Pedernales Falls is one of the state’s most beautiful park 'n' huck spots (although calling it a "park 'n' huck" spot is now unfortunately a misnomer, because of recent park regulations-- see below), and it can be run at relatively low water levels (well below the levels required to enjoy the downriver run above the falls.) Swimming and tubing the falls are strictly prohibited. Years ago, stories of park rangers hassling paddlers and even confiscating boats were the norm. However, in recent years pleasant exchanges between rangers and boaters have been the norm.
PERD FALLS IS NOT A BEGINNER-FRIENDLY OR EVEN INTERMEDIATE-FRIENDLY PLACE TO KAYAK. Only go here if you are up for a challenge. Swimming here is technically illegal (and dangerous), so you need a solid roll. Respect the park rangers, avoid busy summer weekends, and don’t make a big deal about your presence. It only takes one incident to give them an excuse to close off access for everyone.
NOTE: As of this writing, the official park policy is to disallow boaters from putting in or taking out at the falls (although you may, of course, legally portage them.) Boaters are required to hike approximately 1 mile upstream to the park boundary (there is a trail from the Pedernales Falls parking area that parallels the river on the bluff overlooking it) and take out approximately 3 river miles below the falls, at the swimming area. Please respect park regulations and be respectful to rangers. You are legally allowed to run the river, but the park is legally allowed to control access to it.
Pedernales Falls is made up of three distinct drops. Each feeds into a sizeable recovery pool, making it a great place for your first Class IV experience.
Distances and gradient measured using GIS tools in 2015. Maximum gradient measured from the top of 60/40 Falls to the base of S-Turn (0.34 miles.)
Official put-in, accessible via a 1-mile hike on state park trails from the Pedernales Falls parking area/trailhead.
A river-wide ledge forms a 10-foot vertical drop on river left-- the most frequently run part of Pedernales Falls. It is called 60/40 Falls because it’s a very difficult drop to execute perfectly (i.e. you have a 60/40 chance of actually styling it.) The good news is that screw-ups are low-consequence.
Typical line: Aim for the boof flake just right of center on the vertical portion of this drop. It’s tempting to go far river left, but there is a shallow rock shelf at the base of the falls on this side, creating a likely piton hazard.
Creek line (sneak): At 500 cfs and above, the far river right line can be run over a series of small ledge drops.
The sloping drop on center right (between the typical line and the creek line) is a known pin/piton hazard and has handed an injury to at least one expert kayaker.
This rapid becomes more of a Class III at lower levels (< 200 cfs) and more of a Class IV at high levels (> 800 cfs.)
One of the largest and most fun Class IV drops in the state. Extreme caution should be used on this drop at higher water levels. At 800 cfs and above, the bottom hole becomes terminal at far river left, and a swim there could prove fatal.
Typical line: Start river right in the pool above the drop. There is a wide wave-hole at the top of the slide, so try to punch that hole. Failing to do so will typewriter you left and put you in a less-than-desirable position for the big slide. Once you punch the top hole, stay to the right side of the big slide, stay straight, and you will have plenty of speed to blast through the bottom hole and into the pool below.
At low flows (50-200 cfs), this rapid becomes more of a low-consequence water slide (Class III+.) At high levels (> 800 cfs), it becomes more of a Class V (but with numerous sneaks.)
This rapid is the most technical and consequential rapid of the three and should be scouted and run with caution. The entire flow of the river is funneled into a narrow mini-gorge, creating a continuous and pushy S-turn rapid full of boils and potholes, requiring a series of must-make moves to navigate safely.
Typical line: Drop into the first slot in the middle of the river (where all of the water is going) and drive aggressively toward the right wall, going around the rock in the middle. From the middle of the river, drive left while dropping into the next steep drop (the crux.) Here a strong diagonal wave wants to push you directly into an undercut on the river right wall (safety should be set above this undercut.) Drive left to get enough momentum to punch through and ride on top of this diagonal, missing the undercut. Once through the crux, it's a straightforward paddle out into the pool below.
This rapid becomes more of a Class III+ at lower levels (< 200 cfs) and more of a Class V at high levels (> 800 cfs.)
Official takeout, accessible on river right via a 300-yard foot trail that leads from the swimming area parking lot.
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