Driving up the narrow dirt road through Escalante Canyon you're presented with 400' sandstone cliffs framing a wide desert valley. At the bottom of this valley is a narrow gorge carved into dark igneous rock, hidden deep inside is Escalante Creek. This is a very beautifull place, even if your not a class V paddler this canyon is worth seeing!
The season for running Escalante Creek is extremely short. Most years it will run for a week, maybe two. In dry years it won't run at all. It is fed by snowpack on the Uncompahgre Plateau, which is in a low elevation, hot and dry part of the state. The run-off goes quickly, and starts earlier in the season than anything else in Colorado. Usually in the second half April after several days of hot, sunny weather. If it becomes overcast, or if a storm rolls through, the creek will shut down quickly. Check Mountainbuzz.com during this time for beta on the flow. There will be lot of hype, controversy, and occasional facts concerning the level!
The creek is a typical desert stream in that it is very muddy. There are a lot of shallow rocks hidden in this silty water so you have to very carefully read the surface of the water to avoid pitoning or being deflected off your line. This is compounded by the fact that this creek rarely has good water to pad it out and is usually run very low.
Also, many of the major falls require you to boof hard left or right to avoid sharp rocks, pitons, overhanging walls, etc... Scout all horizon lines!
In the upper 3/4 of the run all the major drops are spread out and have clearly defined horizon lines with good eddies above them. There is a good amount of III/IV boogie water between the major drops.
The lower gorge is very intense, it's like all the previous major drops placed end to end. Know where to get out before the gorge if you don't want to run it. The only rapid you can scout from river level in the gorge is Escalante falls, all others you have to scout before dropping in.
To get there: The dirt road to Escalante Canyon is between Delta and Grand Junction on Hwy 50. It is narrow washboard road with tire-punching rocks to watch out for, but can be easily driven in a passenger car.
11 miles up the road from Hwy 50 is Captain Smith's Cabin, a well marked funky stone cabin on the right with a covered picnic table. 1/2 a mile further, just after entering public land, is the takeout on the left. Another 1/2 mile or so up the road, on a short gravel road to the left, there is a large sign warning swimmers of "potholes". This is the lower gorge, and the best place to camp. Beware! All glass is prohibited! Rangers WILL give you tickets if you have ANY glass bottles at your camp.
To get to the put-in continue up the road for several miles, and through alternating public and private lands - but it all looks the same. Take the gravel road to the left just before leaving public land for good, there will be an obvious ranch with irrigated fields beyond the fence.
Start with the Gunnison at Grand Junction (http://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/station/flowplot/flowplot.cgi?gjnc2)
Subtract the Gunnison at Delta Gauge (http://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/station/flowplot/flowplot.cgi?gjnc2) and the Uncompahgre at Delta (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/co/nwis/uv/?site_no=09149500&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060).
If the difference is 800-1000 it should be in. General Season is Late April-Late May. Check Mountainbuzz.com as it will be announced over the wire when someone goes up there for a visual report. Cold Weather in Western CO can shut it down overnight, very worth it at medium high flows.
Visual - Two drops upstream of Escalante Falls is a short drop, 57' Chevy, with a fin of rock sticking straight up. If the fin is exposed the level is low, if it is partially covered it is medium, and if it is completely covered the level is high.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
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Leap of Faith
Corkscrew, Escalante Creek
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
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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.
American Whitewater is pleased release a full report on the results of our summer 2013 Gunnison River Flow Survey, in addition to recommendations for regional water managers. This data will enable the management community to better evaluate opportunities to protect recreational flows in the Gunnison Basin now and into the future. Please read the post for full results and how we are using them.
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!
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.
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