The Spearfish Creek canyon section is a pleasant surprise for those looking for a step up from the through-town paddle. It is roughly 7-8 miles long depending on which put in option you choose. One is to put in at the roadside pull-out directly after Calamity Gulch Rd. The other is to continue a short distance, turn left at the lodge and put in a mile East of Spearfish Falls. This option is a bit more up-paced with several boulder sections that have been known to cause a pin induced swim or two. Which ever route you choose, the scenery along the way is gorgeous and the action is nonstop. Being a roadside creek, it is almost entirely scoutable during the shuttle. But please take the time to walk back into those few hidden areas and check for fresh strainers just to be safe. A few of the main rapids are listed below but expect several other small drops in the 3-4 ft range throughout the run. Hint: one is immediately before passing by the Spearfish Falls viewing area and another will get you warmed up for the Elbow Room stretch. Have fun and stop in to Base Camp on Main St. in Spearfish for beta on this and other local runs.
This sneaky little rapid hides just around the bend after you pass under the Victoria Lane Bridge and pass the last cabin. The creek makes a sharp left and you drop down into a short, fun wham bam. Be ready for a strong brace. Also, scout this area for wood before running. Most of this creek can be scouted from the road but this is one of the few sections you need to actually walk back in to just to be safe.
Elbow room is considered the crux of the upper canyon stretch. This is a short but swift boulder section with a large rectangular rock splitting the current in two paths. The rapid must be run river right (at standard levels) where there is just enough room to squeeze your boat through. Beware, the passage is off-camber and you may find yourself losing some skin as you pass through. Elbow pads recommended. A couple quick moves immediately after will get you around the bend where you're met with 2 more small funnel drops. A fun, fast 1/4 mile.
The kissing rocks are not much of a rapid but worth noting because they do pose a potential pin hazard. A quick turn is required to maneuver between these two massive boulders.
Update: as of 7/16/13, the wood on river left has been removed allowing passage around rather than through the kissing rocks, if you so please.
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Permits are not required for this reach.
From Spearfish, take the scenic Spearfish Canyon Hwy south for aprox. 7 miles and drop a shuttle vehicle at the large fishing pond/dam on the left side of the road. This location is actually where the creek is then diverted underground to the City's Hydro Plant, thus ending the canyon paddle route (except when high flows permit). Continue up the canyon with your boats, take a left where the road forks at the lodge and restaurant and drive another 1.5 miles until you reach the road-level pond and parking lot on the right. Put in directly below the bridge.
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