This is indeed a great run, as all accounts attest. A word of warning on the flow though: the trip report below (from 2008) reports 3.2' on the Murrieta Cr. stick and guesses that is 1300 cfs and would have liked more. In fact, for Jan 6, 2008, the USGS Santa Margarita nr. Temecula gage (just downstream after Temecula Cr, which usually doesn't contribute hardly anything) reads 350 cfs at the trip report's stated put-in time of 2pm, decreasing to 279 cfs at 4pm.
This indeed is a good flow. Three of us did it Jan 21, 2017 on 250'ish cfs and it was bony but still worth it, and friend solo'd it in a packraft on Feb. 5, 2019 and Nov. 29, 2019 both times at 300-350 cfs and reported it filled out nicely relative to our 2017 run. I also ran this twice in the 1990s but don't remember the flows.
He and I then just did it without portages on March 10, 2020 when the flow was 580 cfs rising to 814 cfs (got surprised by a secondary peak). The Murrieta Cr. stick gage read 3.6' at put-in time. It was pretty stomping compared to the lower flows. Lots of very long, continuous, legit solid class IV. 7.5 minute video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZvStUqQp7M and 17 minute version at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIRDncEj5ZU
I would be very cautious about going in at high flows. Watch the videos above and decide how much higher than 800 cfs you might want to go. Things might wash out and be fine, but there could also be some humongous holes, and for sure it will be moving like a freight train. It is certainly doable by sufficiently skilled boaters at high flows, but just don't be thinking that 1300 cfs is a normal, low-key, middle-range flow. I think you would want to be a solid class V boater at 1300+ cfs.
Another flow data point is that on Rocky's (solo) first descent he estimated 300-400 cfs and, presuming he put on in the morning, this sounds reasonable as the USGS gage reports 415 cfs at 8 am declining to 130 cfs at 4 pm. The AWA flow tab for this run quotes Rocky as saying 1500 cfs as optimal, but I don't think he actually says this but rather just estimates that as the boundary between class IV and V. (Edit: I just corresponded with Rocky and he reports he has done this run about 5 times and that the highest flow was 2500 cfs and that he thinks 500-1000 cfs is the best flow range).
Also, I recommend taking out along Stage Coach Lane and not fighting the horrible brush between there and the Sandia Creek bridge. We haven't had any problems. There are homes and associated private property and No Trespassing signs but in our experience those can be avoided.
Sun 1/6/08 Santa Margarita River through Temecula Canyon. 7 miles - Class IV+
Carl called at 9am and woke me up. I didn't think my back would be capable of running
anything, but it loosened up nicely as I surfed the internet for flow/rain data. I had my
eyes on the Santa Margarita for a while, thanks to the really nice write up on AW by Rocky
Contos and one by Charles Foster on his web site. I arrived at the put-in behind an
interstate gas station. The rain was coming down in sheets and the river was way up in
the brush- my butterflies were getting cranked up. It looked huge compared to what we
had on the Big Tujunga. We did some quick scouting and then ran shuttle. Magically, the
rain let up and as we put-in, I realized that despite my fear of water, kayaking and water
actually go hand in hand. As soon as we got on the water, things started feeling familiar
and the butterflies quickly left. It was a welcome feeling being on a real river again. What
we found downstream was drop after drop of pure Class IV, boat-scoutable bliss. I highly
recommend this run! It was very continuous, relatively clean of strainers and sketchiness,
and full of quality boulder gardens and slides. We shore scouted maybe 3 times and only
carried a couple times due to wood and brush.
Flows: We had 3.2 feet on the Murrieta Creek gauge that is referenced in the two write-
ups I talked about above. I think that's about 1300cfs. While Charles Foster says the
optimum flow is 600-750, the flow we had was great, and a little more would've cleaned
things up nicely without making the holes much stickier. We put on at 2pm (not
recommended) and were off at 5pm. Scout the take-out!! We were late putting on and
lazy, and almost missed the take-out. It was getting cold and that would've been a major
Estimated optimum flow (per Rocky Contos): 1500 cfs
Charles Foster reports on his Temecula Canyon website that "3.2 feet/600-750 cfs is a good level."
arrmike reported on BoaterTalk, "I've done it once at 8,000cfs and don't recommend that. I'd love to get on it at a lower flow."
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!