SEASON: April to early June depending on snowpack and release from McPhee Dam and inflow from the San Miguel River.
ISSUES: Recreational users have traditionally been the last to be considered in the management plan for McPhee Dam. American Whitewater has become a leader in policy discussions around Reservoir management, and restoring flows below McPhee for the benefit of recreation and native fish. Follow the links to the right, for more information.
LOGISTICS: It's a long shuttle via Grand Junction but that also means this section receives somewhat reduced use. The put-in is on the upstream river right side of the Highway 141 Bridge in Gateway. The take-out is at Dewey Bridge across the Colorado just downstream of the confluence with the Dolores. In spring, snow can block the short-cut shuttle through Castle Valley. Inquire locally to see if you can find someone willing to run your shuttle.
This river sees somewhat limited use compared to nearby desert runs. The shuttle can be long (when the mountain shortcut is blocked by snow), the action is mellow except for Stateline which can be too much action for some, and there's a bit of ranch and mining "history" that detracts a bit from the scenery. But if you're looking to avoid the crowds, this is a trip worth checking out and with supplemental flows from the San Miguel it can be a possibility when McPhee Dam holds back the spring melt and the upper sections on the Dolores are too low. In some years your only opportunity for paddling the Dolores is to paddle the sections below the confluence of the San Miguel and this one contains the most whitewater. The Dolores is managed by the BLM and they maintain a web page with information on the river. Although permits are not currently required in Colorado, once you cross into Utah, a permit is needed. Permit information can be found below.
The run starts out from the Gateway Launch at mile 141 as a mellow float characteristic of the sections just upstream. A road parrallels river right as you pass through open bottomlands. Within a few miles the action begins to pick up with some class II and III rapids before you reach the highlight of this section at Stateline Rapid. You'll want to get out to scout this class IV drop from river right. After this rapid the river mellows out again with only a couple more rapids before settling out to a lazy float to the Colorado.
Decent campsites can be found once you've passed through Stateline Rapid and into Utah. Here the run becomes more remote as you start to leave the roads behind. You'll find some good wilderness camping and side hikes. There are a couple sections of ranch land and you'll see evidence of the past human history of this area, but there's some good scenery.
The Dolores joins the Colorado and ends at mile 173 (as measured from Bradfield Bridge below McPhee Dam). It's another couple miles on the Coloardo to Dewey 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:
stateline rapid has changed due to a flash flood spring 2010. At flows from 750-1900 water no longer flows around the upper island at the top of the rapid. After the upper island the majority of the water diverts to the right and goes over the dam. The river left has many more rocks in it and has a narrow run river left. At flows higher then 2000 this may open up more. portage can be done by lining boats over dam on the right.
Minimum flows are 250 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. Flows of 2000 cfs are ideal for this section. In some years boatable flows are limited. Check with the Dolores Water Conservancy District for information on the timing of spring releases from McPhee Dam.
We have had releases on this reach but don't show any currently. This information is gathered by the public. If you know about releases then contact us about them. If you would volunteer to enter the releases, then reach out to us.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Entering Stateline Rapid
Lower Dolores River
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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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
Colorado - The Dolores Water Conservancy District has announced it's release schedule from McPhee Reservoir, promising flows at or above 3000 cfs in May. Release estimates are approximate and updates will be made available based on emerging weather conditions, in-flow rates and reservoir levels.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Colorado River Basin - American Whitewater is asking for paddler input on flows and recreation quality for rivers across the Southwestern United States. We are gathering this information to help define recreational flow-needs, and to inform the US Bureau of Reclamations' Colorado River Basin Supply and Demand Study. Whether you live in Boston, San Francisco, or Jensen, UT, your input will help AW protect healthy rivers - TAKE OUR SURVEY TODAY!
Gateway, Colorado - Last month, American Whitewater, in partnership with local property owners, conservation and wildlife agencies, kicked off a multi-phase project to remove and rehabilitate a low-head diversion structure on the Dolores River. The Project, funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will improve boater safety and enhance fish and riparian habitats along one of the mosty highly valued rivers in the Southern Rockies.
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...
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!
Gateway, CO - This week, a Colorado water court approved instream flow water rights protecting up to 900cfs during peak flows on a 33-mile stretch of the lower Dolores River. The State applied for these rights in 2015, and the court approval creates the largest flow protection for the Dolores.
Alamosa, Colorado - American Whitewater needs your help to define streamflows that support the full range of recreational boating opportunities on the Rio Grande and Conejos Rivers in Southern Colorado. Information provided by you will help set goals for flows and physical conditions to protect and enhance streams, and inform multi-objective projects to improve ecological, recreational, and community values. Please participate in our survey today!
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)
It's that time of year folks! Colorado Event Season is soon upon us. Whether you've been training all winter in preparation or whether you just enjoy a good show and boating with your friends, these classic Colorado river events are not to miss!
In addition to the many whitewater festivals that American Whitewater partners with in Colorado, we are excited to announce that AW is hosting Gore Fest again this year! We hope to see you at Rancho Del Rio on August 24 - 26. Stay tuned for more details on race registration, entertainment, and volunteer opportunities.
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.
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!
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!
American Whitewater staff traveled to Green River, UT in late March to meet with private water users and state agencies, and to participate in the official opening of the new boat passage through the Green River Diversion (Tusher Dam). Completion of the boat passage has freed the Green River from its last in-stream obstruction between the Flaming Gorge Dam and the confluence with the Colorado River – over 400 floatable river miles through iconic canyons and historic landmarks. It has a been a long process, and our work isn’t over yet! As your boating representative, American Whitewater will continue to work closely with the dam operators and Utah’s Division of State Lands (FFSL) to ensure that the boat passage meets the needs of the public during its inaugural year.
Colorado Stewardship Director
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