South Platte, North Fork - 01. Bailey to Pine

South Platte, North Fork, Colorado, US


01. Bailey to Pine (Bailey, The ATF Box, The Ten Miler)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 85 fpm
Max Gradient 160 fpm

Crux of Supermax

Crux of Supermax
Photo of Tanya Stiegler by Matt Stiegler taken 05/02 @ 400 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
codwr-PLABAICO0 200 - 600 cfs IV-V 37d11h57m 91.3 cfs (too low)

River Description

This is one of the finest runs in Colorado. The general nature is "easy" creeking in a beautiful forested wilderness canyon.
Bailey is somewhat remote, low-volume, tight and technical. The three Class V rapids are difficult to recognize, so your first run should be with a Bailey veteran.

There is a historic narrow gauge railroad grade that parallels the river providing a perfect scouting trail for all the rapids. One of the bridges you duck under dates from 1886! The trail on the grade is river right from Four Falls to "The Steeps" section, from Super Max to the take-out it is on river left.

After four miles of mellow Class II/III is Four-Falls, the first major rapid (Class V, V+ if you run the first drop). Four Falls is located on private property. The landowners have been tolerant of paddlers in the past, but they have complained about paddlers urinating on the trail and leaving behind their broken boats. They have asked us to urinate in the river, if necessary, and pack out what you pack in. Sounds reasonable. 99% of us will want to portage 1st fall, so we can't afford to lose access here!

The mile after Four Falls is collectively dubbed "The Steeps", with numerous class III, IV, and IV+ rapids. This section can be very stressful for Bailey virgins, as Bailey veterans usually don't want to scout it! In the three miles from Four Falls to Deer Creek, the river drops 441 feet! After Deer Creek the significant gradient is over, but there are still 4+ miles with scattered Class III and IV rapids. This is far and away the most beautiful part of the run, so it's a great time to lean back, relax, and admire the granite domes and bedrock rapids. A fire raged through this section in 2000.

Shuttle directions: The put-in is reached from Hwy. 285 mile 222.2 (at the east side of Bailey) where you turn onto Hwy. 68.  After turning south on Hwy 68, you will see a feed store, liquor store and some businesses.  The put in is behind these businesses and is called McGraw Park.  A new parking lot is being constructed for park access that is to the left (downstream) of the businesses.  Current parking (limited) is available to the right of the businesses by the old foot bridge.  Do not park in the feed store parking spots in the front of the businesses, or the irate feed store operator will try to have you towed.  Kayakers used to use a put in downstream at a bridge with culverts.  The landowners no longer want kayakers using their property to put in, so please use the put in at the town of Bailey.  Note that there are two culverts that are navigable under the bridge about a ¼ mile downstream of the takeout.  Be careful of wood at the culverts.

The first four miles flow through private property and there are a lot of fishermen who pay $$$ for the privilege of fishing here.
Please help maintain good relations with these landowners so we all can avoid any conflict.

To reach the take-out, turn south off Hwy. 205 at mile 229 onto Pine Valley Rd. Follow this road 5.9 miles and then take a right on Crystal Lake Rd. This road ends in 1.3 miles at Pine Valley Ranch Park which is about as good as a takeout as you could ask for, with a huge paved parking lot right next to the river with no fees to pay. If you're a fun hog bring your mountain bike as there are a lot of trails here.
Run time is between 3-5 hours. Shuttle is 30 min. one way, on paved roads.

Check out Mike Albrecht's pics of Bailey

For more information see Colorado Rivers and Creeks II, Gordon Banks and Dave Eckardt. Click on the picture below to buy it online.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-10-24 16:08:19


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Behind Sulley'sII+Putin
4.0Dream HomeIII
4.3Four Falls5.0Portage Hazard
4.4The NotchIV
4.5Steepness 1IV
4.8Steepness 2IV+Hazard
5.0The SteepsIV
5.5Super Max5.2Portage Hazard Waterfall
6.0Trash CanIVHazard
6.8Big Flake O' RockIII+
6.8Deer Creek Rapid5.0Hazard
7.5Uppercut UndercutIVHazard
8.0Log HazardII+Hazard
8.5Mystery EddyIV

Rapid Descriptions

Behind Sulley's (Class II+)

Put in (Class II+)

Put in at the town of Bailey.  ¼ mile downstream you go through 2 large navigable culverts.  Be alert for wood.  For the next couple of miles, you float through private property owned by fly fishing companies.  Please respect the fisherman, give them a wide berth, float quietly, and try not to be loud or impact their fishing experience.  Good relations with these landowners is beneficial to kayakers.

Dream Home (Class III, Mile 4.0)
After ducking under a really low bridge, there is a stunning home river left. This is the end of the long boring II/III paddle in. From here it's continuous Class III boulder gardens until Four Falls.

Four Falls (Class 5.0, Mile 4.3)
Proceed with caution through the Class III, and get out river right as soon as you see the cliff on river left. Eddy options are scarce in this stretch, and the closer you get to the drop the harder it is to eddy out. The 1st Fall(V+) is very scary. You should portage right and seal launch into the pool at the base, it's way more fun than getting gripped over a dinky 4 foot ledge. 2nd fall has a big hole itchin' to stand you on your stern. The sweet line is get speed up left to right across the tongue and boof into the tight space between the hole and the pyramid rock on the right. There is no pool above 3rd fall so charge right and catch the eddy at the top. From here you can ferry over to the center channel or boof hard left in the right channel. There is a slight pool before 4th fall, a simple ledge. Run it right down the middle, a boof left would help but not critical.

The Notch (Class IV, Mile 4.4)
Immediately after Four Falls you come upon a large boulder garden. Run it straight down the middle, just to the right of the biggest boulder.

Steepness 1 (Class IV, Mile 4.5)
A collective name for the fun continuous stretch between The Notch and Steepness 2. You can generally run it all right down the middle. It's pushy and steep but doesn't really have any big holes hiding behind the horizon lines.

Steepness 2 (Class IV+, Mile 4.8)
This one has a wicked pin spot, but if you let it, the current will push you away from it. The entrance zigs left then right, then let the current push you far left again. There is a rock jumble in the middle of the rapid just below. From here on just keep it straight to punch the holes in the bottom.

The Steeps (Class IV, Mile 5.0)
"The Steeps" continue in a III+/IV- fashion for about a 1/2 mile and dump you in a wide and shallow II/III stretch.

Super Max (Class 5.2, Mile 5.5)
A twisting, surging, pounding, beautiful rapid! Super Max is a Colorado classic that no gnarr aficianado should miss! Look out for the small rock cairn river left 100 feet before the entrance drop, this is your take-out eddy. At normal flows, up to 500cfs, you can eddy hop down 3 distinct sections: the entrance, hourglass, and run out,. Bad runs on Supermax are very entertaining, it usually starts with a missed eddy above the hourglass, then getting flipped by the undercut, and then trying to roll in the run out(not pretty). Fortunately the undercut is not too dangerous, and the holes at the bottom will only pummel you for a minute or two;-) Supermax at high water, greater than 600cfs, all the eddy's dissapear, the undercut dissapears, and the holes at the bottom become massive. If you put in below the undercut and run the bottom 1/2 you have not run SuperMax, you have run Tampax!

Tree (Class III, Mile 5.8)
There is a large tree down across the entire river here, with branches hanging down into the water. Squeak through on river left.

Trash Can (Class IV, Mile 6.0)
This is the steepest rapid in a long stretch of pushy III/IV. Trash Can has an ugly jumble of rocks in the center and a slightly undercut wall on the right. These hazards cause more injuries than any other rapid in Bailey. Running into either is not fun. When you see a horizon line, go left and all will be well.

Big Flake O' Rock (Class III+, Mile 6.8)
Lookout for a 100' tall flake of rock leaning against a cliff. After this there is about 50 yards of pushy Class III leading into a big river left eddy, if you miss this eddy you'll survive but you will be gripped!

Deer Creek Rapid (Class 5.0, Mile 6.8)
Eddy out on the left and scout. Boof center right through the entrance drop and then try to stay upright and in the main flow through the rest. It boats easy, but will bust your head right open if you get upside down.

Uppercut Undercut (Class IV, Mile 7.5)
This is one of many narrow bedrock slots in the lower section, but this one pushes you into a neck high undercut. Boof to the right for best results.

Log Hazard (Class II+, Mile 8.0)
Large tree across the entire river, mandatory portage. River right has a fun seal launch.

Mystery Eddy (Class IV, Mile 8.5)
This is a cool little rapid. The current splits around a boulder halfway down, with the left channel somewhat hidden. If you boof left into this channel you will find yourself in a large hidden eddy. The move looks like a magic trick from upstream! This is the last fun rapid, steel yourself for 2 miles of boring flatwater.

Takeout (Class II, Mile 10.5)
One of the best takeouts I've ever seen. Lot of good scenery, fishing, hiking, and biking to keep the shuttle bunnies occupied. Huge public parking lot right next to the river with no fees, wow!

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
September 24 2018 (115 days ago)
TomSemp (156124)
The long time rapid list for the Foxton run is: 1) Newman's (III+) (this is about a half mile above
the Boulder Field put in and there isn't a good put in that isn't contested by a nearby resident. I
only run it when I have a shuttle driver to drop us right above the rapid) 2) Pre Green Tongue
Rapid (III) 3) The Green Tongue (III+) 4) The Cabinet (III+)(the left hand run between two boulders
is the Liqour Cabinet 5) The Freezer (III+) 6) the Refrigerator (III+)(main refrigerator on river
left - The Meat Drawer far right and the Veggie Drawer at the curl right of center) 7) The Kitchen
Floor (III+) 8) House Rock (III+) 9) The Basement Fridge (III), The Boulder Field is followed by
the 1.4 mile class II- Football Field which ends where the lower canyon begins at the Red Willow
Bend river access (two adjacent pull offs), then: 10) Red Willow Bend Rapid (III) 11) Surf City
(III-) 12) Paddle Snapper Wave then Rapid (III) 13) Foxton Road Rapid (III+) (Upper, Middle and
Lower) 14) Wedding Cake Rapid (II) 15) Ponderosa Island Rapid (III) 16) Measuring Rock Rapid (III+)
17) Bear Cub Eddy and Wave (II) 18) River's Bend Rapid and Wave 19) Lion Gulch Rapid (III) (Upper
and Lower) 20) S.O.B. (III+) (Upper & Lower) 21) Pyramid Rock Rapid (III+) 22) Six Pack (III+) 23)
Dinosaur (III+) 24) Lower Dinosaur (III) 25) Dragon's Tail then Rapid 26) Snoopy View Rapid (III)
27) Abby's Falls (III+) followed by 1 mile of II- to the Westall Monument then 28) Dome Rock Rapid
(III) 29) a couple of unnamed class IIs 30) Red Wall Rapid (III+). On another topic could AWA
please reconsider it's decision to look at the Bailey Gauge when reporting the level of the North
Fork? The Bailey Gauge is inaccurate more often than not and misleads paddlers as to the correct
level of the North Fork. This is evident when the Bailey gauge reads less than the Roberts Tunnel
release. Reporting the tunnel release would be more helpful or using the Grant gauge which is
measured and calibrated more often. For Foxton it's most accurate to subtract the Cheesman release
or the Trumbull release when it is slightly more than the Cheesman release from the Upper Waterton
flow (South Platte at South Platte) to most closely ballpark the flow. This is also helpful for
accurately determing the Bailey Canyon flow, as it's important to note that in the spring quite a
lot of water can be added by Craig Creek draining the Kenosha range that enters the North Fork on
river right just above the beginning of the canyon and miles downstream of the Bailey gauge. Even
on the rare occasions that the Bailey gauge reads accurately it can be misleading. If you have to
point your flow to look at one gauge, all would be better served if it were the Grant gauge.