Big Thompson - 01. Lake Estes to Drake

Big Thompson, Colorado, US


01. Lake Estes to Drake (Big Tommy / Big T)

Usual Difficulty II-IV+(V+) (for normal flows)
Length 11.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 102 fpm
Max Gradient 266 fpm

Numero Dos

Numero Dos
Photo of Peter Roth by Brian Adkins taken 09/18/04 @ 330cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
codwr-BTBLESCO0 200 - 500 cfs II-IV+(V+) 01h33m 25.5 cfs (too low)

River Description

From Lake Estes to the handicap access fishing pier (9 miles) is II-IV

Alternate put in below the dam but beware of the fence just past the first bridge. There was once an easy to sneak on river right.

The short section of hair boating is from the fishing pier down about 1/2 mile.

From the bottom of the hair into Drake is three miles of fun class IV with the occasional sticky hole. There are two super fun IV+ rapids in the middle that are back to back at moderate levels.

September 2013 Colorado received record rainfall within a five day period that has now completely changed the Big Thompson River. Lives were lost in this series of storms and the Big Thompson River redirected flows and removed roadways in the canyon. In the Gnar-gnar section, the last (bedrock) rapid looks to be the same or nearly so, but all other rapids are different.

Big Thompson, early June 2014 Update:

From Ian (Deepsouthpaddler): Ran it this weekend at 600-700. Last drop in gnar is horrible. Strainer between gnar and drake rapid. Drake rapid has changed. Looks more serious. Put in below Drake big drop. 

In general the run felt easier to me than the old run. The channel has been reshaped. Portage ugly culvert in Drake. The dam at Idlewild is gone. Some interesting new drops that were lower intensity than the old set below the dam. 

The old takeout park was completely obliterated. The stretch just above that old park has some meaty holes that can induce swims.

From Suigereneris: Two culvert bridges unfortunately, one obvious and one indeed in Cedar Park but avoidable if you keep you eyes open as it is gray and seamlessly subtle at various flow levels. No tree at Cheery store. Upper section rocks as well.

Nature spoke previously, in July 31, 1976 when the Big Thompson watershed experienced a 10,000 year flood event, a 20 foot wall of water moving 60 miles an hour tore down the canyon killing 144 people. NOAA summary of the flood

To Get There: Hwy 34 between Estes Park and Loveland runs beside the river. Various put-in and take-out options exist. The best run is from the hair section (obvious from the road) down to Drake.

Other Information Sources:  Check out Patrick Forsters' article in, and a high water BIG Thompson Fall Photo Essay By: Evan J. Stafford. Pics of the hair section on Webshots.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-04-03 21:01:11


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Garbage DisposalN/AHazard

Rapid Descriptions

Garbage Disposal (Class N/A)

Steep junky drop of about 15'

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Associated Projects

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