Crystal - 02. Road to Crystal to Beaver Lake

Crystal, Colorado, US


02. Road to Crystal to Beaver Lake (Crystal Gorge)

Usual Difficulty V+ (for normal flows)
Length 1.8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 348 fpm
Max Gradient 475 fpm

Pine Tree Falls

Pine Tree Falls
Photo of Adam Barron by Brian Adkins taken 07/03 @ 300 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-09081600 200 - 350 cfs V+ 01h05m 42.4 cfs (too low)

River Description

Possibly the very best hair run in Colorado! Unfortunatley it is very short. The run is roughly divided into two halves, the upper and lower gorges. The upper gorge is very technical eastern-style pool-drop ledgy stuff. The lower gorge is a deep dark scary place that can make grown men cry.

The first set of drops is pretty representative of the difficulty to expect in the upper gorge, wood hazards, steep slides and ledges, must make moves, etc… If you don’t like what you see tuck your tail between your legs and hike back up to your truck! About 2/3 down the upper gorge is Pine Tree Falls(the biggest drop of the upper gorge), the rock wall on the right side looks hideous but it’s a classic case of “boats easier than it looks”. Below Pine Tree is about 100 yards of continuous Class V before you get to the "steep and bony one". This last fall has a fine line and you don’t want to miss the takeout eddy at the bottom! You are now at the start of the lower gorge, the price of admission is Zute Chute - a 40 foot waterfall. Fortunately those of us without rubber spines can make a short technical scramble river left up to an old miners grade. You can’t really scout the rest from the grade because the lower gorge is bound deep in 200 to 400 foot tall cliffs. Either have a guide for the lower gorge or be prepared to bring climbing gear to scout from the gorge rim. The takeout for the lower gorge is a beautiful emerald pool that allows a chance to escape river left, just above Millers Falls. Millers Falls is a series of about five or six waterfalls back-to-back. They are fun to look at but mere mortals have a long portage down river left to the safety of the Class II below. After about a mile of Class II you get to the berm that separates Beaver Lake from the Crystal, carry over it and paddle across the lake to your truck.

For a great article about a misadventure in the Crystal Gorge check out

For pics of Crystal Gorge and many other Colorado classics check out my Webshots photo album.

To get there: From the town of Marble head east on the main road towards the town of Crystal. At the edge of town you will pass Beaver Lake, the take-out. From Beaver Lak continue up the road towards Crystal on a Class IV 4X4 road until you go up and over a small mountain and back down to the river. Put in at the small pullout next to the river.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-02-27 10:39:49

Rapid Descriptions

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Associated Projects

  • Basin Non-Consumptive Needs Assesments (CO)
    AW is working to define stream-flows that meet recreational boating needs across Colorado. In both the Colorado and Yampa River Basin's, AW has helped develop baseline data for whitewater recreation