This photo needs editing.
Difficulty II-III+(IV)
Length 28 Miles
Gauge DOLORES RIVER NEAR SLICK ROCK, CO
Flow Range 800 - 4000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 52 minutes ago 1330 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/18/2019 5:02 am

River Description


FUN FACT: When the dam is releasing water this is the best section of whitewater on the Dolores

SEASON: April to early June depending on snowpack and release from McPhee Dam.

ISSUES: Recreational users have traditionally been the last to be considered in the management plan for McPhee Dam. A proposal to construct additional diversions designed to capture even more of the spring melt will only make the situation worse. Check with the San Juan Citizen's Alliance for the latest information on this issue.

LOGISTICS: The put-in for this section is at the Mountain Sheep Point Recreation site, otherwise known as Dove Creek Pump Station, which can be accessed via County Road J which leaves Highway 666 near the town of Dove Creek. To reach the take-out, take Highway 141to the bridge across the Dolores at Slickrock. There is a launch site upstream river right of the bridge.

DESCRIPTION: This section of the Dolores is either the second section of a multiday trip starting at Bradfield Launch or the start of an excellent weekend trip (be warned that Memorial Day weekend can be busy if flows cooperate) for those who want to enjoy the best whitewater the Dolores has to offer. The Dolores is managed by the BLM and although permits are not currently required, you will still need your firepan, portable toilet, and dishwater strainer for overnight trips. An unimproved dirt road parrallels the first half of this section along river left. Those who want to avoid the roadside camp sites can find a couple of good sites on river right or just plan your trip to boat past this first half over the course of a day.

From river mile 19 at the Dove Creek Pump Station, you will start to encounter class III rapids more frequently than in the section upstream. They come every mile or so all the way up to Little Snag at mile 26. Little Snag can become a congested rapid at flows less than 1200 cfs as there are several boulders that are easy to get stuck on. It is often portaged by rafts. Experienced oarsmen will encounter few problems at higher flows.

Within a mile of Little Snag the river races towards the crux rapid of the run known as Snaggletooth. This class IV rapid pushes class V above 2000 cfs and for rafts it can create class V troubles at just about any level. A portage is recommended for rafts at flows below 1000 cfs. Pay attention as you enter this section of the river as its easy to stumble into Snag before you realize it. Stay alert for the portage trail on river left that leads up to the road. You can scout the rapid from the rocks along river left and portage along the road if necessary. The tricky part of this rapid is near the end of the drop where the current slams into a sharply pointed boulder otherwise known as Snag Rock. It is normally easily avoided by kayakers, but a couple of rafts meet disaster every season when they get hung up on the rock.

After passing through Snaggletooth you'll be treated to more class II rapids before you encounter the Wall at mile 28. At this class III+ rapid the current rushes into a rock wall along river right but skilled boaters can avoid it with a ferry to river left. There are some excellent camp sites below this section particularly the one at mile 30 which is on river right away from the road.

The most continuous section of whitewater begins near mile 33. This is the start of Three-Mile Rapid, a section of fun class III whitewater. Those in kayaks will want to take their time to enjoy the fun playboating to be had in this section. By the time you are through this section the road no longer parrallels the river. The final class III rapid on this section comes near mile 38. By mile 40 the river weaves its way across private land and camping options are limited. It's here that the change in scenery becomes apparent as you enter the lower elevation desert ranchlands and leave the pines behind.

It's another 7 miles to the bridge at Slickrock and an access point on river right upstream of the bridge.

Boaters can start from further upstream or continue their trip downstream by taking advantage of boating opportunities on the following sections of the Dolores and Colorado:

 

Rapid Descriptions

Comments

Gage Descriptions

Recommended minimum flows are 200 cfs for canoes/kayaks/inflatables, 800 cfs for small rafts to 14 ft., 1000 cfs for large rafts to 18 ft. Flow information hotline 970.565.7562. River users can expect approximately 19 days with flows of 2000 cfs which is ideal for this section. In some years there are no boatable flows. Check with the Dolores Water Conservancy District for information on the timing of spring releases.

Directions Description


We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports

Alerts

News

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Final Slate River Floating Management Plan Released (CO)

5/16/2019
Kestrel Kunz

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).

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Land and Water Conservation Fund Secures Access to Upper Colorado River

5/8/2019
Hattie Johnson

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. 

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Dolores River (CO) 2019 Spill Forecast Update

5/2/2019
Hattie Johnson

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.

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Help Protect Crested Butte Area Rivers and Creeks under Wild and Scenic Act

2/26/2019
Kestrel Kunz

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. 

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AW releases Saint Vrain and Lefthand Creek Recreational Flow Study - CO

12/14/2018
Nathan Fey

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.

 

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Support Colorado River Access on Colorado Gives Day!

11/29/2018
Kestrel Kunz

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!

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Voluntary River Closure Proposed On the Slate River (CO)

11/2/2018
Kestrel Kunz

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. 

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AW Comments on Colorado Nat'l Forest Wilderness Process

9/5/2018
Kestrel Kunz

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)

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TAKE ACTION: Comment on the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Management Plan

11/1/2017
Kestrel Kunz

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. 

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Colorado Honors the legacy of Matt Brown

10/30/2017
Nathan Fey

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.

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Comments needed on Upper Colorado River Recreation Area Management Plan

8/28/2017
Nathan Fey

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.

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Gore Fest 2017 is a few weeks away!

8/9/2017
Nathan Fey

Bond, Colorado - American Whitewater is presenting Gore Canyon Festival - August 25-27th 2017Online registration is open and there are events for everyone, so sign up today! 

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A Successful River Cleanup on the St. Vrain (Lyons, CO)

6/7/2017
Kestrel Kunz

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.  

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Dolores River Update - April 27th

4/27/2017
Nathan Fey

Dolores, CO - Releases into the lower Dolores River will begin to ramp down starting Sunday May 7 until minimal boating flows of 800 – 1200 CFS are reached. A high flow event of 4000 cfs is still planned for May 5th, but the duration of the event may be cut down to two or three days. Forecasts continue to drop and may not produce releases that reach into June.

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Dolores River - The Early April Update

4/6/2017
Nathan Fey

Dolores, Colorado - The highly anticipated April 1st water supply forecast for the Dolores River has finally been released and for boaters, conditions are promising.  With inflow into McPhee Reservoir forecast to be 142% of average, managed releases from McPhee Dam should provide 87 days of flows above 800 cfs, and 50 days above 2000 cfs. Releases have started - lets go boatin'!

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Last Call! Dolores River Boater Survey - 2017

6/30/2017
Nathan Fey

Attention all Dolores River Boaters!

Excited About Boating Colorado's Dolores River this year? American Whitewater and our partners are gathering your feedback on the 2017 boating releases from McPhee Dam. After your trip, Please Take Our Online Survey! Your participation will directly inform the next release from McPhee Dam.  Make your voice heard!

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Dolores River Releases - Final March Update

3/27/2017
Nathan Fey

Dolores, Colorado - A warm March has started the runoff early and driving McPhee Reservoir elevations up, approaching 6915 and rising. Therefore releases will start ramping up March 29, 2017.  The forecast for the Dolores River has dropped since March 1, but still promises plenty of water for a recreational release from McPhee Reservoir. 

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Releases To Lower Dolores River Still Certain for 2017

3/7/2017
Evan Stafford

Cortez, Colorado - American Whitewater and local interests in Dolores Water sat down again this month with the most current snowpack, water supply, and McPhee Reservoir storage data, to determine how releases, if possible, can be timed to provide the best boating opportunities, while doing good things for fish, and the health of the River. Releases for the lower Dolores River will happen in 2017 and the forecast for great flows is looking very good right now!

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Releases to Lower Dolores River certain in 2017.

2/17/2017
Nathan Fey

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...

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Upper Colorado River Access funded by Land & Water Conservation Fund - CO

2/6/2017
Nathan Fey

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. 

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One more day to submit input on Colorado's Brown Canyon National Monument!

1/17/2017
Kestrel Kunz

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.

 

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New Report on Impact to San Miguel River From Proposed Reservoirs

1/9/2017
Evan Stafford

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. 

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Proposed Asphalt and Gravel Mine threatens the Upper Colorado River

12/6/2016
Evan Stafford

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.

 

 
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Now Showing: "River of Sorrows" Film - the Story of Colorado's Dolores River

3/2/2016
Nathan Fey

"River of Sorrow" is a film that reflects the many perspectives community members have around the Dolores River and highlights the challenges of managing this public resource.  The complexity and the urgency for restoring flows to the Dolores while balancing the many livelihoods that the river presently supports and supported once before, makes for a good story.
 
Join AW and Rig to Flip for screenings of "River of Sorrow: Inheriting Today's Dolores River" at a screening near you!
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Lyons Outdoor Games and Burning Can to Support AW

5/15/2013
Nathan Fey

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!

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Lower Dolores River Draft Implementation Plan Released - Colorado

10/4/2012
Nathan Fey

Cortez, Colorado - After several years of work to restore healthy flows in the Lower Dolores River, American Whitewater and a small group of water and conservation interests in the basin have released the Implementation, Monitoring, and Evaluation Plan for new management opportunities for McPHee Dam and the Lower Dolores River.  The Plan's goal is to restore native fish populations between the dam and the San Miguel River, while protecting world-class whitewater boating opportunities and other Wild and Scenic values. Among the opportunties presented in the Plan, are changes to spring relases from McPhee, which seek to provide better predictability, quality, and reliability of boating flows between April and July.

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AW Announces New Dolores River Program Staff!

4/8/2011
Nathan Fey

Colorado - American Whitewater would like to announce our new part-time program staff in the Dolores River basin - Jay Loschert! Jay will be working with AW's Colorado Program Director to organize the local paddling community and to work with the US Bureau of Reclamation and our stakeholders in the Dolores to improve instream flows below McPhee Dam. Welcome Jay!

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AW launches Flow Study for Yampa River

3/3/2011
Nathan Fey

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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AW Announces New Staff Position in Colorado!

2/7/2011
Nathan Fey

American Whitewater and our partners at the San Juan Citizens Alliance are hiring a part-time Dolores River Stewardship Assistant to help advance the shared strategies of environmental and recreational interests in the Dolores RIver basin. This position will serve as a lead advocate for whitewater paddling interests, and be dedicated to improving coordination among paddlers, as well as environmental and recreational stakeholders, in the Dolores River basin. Applicants need apply by March 1, 2011.

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Support Flow Restoration on the Dolores River - Take Action!

9/30/2010
Nathan Fey

Colorado - American Whitewater has recently brought our expertise to bear on Dolores River Management and is actively working to restore reliable and sufficient flows to the Dolores Canyon.

Today, we need you to join us in asking the US Bureau of Reclamation to take a leadership role in protecting the recreation and environmental values of the Dolores River. By signing on to our letter, you are demonstrating public support for Federal decisions that protect natural resources and enhance instream flow conditions.

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Last Call for Dolores River Flow Study Participation (CO)

8/31/2010
Nathan Fey

There are only 3 weeks left to participate in American Whitewater's Flow Study for the Dolores River. This is the last call to help American Whitewater propose new reservoir operations and negotiate enhanced instream flows below McPhee Reservoir.

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Dolores River Releases for 2009

3/16/2009
Nathan Fey

Dolores River - Colorado

Here we are in mid-March with the high elevation snow in the Dolores and San Miguel watersheds at about 106% of normal and dropping daily.  Therefore estimates for spring flows in the Lower Dolores River below McPhee Reservoir are a little below normal. The first projections of this years releases for the Lower Dolores are now available.

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Working Group takes on future management of Lower Dolores River

12/18/2008
Nathan Fey

American Whitewater and various stakeholders have formed a Working Group in the Lower Dolores River Valley to update the 1990 US Bureau of Land Management’s Lower Dolores River Management Plan. In December 2008, the Working Group launched a year-long process to develop and evaluate alternatives to Wild and Scenic River designation for the Dolores below McPhee Dam.

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Thomas O'Keefe

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Nathan Fey

Colorado Stewardship Director

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Craig Irwin

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Matt Muir

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190180 02/27/09 Thomas O'Keefe n/a
1209897 06/20/18 Nathan Fey
1211944 04/18/19 Craig Irwin updated description
1195268 06/02/09 Matt Muir Updated lynx.
1195269 06/02/09 Matt Muir Updated lynx.
1202470 07/31/13 Nathan Fey