LOGISTICS: The put-in at Silverton is on Mineral Creek south of town where Hwy. 550 crosses the creek. Alternatively you can put in directly on the Animas along the train tracks to the southeast of town. The take-out is at Rockwood and can be reached where Hwy. 200 turns off to the east from Hwy. 550. You have three options once you reach Tacoma Powerplant all of which take you to a parking spot near the Rockwood rail yard. You can continue boating downstream into the more challenging Rockwood Box (if you decide on this option you must scout the take-out or go with someone who knows the run to make sure you do not enter the unrunnable lower box), catch the train from Tacoma to the Rockwood Rail Yard (check to make sure you can put your gear on the train), or you can hike out along the tracks. This final option is considered trespassing and is only normally done after the last train passes through for the day. This is a long shuttle especially if you are planning to do the run in one day. Consider a two-day trip, run your shuttle the night before, or plan for a very long day.
DESCRIPTION: With more than 24 miles of continuous class IV whitewater, the Animas is one of the finest day trips in the U.S. The run has a definite wilderness character but the narrow gauge railroad that runs up the valley provides convenient access for those who get in a little over their heads or non-paddling friends who want to meet up with you through the run (have someone bring in the camping gear and you can make a great overnight trip).
The run starts in the old mining town of Silverton and then gradually builds as you head downstream. You'll find long rollercoaster rides of wave trains with many holes to avoid. Most of the rapids are straightforward class IV and free of obvious hazards. Due to the continuous nature of the run and challenge of rescue along with the very cold water temperature (even when it's t-shirt weather in Durango), swims can be serious and this river is no place for anyone with a shaky roll. There have been fatalities on this run.
There are three primary rapids that deserve special attention and rate class V-. Boaters should recognize something big coming up and if you have any question in your abilities to recognize these drops it's best to go with someone who knows the run. They are Garfield Slide, No Name Falls, and Broken Bridge. All can be scouted from river right and the railroad grade provides a convenient portage trail.
After Broken Bridge you have several more miles of excellent and continuous whitewater. Once you reach the Tacoma Powerplant and the railroad trestle overhead you have three basic options as described in the logistics: keep boating (only if you're hungry for additional challenge and have scouted the take-out), take the train out, or if it's after the last train you'll have to hike out along the tracks.
For additional information see: Banks, G. and D. Eckhardt. 1999. Colorado Rivers and Creeks, 2nd edition.
A couple of notes to add to Tom's excellent
Above about 3,500 CFS, those class V- rapids
become more like class V rapids, particularly
No Name, with dire swim consequences (a
mile or more of continuous IV+ following).
Also, Tom doesn't mention the Rockwood Box.
It is a notch up in difficulty (and danger) from
the rest of the run. So if you're running the rest
of the river and on your edge, the Box is NOT
recommended. I've run it at 4,500, and that
was the most intense 20 minutes I've spent in
30 years of boating (very different from the run
at 2,500 cfs). I don't know what to call it rating-
wise, but adrenaline-wise it was V++ at the
high water. It's great if you're capable of
staying in control in the box, but rescues at
high water will be impossible and swims
deadly. If in doubt, take one of the alternative
Boaters used to refer to flows
on the Animas by the downstream gauge at Durango, however, this
tells you almost nothing about the flow upstream
except that it is less.
The best guage we have right now is the Animas below Silverton
gauge. This guage typically peaks at midnight
and anything above 1500 or so at the low noon
reading will be very pushy. 2000 is huge. Keep in
mind there are many side streams coming in above
the serious rapids.
There is talk of putting a guage in at Tacoma.
This would be great and I will keep you posted.
Guage description updated by dana kopf
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.
John Huisjen , Nils Blegen, Jeff Dean
John Huisjen, Jesse Mogler
John Huisjen , Nils Blegan, Jesse Mogler, Jeff Dean
No Name Falls@~5000cfs
Animas La Plata
Animas la Plata
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.
In an unexpected and strategic move by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), a Colorado hunting or fishing license will now be required to access State Wildlife Areas and CPW-leased State Trust Lands (effective July 1, 2020). Many of these affected areas have historically been used for paddling, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, and other non-consumptive recreation uses. CPW's press release stated that "This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties", and while we understand the need to increase revenue to support management of these areas, we have a few concerns with this strategy. On July 1, American Whitewater, Colorado Mountain Club, and multiple other organizations submitted a joint letter to CPW Commissioners requesting that they reconsider the new Rule and find a more practicable and sustainable method for collecting fees for these areas.
The Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District in Gunnison, Colorado is coordinating a Watershed Management Planning effort "to help protect existing water uses and watershed health in the Upper Gunnison Basin in the face of pressure from increased water demands and permanent reductions in water supply." The current phase is focusing on Tomichi, Cochetopa, Cebolla, Taylor, and the Gunnison River above Blue Mesa. With local stewardship staff in Crested Butte, American Whitewater has joined the Watershed Management Planning Team to help represent recreational river users and quantify flow preferences and recreational opportunities on the Taylor and Gunnison Rivers. American Whitewater is very excited to be involved in this stakeholder driven process and we are asking paddlers to share their input on management priorities for the Upper Gunnison Basin. If you have experience paddling Cebolla, Taylor, or the Upper Gunnison Rivers, please fill out this quick survey!
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.
Durango, Colorado - On Wednesday morning, 1Million gallons of contaminated mine drainage was accidentaly released into the Animas River watershed. A crew working to clean-up a mine outside of the town of Silverton, accidentaly released the plume forcing local officials to close the river to paddlers, pets and livestock, and other water users. The impact on fish and wildlife is not fully known at this time.
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's backcountry is a human-powered recreation paradise. For paddlers we enjoy great rivers like the Animas or dropping Adrenaline Falls on Lime Creek. Right now the Colorado Roadless Rule that will guide management of these backcountry areas is open for public comment. We encourage all paddlers to weigh in.
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.
Colorado - On December 23, Governor Bill Ritter issued a report outlining a series of proposals for resolving disputes between landowners and rafters in Colorado. He also signed an executive order creating the River Access Mediation Commission to provide a way for some of the most contentious conflicts between boaters and property owners to be addressed. The Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force was a 17-member group created in July of 2010 to help craft ways to sort out conflicts on Colorado rivers on a stretch-by-stretch basis as those disputes arise.
Colorado - Last month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released their proposed management plan for the Little Snake Resource Area, encompassing over a million acres of soaring plateaus, wild and scenic rivers, and sweeping sagebrush basins. Special interests are trying to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to protect portions of the Yampa River – one of the nation's last free flowing rivers. Let BLM know that protections for these rivers are important to you!
Help Preserve Whitewater & Paddling Throughout the Deserts and Mountains of the West. Reforming the 1872 Mining Law will, finally, give recreation values a voice on how our federal public lands are managed
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