Dolores, Colorado, US/Utah, US
|Usual Difficulty||II+(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||14 fpm|
|DOLORES RIVER NEAR CISCO, UT|
|usgs-09180000||1000 - 4000 cfs||II+(IV)||01h07m||15.7 cfs (too low)|
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:
Required permit can be obtained by calling the Moab BLM field office for a reservation.