This photo needs editing.
Difficulty II-III
Length Miles
Gauge SAN JUAN RIVER AT PAGOSA SPRINGS, CO
Flow Range 400 - 2500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 212 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 06/20/2018 2:12 pm

River Description


Josh Stone reports:
     

Alright, I've only done this run about 4 times, so this is what I have to offer. First, let me say

this is probably one of the prettiest non-permited runs in Southern Colorado/Northern New Mexico

that offers "easy" whitewater. I wouldnt exactly call this a beginner run due to the fact that the

water is very, very cold and once you are in the canyon, trespassing signs restrict you from

getting out of the canyon. I have done this stretch from 900 cfs to 1800 cfs, and I find that the

more water the better. I would imagine that around 2500, things start to get a little flushy and

hairy.

The put in for this stretch is at the malt shop (good ice cream!) after you cross over the

bridge that crosses the river on the left. Once you put in, you are on the man made course through

town. This course is pretty continuous II+ waves and holes which offer some play at good water

levels. If you dont feel like doing the whole run, take out at the bridge past the hot springs in

town (only about a 30-40 minute paddle). Past this bridge, the river meanders over some easy shoals

and you start to recognize some canyon walls shooting up as you leave civilization. Make sure you

take a look back at all the 13,000-14,000ft peaks popping up out of the Weminuche Wilderness. Soon

 

you will go through some man made U shaped ledges which offer some decent play... there are


something like 30 of them on this run. As the river bends to an extreme right, then cuts back left,

 

you will see a small bridge over the river. This is the biggest rapid on the run. It is a solid


class III at 1500 cfs. To run it, go from river right to left puching through the big wave/hole. If

 

you flip, roll quickly because the water takes you into one of the bridge pilons. Afterwards, there


is a lot of class two action as you take in some beautiful, remote scenery and the man made ledges.

 

About three miles down from the bridge rapid there is a great landing area that Alpine Cascade

company has allowed rafters/kayakers to stop for lunch on. Be respectful and pick up your trash so

that we can keep using it. After this lunch break, the action picks up and as soon as the river

bends to the right, you encounter the best set of class III waves on the whole river. They are

about 4-6 ft high and give rafters a great ride. The action continues for the next 4-5 miles with

more class II-III waves, man made ledges, and the occasional play spot. The scenery is still

unbeatable. When you begin to notice the gradient lessening and more cabins appearing, this

signifies that the take out is close by. You will go under one more bridge by a small cabin and go

over some shoals, then the takeout is on river right. To get to the takeout, drive down the road

that the commercial hot springs is on and after the community center where the road forks (yield

sign) take a right and cross over the bridge. Keep going straight on that road for a long time

(road turns to gravel). You will pass the trash dump, and eventually you will come to a parking

spot on the left with great access (look for other cars). Park here and shuttle, which takes about

45 minutes. For all you easterners, I say this run is about as hard as the Nantahala, but offers

more rapids that are bigger than quarry but not harder than the falls.

 

For camping I usually camp over at the Piedra campgrounds (20 minutes away) because they have free

hot springs. You can find campgrounds close by in the Weminuche Wilderness if you want to be


closer. Pagosa bar does have PBR on tap, but this town lacks a mirco brewery. The town of Pagosa


Springs itself is a beautiful eclectic place that signifies what a mountain town should be.

 

Josh  Stone             2004-08-26

 

Rapid Descriptions

Comments

default user thumbnail
Bruce Bradshaw
|
12 years ago

I wonder what Sid Bass

default user thumbnail
Josh Stone
|
14 years ago

Alright, I've only done this run about 4 times, so this is what I have to offer. First, let me say this is probably one of the prettiest non-permited runs in Southern Colorado/Northern New Mexico that offers "easy" whitewater. I wouldnt exactly call this a beginner run due to the fact that the water is very, very cold and once you are in the canyon, trespassing signs restrict you from getting out of the canyon. I have done this stretch from 900 cfs to 1800 cfs, and I find that the more water the better. I would imagine that around 2500, things start to get a little flushy and hairy. The put in for this stretch is at the malt shop (good ice cream!) after you cross over the bridge that crosses the river on the left. Once you put in, you are on the man made course through town. This course is pretty continuous II+ waves and holes which offer some play at good water levels. If you dont feel like doing the whole run, take out at the bridge past the hot springs in town (only about a 30-40 minute paddle). Past this bridge, the river meanders over some easy shoals and you start to recognize some canyon walls shooting up as you leave civilization. Make sure you take a look back at all the 13,000-14,000ft peaks popping up out of the Weminuche Wilderness. Soon you will go through some man made U shaped ledges which offer some decent play... there are something like 30 of them on this run. As the river bends to an extreme right, then cuts back left, you will see a small bridge over the river. This is the biggest rapid on the run. It is a solid class III at 1500 cfs. To run it, go from river right to left puching through the big wave/hole. If you flip, roll quickly because the water takes you into one of the bridge pilons. Afterwards, there is a lot of class two action as you take in some beautiful, remote scenery and the man made ledges. About three miles down from the bridge rapid there is a great landing area that Alpine Cascade company has allowed rafters/kayakers to stop for lunch on. Be respectful and pick up your trash so that we can keep using it. After this lunch break, the action picks up and as soon as the river bends to the right, you encounter the best set of class III waves on the whole river. They are about 4-6 ft high and give rafters a great ride. The action continues for the next 4-5 miles with more class II-III waves, man made ledges, and the occasional play spot. The scenery is still unbeatable. When you begin to notice the gradient lessening and more cabins appearing, this signifies that the take out is close by. You will go under one more bridge by a small cabin and go over some shoals, then the takeout is on river right. To get to the takeout, drive down the road that the commercial hot springs is on and after the community center where the road forks (yield sign) take a right and cross over the bridge. Keep going straight on that road for a long time (road turns to gravel). You will pass the trash dump, and eventually you will come to a parking spot on the left with great access (look for other cars). Park here and shuttle, which takes about 45 minutes. For all you easterners, I say this run is about as hard as the Nantahala, but offers more rapids that are bigger than quarry but not harder than the falls.
For camping I usually camp over at the Piedra campgrounds (20 minutes away) because they have free hot springs. You can find campgrounds close by in the Weminuche Wilderness if you want to be closer. Pagosa bar does have PBR on tap, but this town lacks a mirco brewery. The town of Pagosa Springs itself is a beautiful eclectic place that signifies what a mountain town should be.
Josh

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News

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

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Molly Buirgy

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Nathan Fey

Colorado Stewardship Director

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Paul Martzen