Yule Creek - 01. Headwaters Run


Yule Creek, Colorado, US

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01. Headwaters Run

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 345 fpm
Max Gradient 581 fpm

Quarter Mile rapid


Quarter Mile rapid
Photo of J Sandage by Gordon Dalton



River Description

"The Headwaters Run" on Upper Yule Creek is the alpine sister of the famous "Lower Yule" - seen in videos like Valhalla and Aphrodisia. The Upper run lacks the dramatic falls and big slides of the Lower run, but makes up for it with continuous and lengthy class IV-V boulder rapids and several 20+ foot cascades. Upper Yule flows within the Raggeds Wilderness area, and the scenery is superb throughout the run. This run has been described as "expedition-lite taining" due to its difficult accesibility and how rarely this section of creek is paddled.

The first rapid (Quarter-Mile, IV+), coursing through a mini-gorge within a flower-filled meadow, is a long (hence the name), easy slide with a nice 5-foot boof at the end and several mini-slides along the way. After Quarter Mile, the creek turns into mild riffles as it meanders through willows in a wide valley (Thompson Flats). As the creek leaves Thompson Flats it drops into the first of several pseudo-gorges and the action heats up. There are some nice, long sections of IV-V water, but there are also one or two very ugly VI-ish drops that should be portaged (or at least thoroughly scouted). Wood is a concern, and had prevented a run prior to June, 2003 when the creek was first descended by Gordon Dalton, Josh Sandage, Don Smith and Nate Mack. Please know ahead of time where the takeout is located.

The creek's finale is a very long, manky, class V+ rapid sprinkled with log jams. After this the creek immediately enters the Quarry Ledge, and then Gleaming The Cube, a rapid made up entirely of massive, square, white marble blocks discarded from the quarry above. Wild. Gleaming would be a sweet drop if not for the heinous mandatory portage below. You can scout Gleaming, Quarry Ledge, and the mandatory portage by hiking up the very short tourist trail past the Marble Quarry. Several drops here, and above, remain unrun at this time.

Take-out: Leave a vehicle at the lower Marble Quarry trail parking area, or plan on hiking the road a short distance (less than 1/2 mile) back to the put-in after your run. You shouldn't need to set a shuttle. One car will do.

Put-in: From the town of Marble take the Quarry road across the Crystal River and head south toward the quarry. You will pass the "Tai Chi Ranch", a bible camp, and several avalanche paths. As the road begins to switchback, start looking for a small (2-3 car) pullout on the right. There is a small wooden sign nearby reading "Yule Creek." This is the trailhead. The hike-in is class V. The trail goes directly uphill (no switchbacks, just dead-arrow straight!) for 2 miles or more. When you finally crest the big hill you will see Yule Creek below. The trail then drops into the beautiful, wide, alpine valley called Thompson Flats. Here the trail crosses the creek and continues upstream along the river-right side. Keep going upstream - it is worth it - towards treeline. The final boof of Quarter Mile will be visible in the distance from the creek crossing. We put-in around 10,000 feet elevation.

Have fun! Scout and keep an eye out for wood, and one or two probably-portaged rapids. Use the "Post A Comment" button on this page to let us know what level and conditions you encountered on your run. As of this writing, the creek has only been paddled twice. Enjoy.

Gordon Dalton
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-06-08 13:19:09

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Rapid Descriptions

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