gorge.
Mile 2.5: Hollywood Hole: A nice play hole for flat spins at most flows. Nice play hole at high flows. Sunshine rapid is just around the corner.
Mile 2.7: Sunshine Rapid: Class III ( < 2000cfs), Class IV ( at 2000+ cfs): A very large boulder marks the entrance river right. Some consider Sunshine a Class III at moderate flows. There is an elegant S-move at the top at all flows. At high flows you need to be dead center at the bottom (trust me). It is easily portaged and scouted on the right.
Mile 2.8: Grateful Dead: A fast Class III at the highest flows. Leads directly into Sledgehammer.
Mile 2.9: Sledgehammer: The second crux of the run. Class III to IV+. If you want to run it easy, start hard left and stay there. At high flows only the strongest will want to run the center, though it washes out above 4000 cfs. Sections include Rushmore and Clark's Hole (stay left at the bottom at most flows).
Mile 4.0: The Narrows: At high flows this is the second hardest section on the river. The water has no where to go but up and forms complex long ten foot high wave/ holes. Try and stay center. At low flows it's easy, still stay center.
Mile 4.6: The Fishbowl: Good break spot. There is a viewing area for people that descended the Funicular train from the rim. The Gorge is now a thousand feet deep. Throw a few wave wheels for the tourists.
Mile 4.7: WallSlammer Rapid:
Stay 20 feet off the right wall it never exceeds Class III.
Mile 5.2: Boat Eater: Run right. This hole consumes the left side of the river. It forms around 1200 cfs and just gets bigger and bigger...
Mile 5.5: Soda Rock (Picnic Rock, Corner Pocket): There is a rock in the center of the river (Soda Rock). Paddle around the right and stop at the beach. It's a nice spot. Picnic Rock is quite visible from upstream. The canyon walls while still over 800 feet high have moved away from the river. Picnic Rock sticks out on river right. Soda Rock goes underwater at about 3500 cfs.
* At 4000 cfs do not eddy out to the right. You will have to portage down a bit to re-enter the river.
Mile 5.7: Unnamed Waves: At higher flows these are the largest waves on the entire length of the Arkansas River at ten feet.
Mile 5.8: Lion's Head play hole: Just past the concrete abutment is a play hole at modest to high levels.
Mile 6.5: Ed's Rock: About a tenth of a mile past the water pipe that the river passes under is Ed's Rock, located in the center of the river. Named for Ed Hansen. Touch the rock as you pass by. Ed is a founding member of “Gorge Club” which forms when the river hits 3000 cfs.
The first rule of Gorge Club is: Nobody swims in Gorge Club. The second rule of Gorge Club is: Nobody swims in Gorge Club.
Mile 9.3: The Canon City Wave: Hazard ! LOW HEAD DAM
Stay Left!! Low Head Dam on right!
At high flows there is an upper and lower hole that can provide a fun end to a day on the Gorge. Over 4000 cfs the top hole is terminal. Paddle left like your life depends on it.
Mile 10.2: Centennial Park Take-out: Take-out River Right where there is plenty of parking and a bathroom. Whitewater Park being built.
Royal Gorge is a committing Class IV run.
Many consider 3500 cfs to be the most challenging.
"At this level the Gorge simply pisses excellence". - Joe Keck
Since the river descends into a deep gorge it has a harder "feel" than it actually paddles.
Lat/longitude coords are approximate, from TopoZone.
See also Pinecreek (Class
The Numbers (Class IV),
Fractions/ Frogrock/ Milkrun (Class III),
Buena Vista (Class III),
Browns Canyon (Class III),
Salida (Class III),
Rincon (Class III),
Pinnacle Rock (Class III),
Royal Gorge (Class III/IV).
Winter Gauge - Wellsville
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|