Difficulty V+
Length 2.5 Miles
Flow Range 400 - 1400 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 126 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/22/2020 1:33 pm

River Description

Approach this run seriously, a guide is mandatory. 

This section is considered one of the gnarlier, regularly run canyons in the area.  Due both to access, remoteness and whitewater difficulty. 

The hike in starts at RockWood station, parking where you would take out for RockWood Box. The hike is steep, all-be-it not that long, however it is almost exclusively on private property.  This has become less of a big deal in recent years, however a guide is still needed to safety and politely navigate the woods.

Once the hike is over, you will still be at the top of the VERY steep canyon walls.  Two sets of permanent ropes can be found after a slight scramble.  Rope your boat down, with great care, then begin a rope assisted descent into the canyon.

Keep in mind, once you make this leap, the easiest and best way to exit the canyon is to paddle through it.  Consider this a major NO SWIM zone. 

Another important note, the characteristic of the whitewater changes drastically with water level, filling up more in certain places, and washing out more in others.  I have heard it called, The Tea Cup Effect.  The middle ranges in flow, from around 500-600 CFS is locally referred to as, The Teeth.  Considered the most challenging water level.

The first rapid, immediately below the put in spot, is the Clam Shell, a clean sloping boof, followed fairly quickly by two steep, technical and powerful ledge drops, the second of which is called, The Racoon.

After navigating the Racoon, catch your breath in the eddy, and prepare yourself the best you can, for the technical crux of the run, in the form of a rapid known as The Plunger.

The Plunger is unscoutable, forcing it to be run blind.  GoPro scouting before the run is highly recommended.  High water levels, around 1000+ cfs make for the cleanest lines on the drop, filling in a river left lip.  Boof best you can, if you get stuck in the very powerful river left eddy, wait to wash back up to the top of the eddy, and paddle hard.

If you do flip, which is very very common, roll FAST.  At the bottom of the room, on river right is a sieve, which the river is pushing to.  The sieve is called The Tunnel of Love, because of how many people have gone through it.  Don't take that fact to mean that it would be okay to find yourself in there.

Once navigating the Plunger, you will find yourself locked into this impressive sanctum, marking the lower gorge.

The next major rapid is simply called Long Rapid.  It can be scouted river left, and it should be.  It is made up of a series of boofs, the crux of the rapid, which as the name suggests is fairly long, is navigating a triple set of stacked holes, each one increases in power and terminality. 

A section of manky Class IV follows, the steepest of these rapids is dubbed Midget Wrestler.

After this not so casual boogie, you will reach Boof Or Slide.  Again this dropped can and should be scouted on river left.  This drop has a lot of possible doors, but only one of these lines doesn't end in a sieved out landing or slot.  So be careful, and stick to your line; at all costs. Another reason this section should be considered guide mandatory.

After some more cruising you will find yourself at the exit rapid of the gorge and one of the more sketchy moves you will have to make.  The drop, named Wilson Falls, is not a waterfall.  Rather a tight boof, through a very backed up and terminal room of doom.  All of the water is built up against the river left wall, and feeds dangerously back into itself.  The boil is big and long, the room looks horrible; and rightfully has its fair share of horror stories. 

The move itself is relatively simple, the lead in is very boiled out, so have speed and be determined to make that move!
A clean boof will bring you home.

Soon after this you will exit the tight towering walls and begin the short class III paddle out to Bakers Bridge.  Once at the bridge feel free to jump off in celebration of a complete descent of one of the cooler gorges in the state.

Have fun, be safe, and give this run the respect it deserves.

One last note.  Finding a guide is not easy, as the run is protected by locals due to the dangerous nature of the whitewater, and the mandatory trespassing.  If you are really jonesing to get this one, meet the right locals, and make sure they know your kayaking is up to snuff. 




Rapid Descriptions

Clam Shell

Class - IV+ Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The Racoon

Class - V Mile - 0.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The Plunger

Class - V Mile - 0.5

You have to run this one blind, so be smart and watch video before,

Long Rapid

Class - V Mile - 0.7

Midget Wrestler

Class - IV+ Mile - 1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Boof Or Slide

Class - V Mile - 1.3

Wilson Falls

Class - V Mile - 1.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing


Gage Descriptions

New run. Needs more gauge info.

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  
2013-11-16 Low Near Miss/Rescue Cold Water Read More



article main photo

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.

article main photo

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! 

article main photo

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.


article main photo

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!

article main photo

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. 

article main photo

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)

article main photo

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. 

article main photo

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.

article main photo

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.

article main photo

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! 

article main photo

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.  

article main photo

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...

article main photo

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. 

article main photo

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.


article main photo

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. 

article main photo

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.


article main photo

Colorado Mine Accident closes Animas River

Nathan Fey

Durango, Colorado - On Wednesday morning, 1Million gallons of contaminated mine drainage was accidentaly released into the Animas River watershed. A crew working to clean-up a mine outside of the town of Silverton, accidentaly released the plume forcing local officials to close the river to paddlers, pets and livestock, and other water users. The impact on fish and wildlife is not fully known at this time.

article main photo

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!

article main photo

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.

article main photo

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.

article main photo

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!


Kestrel Kunz


Jon Kahn


Dana Kopf


Craig Irwin


Matt Muir


Spencer Huff


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1213819 10/21/19 Kestrel Kunz updated name
1213018 06/25/19 Jon Kahn updated image position
1213820 10/21/19 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1194319 02/26/09 Dana Kopf n/a
1211006 01/28/19 Jon Kahn updated image position
1215020 05/22/20 Craig Irwin updated description
1200128 05/17/11 Matt Muir Copyedit; changed gauge. Added abstract.
1208409 10/26/17 Spencer Huff Updated Description
1208007 07/11/17 Kestrel Kunz
1212743 06/06/19 Jon Kahn updated image position
1208410 10/26/17 Spencer Huff rapids tagged to photos
1210986 01/27/19 Jon Kahn updated description