Lake Creek - 01. MM 69 to Wills Gulch picnic area

Lake Creek, Colorado, US


01. MM 69 to Wills Gulch picnic area

Usual Difficulty V+ (for normal flows)
Length 9 Miles
Avg. Gradient 137 fpm
Max Gradient 235 fpm


Photo of ? by Jered Johnson

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
codwr-LAKATLCO0 300 - 1000 cfs V+ 61d00h38m 55.1 cfs (too low)

River Description

Lake Creek is a schizophrenic stream. 1/2 of it is meandering Class II, 1/3 is undefined continuous Class IV, and the rest is a handfull of sick V+ bedrock gorges. If you run the upper half be sure you scout the locations of Tombstone(V) and Toaster(V) before putting on.  Floating into either could be fatal if you have not scouted them and don't realize what they are. If you run the Lower Gorge(V+,VI), make sure to scout the whole thing! Last but not least, do not forget to run Cauldron Rapid(V)! It's the second biggest drop, but lacks some of the scare factors of the rapids upstream.

The entire run parallels Hwy 82. The upper put-in is at milemarker 69, the take-out above the Lower Gorge is at mm 74.5, and Cauldron Rapid is at about mm 79.

In 2003 Lake Creek ran at huge levels (almost 2000cfs) for almost an entire month, as a result I have heard that almost all rapids had changed, some dramatic - some minor. Most significant was Tombstone which turned into an unrunnable sieve, no ifs and or butts this is now a mandatory portage!!!


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2012-04-29 01:17:22


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0put inIV+Putin
2.2Tombstone RapidVIAccess Portage Hazard
2.4Road 82c, SF Lake Creek RdN/AAccess
4.0NIMBY Rapid5.2Hazard Waterfall Photo
6.0Toaster Rapid5.0Access Hazard Waterfall Photo
7.5The Brain Rapid5.2Hazard Waterfall
8.0Paralyzer Rapid5.3Hazard Waterfall Photo
8.1Z-turn Rapid5.2Hazard
8.3Parry Creek Campground BridgeIVAccess
8.7Cauldron Rapid5.1Takeout Waterfall

Rapid Descriptions

put in (Class IV+)
For a long day put in at the tunnel coming out of the mountain. The cascade of diverted water down to Lake Creek proper is fun.

Tombstone Rapid (Class VI, Mile 2.2)

This is a very dangerous seive, and is reported to be a mandatory portage. Make sure to scout the location of this rapid just above the South Fork of Lake Creek Road. Or, put-in right below the seive and catch a mile or so of fun warm-up IV before it mellows out again.

Road 82c, SF Lake Creek Rd (Class N/A, Mile 2.4)

The Road 82c bridge provides access to the creek below Tombstone Rapid. 

NIMBY Rapid (Class 5.2, Mile 4.0)


Photo by Matt Stiegler taken 05/02 @ 500 cfs

Not In My Back Yard, there are several summer homes surrounding this beautiful rapid so you can't scout it until you boat down to the entrance. At the top of the rapid there is a park bench with a no tresspassing sign next to it. Despite the sign it is OK to scout on river right, just be low profile and respectfull. The entrance drop has logs stretched across it at head level, the middle is a fast s-turn with undercuts leading into a constriction. Then the creek splits, river right is a waterfall and left is a smaller broken fall.

Toaster Rapid (Class 5.0, Mile 6.0)

Toaster Falls

Toaster Falls
Photo of Brian Adkins by Matt Stiegler taken 05/02 @ 500 cfs

This is would be a relatively simple 10' waterfall if it weren't for the fact that it pours directly into a huge undercut boulder. A hard boof left will just barely land you away from the undercut. This rapid is one of the main reasons I call Lake Creek schizophrenic, there is nothing but boring Class II a mile above and below it. Take out just downstream if you don't want to run the Lower Gorge.

The Brain Rapid (Class 5.2, Mile 7.5)
This is a very technical waterfall. The hardest part is negotiating a tricky seam just a few feet above the lip of the falls. After The Brain you are stuck in a steep little gorge, getting out to scout or portage Paralyzer Rapid(VI) is difficult.

Paralyzer Rapid (Class 5.3, Mile 8.0)


Photo of Gordon Dalton by Wendy Knick taken 7/01 @ 300 cfs?

Whether you consider this a V+ or VI, one fact is undisputed: this cascade is huge!

Z-turn Rapid (Class 5.2, Mile 8.1)
This rapid could almost be considered the run out of Paralyzer, but there is a small pool between them. Z-turn looks insignificant compared to Paralyzer but it's actually much more dangerous. The current makes a severe left turn and slams directly into a badly undercut cliff. The trick is to boof right over the guard rock pushing the current left. The move is scariest at low flows and gets easier with more water.

Parry Creek Campground Bridge (Class IV, Mile 8.3)

This bridge provides a take out above the lower Gorge.

Cauldron Rapid (Class 5.1, Mile 8.7)

This is one of the best rapids in Colorado! It's a pounding funneling waterfall that dumps you in a big bubbling rock cauldron! At low flows the narrow exit from the cauldron is blocked by wood.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 28 2012 (2458 days ago)
Craig PhillipsDetails
There is a gauge to go off for the upper section.
July 9 2006 (4577 days ago)
clay wrightDetails
Lower Lake rapids clear as of July 6 06, wood in NIMBY's river left side and scouting / portaging
difficult by the time you see it. Log above waterline shorty below CG below Paralizer - easily
duckable at 400.

Cauldron's right pocket sticky at 400. "Kiss The Wall' hard to get right below 400.