Mexican Creek, Texas, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||227 fpm|
|Max Gradient||363 fpm|
|Medina River at Medina Lake|
|noaa-mdlt2||1064.30 - 1064.70 ft||IV-V||01h28m||1044.35 ft (too low)|
|virtual-201491||125 - 600 cfs||IV-V||01h28m||0 cfs (too low)|
Mexican Creek is used as a natural outflow for the Medina Lake spillway. When the Edwards Aquifer is high, the creek can maintain a consistent spring-fed base flow for long periods of time, and the rapids take the form of relatively easy, runnable (albeit scrapey) limestone slides between spring-fed pools. However, when Medina Lake is above conservation pool and water flows over the spillway into Mexican Creek, the creek becomes a hard-core IV+/V run that should be attempted only by experienced paddlers with a bomb-proof roll. Given the difficulty involved with accessing it and running it safely at those levels, it is highly recommended that you go with paddlers who have run it before. Mexican Creek tends to be shallow and have few eddies, and to quote Texas Whitewater, "a swim here would be like being dragged over a cheese grater after having gone through a wash cycle-- repeatedly." Texas Whitewater suggests being comfortable with classic IV+ runs, such as The Numbers or Five Falls of Chatooga Section IV, as prerequisites. Refer to the book for further beta.
To determine if Mexican Creek is running, check the USGS gauge for Medina Lake. "Texas Whitewater" suggests that 0.1' over the spillway (1064.3') corresponds to 125 cfs (low) and 0.5' over the spillway (1064.7') corresponds to 600 cfs (high.) Beta from other paddlers suggests a lake level of 1064.4-1064.7' as a first-time level, then work up from there. Only a handful of pro-level boaters have ever run Mexican Creek above 1065'.
The named rapids along Mexican Creek are as follows:
Big Enchilada (IV+)
El Brujo (IV)
Caphole Tumble Syndrome (IV)
Difficulty ratings are taken from paddler beta and refer to "medium" flows of 1064.4-1064.7. Above 1065', the creek becomes a solid V.
Distances and gradient measured using GIS tools in 2017. Total distance from the top of Chingasos to the confluence with Diversion Lake (Medina River) is 0.65 miles. Total distance from the confluence to the takeout (Koenig Creek inlet next to CR 271) is 0.43 miles. Total gradient measured from the top of Chingasos to the bottom of Adios. Maximum gradient measured from the top of Chingasos to the bottom of Big Enchilada.
The following videos show, respectively, some Central Texas expert kayakers running Mexican Creek in 2007, at a level of about 1064.8', and some pro-level boaters running Mexican Creek at above 1065'.
The following videos are, respectively, helmet cam footage of Mexican Creek from June of 2016 at 1064.63' and 1065.0'.
Based on historical imagery from 1913 of the first water over the spillway, it is clear that Mexican Creek was a natural canyon prior to the dam's construction, and it is believed that the section below the dam has always met the criteria for statutory navigability. This is the primary justification for the belief that Mexican Creek is a legal run.
However, the Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Counties Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 ("BMA"), which owns the land on both sides of the creek, believes that accessing Mexican Creek constitutes trespassing, despite the fact that Medina County Sheriff Randy Brown went on record in July of 2016 saying that he does not believe that running Mexican Creek is illegal (refer to this post for the text of the relevant article from the July 14, 2016 edition of the Hondo Anvil Herald.)
In the past, boaters have been harassed by residents of Medina Ranch (a subdivision that leases land from the BMA) as they attempted to put in or take out at the CR 271 bridge. However, not only is this bridge a legal access point, but it was the subject of the landmark Diversion Lake Club v. Heath case that, in 1935, established the right of boaters to access, from a public easement, the waters of any lake impounded from a navigable stream. After an incident in July of 2016 in which instructors from the Olympic Outdoor Center, along with the wounded warriors they were instructing, were harassed by a resident at the CR 271 bridge, the Medina County Sheriff went on record stating that CR 271 was a legal access point but that boaters should not obstruct the bridge when putting in/taking out.
On November 14, 2016, the BMA issued a public notice in the Hondo Anvil Herald that "the area three hundred (300) feet upstream and three hundred (300) feet downsteam of BMA's Medina Dam and related appurtenances, including the spillway ... are deemed to be restricted areas and closed to entry for any and all purposes. Any person, firm, or corporation, other than authorized individuals, found to be swimming, wading, bathing, fishing, using any type of watercraft or floating device, taking images, or conducting overflights by drones at a height of less than 400 feet shall be considered to be in violation of these rules and subject to a Class C misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, be subject to a fine not exceeding $500.00." These rules could be construed to limit access to the upper part of the Mexican Creek run (Chingasos, specifically), but the enforceability of the rules is currently being investigated (BMA is not a law enforcement entity.) Regardless, it is advised that paddlers put in at the CR 271/Diversion Lake bridge, paddle up Diversion Lake, then portage up Mexican Creek from the bottom to run it, as opposed to accessing the top of the run from the dam.
As with many steep creeks in Texas, the legality of the run will not prevent you from being harassed, so keeping a low profile is recommended.