Clear Creek, West Fork - 01. Coors Falls to Gunshot

Clear Creek, West Fork, Colorado, US


01. Coors Falls to Gunshot (West Fork)

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 1 Miles
Avg. Gradient 392 fpm
Max Gradient 392 fpm

Coors Falls

Coors Falls
Photo of Barret Burke by Brian Adkins taken 06/03 @ 200 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-06716100 100 - 350 cfs V 47d01h43m 47.2 cfs (too low)

River Description

This is a great easy-access Class V steep creek located between Berthod Pass and I-70, about 40 minutes from Denver. Although the entire run is paralleled by Hwy 40, the stream bed is tucked away from the road and almost completely natural. In fact once on the water you would be hard pressed to find evidence that a major highway is nearby. Although the run is only 2 miles long, 1st timers should allow 3-4 hours because there is a lot of wood to look out for and scouting and safety can be difficult in parts.

This run wastes no time getting going and immediately drops into a mini-gorge with possibly the easiest waterfall in all of Colorado, Coors Falls (15’), at the top. Fortunately two technical ledges immediately below keep it from being a total snooze, the second one should be run in the far left slot. Below Coors Falls you’ll keep real busy the next ¼ mile in hyper-continuous Class IV/V- boulder gardens until you reach a river-wide logjam just above the Z-turn Gorge. Portage around the logjam on the left and scout Z-Turn as best you can, you have to crawl right up to the edge and peek over the 50 foot cliffs boxing in this rapid. This zigzagging little gorge is distinctly steeper at the top and bottom, with a very short lull in the middle. The upper rapid is more technical and difficult to run with out getting turned around backwards at some point. Just downstream from the Z-turn Gorge is I-40 Rapid, the only rapid visible directly from the road. This rapid is the takeout for the short run or the last chance to easily bail if you’re having a bad day, from here to the takeout the creek is a very long and steep scramble from the highway. From I-40 Rapid the manky boulder garden type rapids continue for about a mile until Gun Shot Rapid. This is the hardest drop on the run, and comes up on you very quickly, so exercise extreme caution until you’ve figured out where it is. This rapid got its’ name because the river right side of is private land and the landowner is not above firing a few rounds into the air to get your attention! The scout and portage is best on river right but you can manage without too much trouble on river left. Just downstream from Gun Shot there is a short steep little drop that should be run on the left. From here to the takeout watch out for some river wide logs and dense willows.

For pics of the West Fork and many other Colorado classics check out my Webshots photo album.

More good pics at

To get there: The put-in is located about 3 miles upstream of Empire. Look for the big yellow "Avalanche Zone" signs on the highway. The put-in is located at a dirt pullout near the "End Avalanche Zone" sign. The takeout is tricky to describe. Basically as you're heading back downriver look for the first small dirt road on the right. Head up this road about a mile, after crossing to the river right side of the creek look for another small dirt road off to the right that makes a short little round-about next to the creek. If all else fails just take out at the bridge crossing the creek.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-02-16 19:50:16


Stream team editor

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
February 4 2006 (4734 days ago)
Dan EvansDetails
good news first: the empire boating community cleaned the two mandatory wood portages from the run.
the first was between triple drop (coors falls), and z gorge. you may have to duck or roll under a
couple of trees at higher flow but you shouldn't have to get out of your boat. the second removed
log portage was at the top of gunshot. gunshot should now be good to go. as always scout before you
commit!<br /><br />
bad news next: last time i went by the take-out described above there was a private property sign
on a tree. a new take out is in the works. check back for updates. -dan