Cottonwood Creek - 01. Joe's Valley Reservoir to Route 29 (Straight Canyon)

Cottonwood Creek, Utah, US


01. Joe's Valley Reservoir to Route 29 (Straight Canyon) (Lower Seeley Creek)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (varies with level)
Length 6 Miles
Avg. Gradient 90 fpm
Max Gradient 130 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
- 180 - 2000 cfs IV+ cfs

River Description

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 isn’t as pushy at these lower flows, there are more spots where one could pin a boat.

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 don’t 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)

There’s 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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-05-25 18:55:44


Rapid Descriptions

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Associated Projects

  • Colorado River Basin Supply Study
    American Whitewater's staff and contractors are working to develop quantitative metrics that help the US Bureau of Reclamation evaluate impacts to recreational stream-flows across the Colorado basin.