Cottonwood Creek, Utah, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||90 fpm|
|Max Gradient||130 fpm|
|-||300 - 2000 cfs||III-IV||cfs|
Cottonwood creek, more appropriately named Lower Seeley Creek (or simply "Joe's"),
flows from Joes Valley reservoir. The same turquoise water that attracts boaters and fisherman to
this man made lake is found in the river. It really is a beautiful stretch of desert paddling
when it has water. Most seasons don't see many releases over 200 cfs. While Gary Nichols
states a level of 350+ or more is desirable for this section, it has been run as low as 180 cfs.
While the creek isnt as pushy at these lower flows, there are more spots where one could pin a
The rapids are generally pool drop in nature and are formed where large boulders have cleaved from the canyon walls and dropped to the stream bed. Two drops standout in my mind. The first consists of a left hand bend with three paths dropping approximately 4 feet into a pool below. This pool drains out a narrow slot just left of center and probably underneath the river right boulder. The second drop comes after a few class III-ish drops and is marked by a large boulder (house size) on the left hand bank. I frequently encounter trees pinned in here so a scout is advisable. The action continues to the take out with a number of less steep drops and boulder gardens. Our usual takeout is a dirt pullout on the road just after the canyon begins to open up. (Driving up the canyon, this is the only pull-off that leaves the road after the junction with Cottonwood canyon and Straight Canyon.) One may put-in anywhere along the road, some popular options are the last pull-out by the large Pine tree before the road climbs the grade up to the top of the dam, or by walking down the lower dam access road and bush-whacking to the river. (Please dont park on the dam access road, or anywhere blocking the main highway. After 9/11, the dam itself is a restricted area, please obey the no tresspassing signs)
Theres plenty of free or forest service camping around Joes Valley. Check some of the dirt roads leading North or West from the reservoir for some nice secluded spots. (Camping is no longer allowed at the takeout). There are the standard pit toilets located off the main road on the northwest edge of the reservoir. There is a liquor store in Castle Dale these days, at 160 E Main St.