This photo needs editing.
Difficulty IV-V
Length 10.5 Miles
Flow Range 200 - 600 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 459 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 09/01/2019 1:47 am

River Description

Bailey Canyon is one of the most excellent 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 tough to recognize, so your first run should be guided by 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 old railroad grade changes sides of the river. From Four Falls to The Steeps section the trail is on river right, 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 significant 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 pee 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 these stores.  Current parking (limited) is available to the right of the businesses by the old footbridge.  Do not park in the store parking spots out front 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 which are navigable under the bridge about a ¼ mile downstream of the takeout.  Be careful of wood at the culverts. These are also some of the best eddy lines on the river if you're in a slice boat.
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. The shuttle is 30 minutes one way on paved roads.
Check out Mike Albrecht's pics of Bailey.
For more information on Bailey, check out Whitewater of the Southern Rockies, The New Testament.

Rapid Descriptions

Behind Sulley's

Class - II+ Mile - 0

Dream Home

Class - III Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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 - 4.25

The Notch

Class - IV Mile - 4.35
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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 - 4.75
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
"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

Trash Can

Class - IV Mile - 6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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 - 6.75
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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.

Mystery Eddy

Class - IV Mile - 8.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
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.


Class - II Mile - 10.5


default user thumbnail
Tom Semptimphelter
11 months ago

Gage Descriptions

Colorado Watertalk: 303-831-7135 Division
1, Station 42 (1*42*). N. Fk. at Grant.

Online, Colorado DWR, and CRC2 website

Low: 150 - 300 cfs
Med: 300 - 600 cfs
High: 600 cfs and up

Flows are almost completely artificial, with 90% of the water coming from Dillon Reservoir on the Blue River via the Roberts Tunnel. Because of this Denver's water masters will usually rely on Bailey for water when the naturally flowing streams are dry. So look for off-season flows in April, May, August and September. Mid-Winter flows are also a possibility. If this run is over 600cfs head directly for the put-in ASAP!

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2006-04-23 Medium Near Miss/Rescue Other Read More



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Colorado Parks & Wildlife to Require Hunting or Fishing License at River Access

Kestrel Kunz

In an unexpected and strategic move by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), a Colorado hunting or fishing license will now be required to access State Wildlife Areas and CPW-leased State Trust Lands (effective July 1, 2020). Many of these affected areas have historically been used for paddling, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, and other non-consumptive recreation uses. CPW's press release stated that "This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties", and while we understand the need to increase revenue to support management of these areas, we have a few concerns with this strategy. On July 1, American Whitewater, Colorado Mountain Club, and multiple other organizations submitted a joint letter to CPW Commissioners requesting that they reconsider the new Rule and find a more practicable and sustainable method for collecting fees for these areas.

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Opportunity to Participate in Upper Gunnison Watershed Management Plan (CO)

Kestrel Kunz

The Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District in Gunnison, Colorado is coordinating a Watershed Management Planning effort "to help protect existing water uses and watershed health in the Upper Gunnison Basin in the face of pressure from increased water demands and permanent reductions in water supply." The current phase is focusing on Tomichi, Cochetopa, Cebolla, Taylor, and the Gunnison River above Blue Mesa. With local stewardship staff in Crested Butte, American Whitewater has joined the Watershed Management Planning Team to help represent recreational river users and quantify flow preferences and recreational opportunities on the Taylor and Gunnison Rivers. American Whitewater is very excited to be involved in this stakeholder driven process and we are asking paddlers to share their input on management priorities for the Upper Gunnison Basin. If you have experience paddling Cebolla, Taylor, or the Upper Gunnison Rivers, please fill out this quick survey! 

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

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!

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!

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Voluntary River Closure Proposed On the Slate River (CO)

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. 

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AW Comments on Colorado Nat'l Forest Wilderness Process

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)

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

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

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.

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Comments needed on Upper Colorado River Recreation Area Management Plan

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!

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! 

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

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.

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...

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

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. 

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

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.


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New Report on Impact to San Miguel River From Proposed Reservoirs

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. 

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Proposed Asphalt and Gravel Mine threatens the Upper Colorado River

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.


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Volunteer of the Month - Presented by Kokatat

Nathan Fey

Bailey, Colorado - American Whitewater is pleased to recognize Ian Foley as this months Volunteer of the Month. Ian has been the lead organizer for Bailey Fest, and this year he accomplished a major milestone in improving public safety and access along the the North Fork of the South Platte River. Thanks to Ian's efforts, all the major rapids and the main canyon of Bailey are safe from the threat of private landowners shutting down river access or preventing safe portage and scouting of Four Falls.  Thanks for all your work, Ian!

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Lyons Outdoor Games and Burning Can to Support AW

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!

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AW launches Flow Study for Yampa River

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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River Access Task Force Submits Recommendations to Colorado Governor

Nathan Fey

Colorado - On December 23, Governor Bill Ritter issued a report outlining a series of proposals for resolving disputes between landowners and rafters in Colorado. He also signed an executive order creating the River Access Mediation Commission to provide a way for some of the most contentious conflicts between boaters and property owners to be addressed. The Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force was a 17-member group created in July of 2010 to help craft ways to sort out conflicts on Colorado rivers on a stretch-by-stretch basis as those disputes arise.

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Help Protect the Yampa River - Colorado

Nathan Fey

Colorado - Last month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released their proposed management plan for the Little Snake Resource Area, encompassing over a million acres of soaring plateaus, wild and scenic rivers, and sweeping sagebrush basins.  Special interests are trying to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to protect portions of the Yampa River – one of the nation's last free flowing rivers.    Let BLM know that protections for these rivers are important to you!

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October Volunteer Of The Month - Presented By Kokatat

Nathan Fey

American Whitewater is pleased to recognize Ian Foley as our Volunteer of the Month!

Ian invested an immeasurable amount of personal time and resources in coordinating releases on the North Fork of the South Platte River in Colorado. Ian worked closely with staff at the Denver Water Board to provide an additional 300cfs for the first annual Bailey Festival.


Thanks Ian! In recognition of his efforts, Ian will be receiving a custom OuterCore Long-Sleeve Shirt from Kokatat!

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Releases Scheduled for the North Fork South Platte (CO)

Nathan Fey

On August 14-15, Denver Water is planning to release 300 cfs into the North Fork of the South Platte River. When combined with natural flows, we are expecting great boating levels in the Bailey and Foxton sections. Stay tuned as the event takes shape, but be sure to put August 14th on your calendars!


Matt Muir


Thomas O'Keefe


Nathan Fey

Colorado Stewardship Director


Craig Irwin


Drew Althage




Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190221 02/16/09 n/a n/a
1195689 07/27/09 Thomas O'Keefe
1200156 05/22/11 Nathan Fey
1204174 02/15/15 Craig Irwin 201502
1211337 02/28/19 Drew Althage updated description
1210447 10/24/18 wreeves
1211338 02/28/19 Drew Althage updated name
1211339 02/28/19 Drew Althage updated description
1213601 09/01/19 wreeves updated stats