Purgatoire - 01. US 350 to Highway 109

Purgatoire, Colorado, US


01. US 350 to Highway 109

Usual Difficulty I-V (for normal flows)
Length 104 Miles

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-07126485 200 - 4000 cfs I-V 77d07h47m 20.1 cfs (too low)
Flow range for best boatability uncertain. Please help your fellow boaters with a comment or report.

River Description

Here are the notes from long-time paddler and guidebook Ed Gertler. Keep in mind that these notes are 25 years old. As he writes of his description:

"Wish I had something more up-to-date, and perhaps more eloquent. I suspect all the stuff I carried is runnable by today's standards (what isn't?), but on the half-mile portage section, I just plain could not see what was happening amongst those boulders. I would love to hear the account of others."

June. 14, '83
Purgatoire R. -  US Rte 350 to CO Rte. 109, Higbee. June 14 - to mile 123.5 (Mile 0 is CO Rte 101). Had hard time hitchhiking shuttle on deserted Rte. 350, so I took morning Amtrak train from La Junta to Trinidad ($19) and taxi from there ($15). Put in about noon. Encountered 5-ft. dam ~3 or 4 miles below start. Carry left. There was a 2-ft dam ~ 9 or 10 miles below start. I ran on left with a clunk. To San Francisco Creek is open country with wonderful views of Raton Mesa, FishersPeak, and Sangre de Cristo Mtns. Usually low banks. Almost continuous Class 1. Several sets of nice surfing waves in first several miles. They seemed to be ledge-formed. River initially narrow but spreads out in last few miles above San Francisco Cr. Level ideal. Canyon starts at San Francisco Cr. Consists of sandstone cap above breakdown slopes. Huge boulders fill riverbed. Forms usually easy but turbulent whitewater. Occasionally it gets really choked. One Class 3 a few miles above camp. Lots of sandbars for camping, both above and in canyon. Chased herd of cattle for a few miles. Mild, mostly sunny day. Only blemish is incredible number of tires washed down from above. Juniper dots slopes.

June 15 - to mile below LockwoodCanyon. Helluva day. Just below Trinchera Creek, river goes crazy. Slopes and river fill with giant boulders and river cascades down through them. The approximate half-mile carry took me 2 1/2 hrs. Another short carry just around the bend. Then river in general mellows, but is still periodically clogged by boulders and still many nice Class 2 rapids. About two miles above Taylor Arroyo is surprise -- river dammed by boulders and drops over nine feet via nasty flume. Carry on left. USGS gauge on downstream right side of bridge in canyon has outside staff (actually, two of them). The one on right bank read 5.6'. River dropped since yesterday. Many good campsites until bridge. Below there, they are at least not obvious from boat. However, I found superb one on roomy flat sandbar. Another surprise -- just above Lockwood river starts flowing through inner gorge of big red slickrock cliffs. Saw many beaver and turtles today. Warm sunny day. Getting into mosquito and deerfly country this afternoon.

June 16 - to Higbee.  Red cliffed canyon continues for ~ 10 miles. Saw many good sandbar campsites. Surprise part way when I found series of ledge rapids. Four-foot dam ~nine miles above end. Lifted over right end. USGS gauge at ledge rapids read 8.5 ft. Another gauge at dam had a transmitter. Still pretty scenery of rocky hills dotted with juniper. But often only possible to see banks covered with impenetrable willow thickets. Hot sunny day. Did six mph whole way. Total dist. 104 mi.



Thanks, Ed!

Lat/longitude coordinates are approximate, from TopoZone (remember TopoZone?)

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-02-11 17:39:18

Rapid Descriptions

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