South Boulder Creek from Gross Dam to Eldorado Canyon State Park is Boulder's backyard Colorado boating.
Lower South Boulder Creek holds three Class V+ exceptions and is a front range kayaking treat with remoteness and atypical Front Range creeking challenge.
The Put-in for Lower SBC is 1/4 mile below Gross Dam. From the vehicle bridge that crosses the creek, park river-left, uphill in the now-developed parking turnout of the turn. Denver Water Board property surrounds this unique putin. Stick to the foot trail than runs from the turnout down to the creek.
Launch from the cool alpine mossy banks and you are right away into the cold and remote feel of South Boulder Creek, Gross Reservoir to Eldorado Canyon State Park.
Wood from recent wildfires and high water will regularly load into any drop or corner.
Ramble under a footbridge, river hooks left, eddy out left for:
* Mile 0.9, Moist Slot, Drop One, Class V, the first of the three bigger drops on this run. Eddy/scout/portage river-left. This narrow slot on river right is setup by strong cross-current seams and folding water. Enter the Slot close to right wall, paddle through the slot angled slightly left. The drop is about six feet on a sloping flake with a stopper hole to stuff you. This is a dangerous rapid. Either you feel it or shoulder your boat.
More rambling creekin' with occasional playwaves. Keep eyes peeled for mountain lions (Felis concolour) and bears as this reach holds good habitat.
Boogie-boating for about a mile until The Brain. A channelized staight-away section of the river with picnic tables on river-left indicates that you are nearing The Brain, or Hole in the Wall rapid.
* Mile 1.7 - The Brain / Hole in the Wall, Drop Two, Class V+. Eddy/scout/portage river-left. The Brain has many ledges to stuff a boater in. When run correctly, after negotiating the setup, a good landing puts you hard against the rock in the bottom. For those who portage, seal launch from large boulder just after crux ... more boogie boating for about a mile, until a flat pool is reached after the river bends left.
* Mile 3.0 Bridge Falls / Martin Gulch Falls, Drop Three, Class V+. Eddy/scout/portage river-right. Recent changes in this waterfalls geology warrant scouting. Bridge Falls is filled with wood, undercuts and fast, shallow landings followed by a stomper hole. After Bridge Falls pass under a footbridge and enter a beautiful Class IV cascade into more canyon that emerges into a forebay.
*Mile 4.2, Forebay and the Dam Drop - Eddy/scout/portage river left.
The route over the Dam is right. Be four to five feet away from the righthand wall in the righthand chute. Dam Drop is about 30 feet high and on a slight angle just off vertical. After the dam drop, over half the water in the river is stolen away to the thirsty pipes of Lakewood and Denver. Prepare for about 1.3 miles of boneyard shallows (90 to 120cfs).
Attempting the de-watered section with less than a 125cfs on the lower gauge (Eldorado Canyon, 1*7*) is not recommended. Rental boats preferred.
*Mile 6.5, Take-out river-left in picnic grounds, free food for kayakers!
or *Mile 6.7, Take-out river-right upstream of the green vehicle bridge Below this bridge leads into Class V+ Eldorado Canyon and Harmon Falls.
Shuttle is about 50 minutes one way. Bumpy Boulder County backroads and dusty washboard gravel roads around Denver Water Board property.
For descriptions of Colorado runs, see Whitewater of the Southern Rockies by Stafford and McCutchen, or Colorado Rivers and Creeks by Banks and Eckert.
Lat/longitude coords are approximate, from TopoZone.
The various reaches of Boulder Creek,Jasper Creek (Class V+/VI),The Source (Class V),Upper Boulder Canyon (Class V/V+),Lower Boulder Canyon (Class IV),Boulder Town Run (Class II/III),North Fork Boulder (Class V+/VI),Alto-Alto (Class IV),Upper South Boulder (Class V+/VI),Lower South Boulder (Class IV/V+/VI),Eldorado Canyon (Class V+).
Moist Slot rapid has a hidden (at >250 cfs) sieve on river right about 15 feet after the initial slot drop. The right side of the the entire drop and the ensuing hole are undercut, too. Be aware that accidents have occurred here when considering this drop.
Colorado Watertalk: 303-831-7135, Division 1, Station 6 (1*6*). South Boulder below Gross Reservoir. Division 1, Station 7 (1*7*). South Boulder Creek near Eldorado Springs.
Season is May ~ September. * Depending upon water contracts this run can fire at will.
Runnable flows start at 90 cfs on the Eldorado springs gauge (bring a rental boat!).
Recommended minimum flows are +-150 cfs on the Eldorado gauge(1*7*).
Ice plays a regular factor in the early spring.
Class IV(V+) <450cfs below Gross Res.(1*6*)
Class IV+(V+) >450cfs below Gross Res.(1*6*)
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.
Below the bridge
Martin Gulch Falls middle
LSBC Wood Hazard
Hazard in River
Bridge Drop Entrance
Lower South Boulder Creek typical nature
Lower End of Martin Falls Rapid
Martin Gulch Falls top
not far down from put-in
Bridge Falls Drop kayaker 4
Bridge Falls Drop kayaker 3
Bridge Falls Drop kayaker 2
Upstream View of Bridge Falls
Bridge Falls Drop kayaker
Bridge Drop Falls
Moist Slot 1998
Moist Slot Drop #1
Moist Slot @ 250
South Boulder Ck Dam Run
Mike in the slot
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.
Crested Butte, CO - Increased user conflict on the Slate River has led to a Floating Management Plan that proposes a "voluntary no-float period" between March 15 and July 15 this season. Since our last news post in November, the Slate River Floating Management Plan has been updated and revised for the 2019 season. An open house will be held at The Depot in Crested Butte on Thursday, May 16 and it is critical that paddlers from the local community attend and engage in the conversation. (Photo courtesy of the Crested Butte Land Trust).
A bill to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was introduced last month by Colorado Senator Cory Gardener and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and cosponsored by Colorado Senator Michael Bennett. If passed the bill would provide $900M annually for projects protecting natural, cultural and historic resources. Existing funding from the LWCF recently enabled the transfer of two important river access points on the Upper Colorado River. The State Bridge and Two Bridges parcels were owned by Eagle County and had been improved - boat ramps, parking, restroom/changing facilities - by the Eagle County Open Space program with coordination and management support from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This land transfer will protect public access at these locations in perpetuity.
Dolores Water Conservation District put out their most recent predictions on April 23rd. More can be found on their website. We are expecting an updated forecast on May 6th and will be meeting with them on May 9th to begin discussions on how the recreational boating releases can align with other ecological goals. American Whitewater has developed a wide range of guidelines on how a spill can meet both recreation goals and goals to improve aquatic species and riparian health.
The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) are conducting a Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Evaluation as part of the current Forest Plan Revision process. While the Forest Service is mandated to conduct an Eligibility Study as part of the Plan Revision process, this opportunity only happens every 15-20 years and we need to ensure that the Study is comprehensive and robust. We need YOU to share your love and knowledge of these rivers with the Forest Service! We've put together an easy-to-use tool for you to submit comments here. Please consider personalizing your comments and take the time to review the Forest Service's Story Map of the Eligibility Evaluation.
Longmont, Colorado - As part of a comprehensive Stream Management Plan for the St Vrain Creek Watershed, American Whitewater is collecting and compiling data on recreational uses, and identifying projects and strategies to improve stream health, recreation, and environmental conditions in the region. You can help with this extensive effort. Please participate in the Recreational Flow survey.
Colorado Gives Day is on December 4 this year and is fast approaching! Go here to schedule your online donation to support American Whitewater's Colorado River Access Program. All donations made to American Whitewater on Colorado Gives Day (December 4) will be put towards our River Access Program in Colorado. American Whitewater works to improve river access and public safety throughout the state by working with landowners and managers, paddlers, law enforcement, and lawmakers to understand Colorado's river access laws and the ongoing threats to public safety. Thank you for your support!
Crested Butte CO - Alleged disruption to a Heron Rookery and concerned private landowners have led to a "Voluntary Closure" of the Slate River from the Gunsight Bridge to the Town of Crested Butte between March 15 and June 21 for the 2019 season. The Slate River between Oh Be Joyful Campground and Skyland Bridge, a 10.5 mile stretch, provides an incredibly scenic and unique flatwater paddling experience in the Gunnison Valley. The Voluntary clsoure is a product of the Slate River Floating Management Plan, created by a Working Group convened by the Town of Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Land Trust. The Working Group was created in direct response to pressure from the local community including conservationists and private landowners adjacent to the river, who are concerned that a recent increase in boating activity is disturbing a Heron Rookery that straddles the Slate River.
Today, September 5, marked the close of the public review process for the DRAFT Wilderness Evaluation Report. The Evaluation Phase is the second step of 4 different steps required in the assessment of lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). American Whitewater thoroughly reviewed the DRAFT Wilderness Evaluation Report and submitted our comments to the Forest Service on September 4, 2018. Overall, we found that key paddling reaches throughout the GMUG area were greatly under-represented in the Polygon narratives and thus weren't acknowledged as contributing factors to the Polygon's respective Wilderness Ratings. We let the Forest Service know this, highlighting specific paddling reaches that should be added to each Polygon and which Polygons we believe should have a higher Wilderness Rating based on the high-quality recreation opportunities that each area has to offer.
Please stay tuned as we continue to report on the GMUG Land Management Revision Process and in the meantime you can learn more about the GMUG here. (Photo of Josh King by Nick Spitzer)
ARKANSAS RIVER, Colo. - The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) is revising their Management Plan for the first time since 2001. The new Draft Plan was made publicly available in October and the AHRA is accepting public comments through November 10, 2017 (next week!). In order to design effective and productive comments, American Whitewater has thoroughly reviewed the Draft Plan, discussed the Plan with our local Affiliate Clubs, attended AHRA Public Open Houses, and reached out to key members of the local paddling community. To make it easy for you to SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS, American Whitewater staff have compiled our key concerns and comments for your review.
Gunnison, Colorado - Last Wednesday, Matt Brown - longtime river guide, adventurer, and pillar of the Gunnison Valley community- passed away tragically after an accident in Moab. Matt was so much to so many. At the request of his family and friends, contributions in Matt's memory can be made to American Whitewater’s River Access work in Colorado. Matt was a strong ally and advisor in our work to protect the public’s rights to float and fish in the State. We miss him immensely.
Kremmling, Colorado - The Bureau of Land Management has released for public review and comment a set of preliminary alternatives for managing about 40 miles of the Upper Colorado River between Parshall and State Bridge - including Gore Canyon and Pumphouse. This is your chance to weigh in on whether there should be a day-use permit; a camping permit with designated campsites in the popular stretch between Pumphouse and State Bridge; and expanding the developed Pumphouse Campground.
Bond, Colorado - American Whitewater is presenting Gore Canyon Festival - August 25-27th 2017. Online registration is open and there are events for everyone, so sign up today!
On Sunday, nearly 50 people gathered on the banks of the St. Vrain River to pick up trash from the water and the shoreline. We started the day off with Hotbox Roasters coffee and donuts, and a few words about River Stewardship – the common cause that brought us all together. We found bedframes, rusty nails, lawn chairs, car doors, plastic water bottles, candy wrappers, fast food containers, and it doesn’t stop there. Our findings are likely a combination of leftover debris from the floods, illegal waste dumping along the river, and built up trash from years of careless passers-by. Thank you to all those that came out for the river cleanup! American Whitewater depends on our affiliate clubs, members, and dedicated volunteers in order to tackle our many River Stewardship projects.
Cortez, Colorado - Last week, American Whitewater met with local water managers, fisheries biologists, an other interests in Dolores River water, to start negotiating releases from McPhee Dam - like we do every spring. This year, things are looking very good for the Dolores...
Dotsero, Colorado - A key river access point on the Upper Colorado river, once threatened with closure, has now been permanently protected through a partnership between BLM and Eagle County.
There is only one more day left to share what you value most in the Browns Canyon National Monument planning area! The Bureau of Land Management, U.S Forest Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are working together to develop a Coordinated Management Plan for Browns Canyon National Monument. In order to design a plan that most benefits citizens and visitors of Colorado, the agencies designed an Online Survey and Mapping Tool to understand how the public interacts with the Browns Canyon planning area and what aspects of the area are most important to the public.
Colorado - American Whitewater has released a new study on whitewater recreation in the San Miguel River Basin. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) requested that Montrose County consult with American Whitewater on recreational needs and future impacts for the San Miguel River. Montrose County acquired conditional water rights to the San Miguel River in hopes of building multiple new reservoirs on BLM land. American Whitewater worked with Montrose County’s agents to assess the impact its conditional storage proposals would have on existing recreational opportunities.
A new proposal to allow the development of a 90- acre open pit mine in Eagle County at the gateway to the Colorado River has local river users asking questions. We encourage everyone to attend an Open House December 6 at 6 PM at the Gypsum Recreation Center, and to make your voices heard at the Town Council meeting where they will discuss the application on December 13 at 7 PM.
Lyons, Colorado - For the second year in a row, Oskar Blues Brewery is hosting the Burning Can Festival at this year Lyons Outdoor Games. Burning Can, which takes place under the backdrop of Rocky Mountain National Park and the St. Vrain River, is a celebration of good beer, served in a can. This year, All money raised from Lyons Outdoor Games recycled cans will be donated to American Whitewater. See you there!
Denver, Colorado - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it was delaying the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Moffat Collection System Project on the Fraser River and South Boulder Creek, for another year. Previously, the FEIS was scheduled to be released at the beginning of 2013 -- it has now been delayed until February of 2014.
Colorado - American Whitewater is conducting a study of flow-recreation relationships for the Yampa Basin, and identifying specific metrics for use in the Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool. This study is intended to inform local, state, and federal planning efforts as to the full range and quality of recreational boating opportunities for the Wild and Scenic suitable Yampa River, as well as the Elk and White Rivers, and their tributaries. Your participation in the flow survey is requested.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has added a public hearing on the Moffat Collection Project. Date: December 8, 2009 Location: Keystone Conference Center (0633 Tennis Club Road, Keystone, CO, 80435) Time: Open House 4:00 pm; Public Hearing begins at 6:00 pm
Colorado- While the US Army Corps of Engineers is drafting the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir in Boulder County, Colorado, Denver Water is taking comments on their proposed changes to the reservoir's FERC license, including tree removal, relocating recreation facilities, and hydropower generation.
Comments on the FERC License amendment associated with Gross Reservoir Enlargement Project are due September 29th, 2008.
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