Walnut Creek is best known as the creek that flows through Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park (the singletrack trail system in the park crosses the creek twice.) It is rarely more than a trickle, but with the right amount of rain, Walnut becomes a fast, continuous, and fun Class III creek with some good play and relatively low consequences. An ideal level for whitewater boating seems to be at about 1000-2000 cfs on the Dessau Rd. gauge. At this level, the first three miles of the run has zero flat water and contains numerous big, long, and often irregular wave trains, a handful of good surf spots (most catch-on-the-fly, but a couple of them have eddy service), as well as some really crisp eddy lines and even a whirlpool or two. At higher levels, the features get bigger and faster, and there is less play, but the creek does not generally increase in difficulty.
Most paddlers put in below "Piton Dam" in Walnut Creek Metro Park (the Class III rating assigned to this run assumes portaging that dam.) This allows you to enjoy 0.6 miles of Wells Branch, a twisting, tight, and shallow Class III tributary of Walnut that drops 50 feet per mile over some smooth limestone features before confluencing with Walnut right at Lamar Blvd (for those who have hiked or biked in Walnut Creek Metro, Wells Branch is the creek the flows next to the "Windy Loop", "BMX", and "Severe Consequences" trails.) Because Wells Branch is a narrow channel and doesn't flow very often, there tend to be strainers in this section, so watch out for these. The beauty of Wells Branch is that, despite being a steep creek, it is entirely runnable in a playboat. Since the creek flows at a steady downhill gradient, there are no significant holes, drops, or other obstacles that would necessitate the use of a creek boat, and in fact, using a big boat could be a liability, since it would be harder to steer.
Although Walnut Creek and Wells Branch tend to be low-consequence, because of their continuous nature, a swim here could be a real pain. Eddies tend to be small and require good boat control to catch. For an experienced boater, all of the rapids should be "read-and-run". Most of the rapids on the main creek would, in isolation, probably only be deserving of a II+ or III- rating, but the continuous nature of the run in general makes it worthy of a Class III. The Wells Branch section is more technical and definitely deserving of a III when Walnut Creek is above 1000 cfs.
Distances and gradient measured using GIS tools in 2015. Maximum gradient (48 fpm) is on Wells Branch, from the put-in to the confluence. The remaining gradient is 11 fpm from the confluence to the Dessau Rd. bridge and 16 fpm from Dessau Rd. to Sprinkle Rd.
Low-head dam on Wells Branch, just below the park road bridge. This dam has high piton potential, so advanced skill is required in order to run it without injury. Most paddlers put in below it.
Reference point (no access)
Good parking and access is available at river left on the upstream side of the bridge.
Known to be hazardous. Creates a significant hydraulic at river left and a piton hazard at river right.
Limited parking and access on the river-right downstream side of the bridge. Access is difficult due to the steep cut bank and the presence of a barbed wire fence. The takeout eddy beneath the bridge is small and might be difficult for beginners to catch.
A very pretty and fun Class II run
9 months ago
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Beautiful class II run at 1100cfs
Joe Bruno, wood & sieve on Walnut
Neil on feeder creek into Walnut @1000cfs
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