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 2310 [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
|
13 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

Gage Descriptions

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Directions Description


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Alerts

News

article main photo

Final Slate River Floating Management Plan Released (CO)

5/16/2019
Kestrel Kunz

Crested Butte, CO - Increased user conflict on the Slate River has led to a Floating Management Plan that proposes a "voluntary no-float period" between March 15 and July 15 this season. Since our last news post in November, the Slate River Floating Management Plan has been updated and revised for the 2019 season. An open house will be held at The Depot in Crested Butte on Thursday, May 16 and it is critical that paddlers from the local community attend and engage in the conversation. (Photo courtesy of the Crested Butte Land Trust).

article main photo

Land and Water Conservation Fund Secures Access to Upper Colorado River

5/8/2019
Hattie Johnson

A bill to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was introduced last month by Colorado Senator Cory Gardener and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and cosponsored by Colorado Senator Michael Bennett. If passed the bill would provide $900M annually for projects protecting natural, cultural and historic resources. Existing funding from the LWCF recently enabled the transfer of two important river access points on the Upper Colorado River. The State Bridge and Two Bridges parcels were owned by Eagle County and had been improved - boat ramps, parking, restroom/changing facilities - by the Eagle County Open Space program with coordination and management support from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This land transfer will protect public access at these locations in perpetuity. 

article main photo

Dolores River (CO) 2019 Spill Forecast Update

5/2/2019
Hattie Johnson

Dolores Water Conservation District put out their most recent predictions on April 23rd. More can be found on their website. We are expecting an updated forecast on May 6th and will be meeting with them on May 9th to begin discussions on how the recreational boating releases can align with other ecological goals. American Whitewater has developed a wide range of guidelines on how a spill can meet both recreation goals and goals to improve aquatic species and riparian health.

article main photo

Help Protect Crested Butte Area Rivers and Creeks under Wild and Scenic Act

2/26/2019
Kestrel Kunz

The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) are conducting a Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Evaluation as part of the current Forest Plan Revision process. While the Forest Service is mandated to conduct an Eligibility Study as part of the Plan Revision process, this opportunity only happens every 15-20 years and we need to ensure that the Study is comprehensive and robust. We need YOU to share your love and knowledge of these rivers with the Forest Service! We've put together an easy-to-use tool for you to submit comments here. Please consider personalizing your comments and take the time to review the Forest Service's Story Map of the Eligibility Evaluation. 

article main photo

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

12/14/2018
Nathan Fey

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.

 

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Support Colorado River Access on Colorado Gives Day!

11/29/2018
Kestrel Kunz

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!

article main photo

Voluntary River Closure Proposed On the Slate River (CO)

11/2/2018
Kestrel Kunz

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. 

article main photo

AW Comments on Colorado Nat'l Forest Wilderness Process

9/5/2018
Kestrel Kunz

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)

article main photo

TAKE ACTION: Comment on the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Management Plan

11/1/2017
Kestrel Kunz

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. 

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Colorado Honors the legacy of Matt Brown

10/30/2017
Nathan Fey

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.

article main photo

Comments needed on Upper Colorado River Recreation Area Management Plan

8/28/2017
Nathan Fey

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.

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Gore Fest 2017 is a few weeks away!

8/9/2017
Nathan Fey

Bond, Colorado - American Whitewater is presenting Gore Canyon Festival - August 25-27th 2017Online registration is open and there are events for everyone, so sign up today! 

article main photo

A Successful River Cleanup on the St. Vrain (Lyons, CO)

6/7/2017
Kestrel Kunz

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.  

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Releases to Lower Dolores River certain in 2017.

2/17/2017
Nathan Fey

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...

article main photo

Upper Colorado River Access funded by Land & Water Conservation Fund - CO

2/6/2017
Nathan Fey

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. 

article main photo

One more day to submit input on Colorado's Brown Canyon National Monument!

1/17/2017
Kestrel Kunz

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.

 

article main photo

New Report on Impact to San Miguel River From Proposed Reservoirs

1/9/2017
Evan Stafford

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. 

article main photo

Proposed Asphalt and Gravel Mine threatens the Upper Colorado River

12/6/2016
Evan Stafford

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.

 

 
article main photo

Lyons Outdoor Games and Burning Can to Support AW

5/15/2013
Nathan Fey

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!

article main photo

AW launches Flow Study for Yampa River

3/3/2011
Nathan Fey

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.

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Molly Buirgy

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Nathan Fey

Colorado Stewardship Director

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Paul Martzen

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190214 04/19/09 Molly Buirgy n/a
1209890 06/20/18 Nathan Fey
1195469 06/16/09 Paul Martzen