Difficulty IV-V+ at this flow (none normally)
Length 5.4 Miles
Flow Range 100 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 13.7 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 03/03/2020 11:54 pm

River Description

A spectacular steep creek through a spectacular box canyon. Christopher Creek is a tributary stream feeding Tonto Creek.

120 to 150 CFS is good here, but the only gauge serving this run is the Tonto Creek gauge some 50 miles downstream.

This creek didn't start getting attention until Bret Howard, Roy Lippman, Tyler Williams, Hut Wade and Mark Knight attempted it first in '05. Roy broke his leg on the 4th or 5th drop (a 10-footer into a shallow pool). Evan Stafford, Kyle McCutchen and Todd G completed the first descent shortly after. It has been on the radar of steep creekers, worldwide, ever since its opening and dramatic seasonal weather events.

Put InChristopher Creek Campground off the 260 about 21 miles east of Payson, AZ.
Do not put in or linger at the Scout Camp (It is private property).

Take Out: On Tonto Creek at Bear Flats (may require a 4 wheel drive) or hike out at Spring Creek back to you car on HWY 260.

Photos and Video can be found here:
COKayaking: First Successful Descent Report  excellent descriptions and photos.
Huckin Huge Films: 2Descent Christopher Creek 
Huckin Huge Films: Risen Sun promo 


Rapid Descriptions

Christopher Creek Campground

Class - N/A Mile - 0
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The campground is about 1/4 mile down from the highway, so even if the gate is locked in the winter it is a fairly short walk to the creek.

Elevation: 5640 feet.

Mini Gorge

Class - III Mile - 0.55
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A scenic gorge that drops about 50 feet in half a mile.

Elevation: 5605 feet


Class - N/A Mile - 0.92
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The creek levels out past some sort of ranch on river right.

Elevation: 5562 feet.

The Nihilist

Class - V Mile - 1.5

Also knowns as Roy's, but that doesnt fit the Big Leboski theme.

The White Russian

Class - V Mile - 1.6

Most people walk this thing, if you want to run it you better be skinny 

Bunnie's Drop

Class - IV+ Mile - 1.7

Also known as triple drop

Maude's Drop

Class - V Mile - 1.8

Best to scout and run from river right, very dense set of brambles above. 

Donnie's Drop

Class - V Mile - 1.9

The last drop before the big boy 

The Big Lebowski

Class - V Mile - 2

The dude abides 

The Little Lebowski

Class - V Mile - 2.1

No doubt the sweetest drop in the canyon, it makes navigating the Dude worth it, just for this drop.

Spring Creek

Class - N/A Mile - 2.3
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Spring Creek comes in from river right very close to the end of the Box Canyon. It is fairly short but steep hike up this drainage to highway 260.

Elevation: 5200 feet.

T Dub

Class - N/A Mile - 2.4
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The drops after the Lil Lebowski are not runnable, despite what you may think.  Begin a long and tricky portage puzzle, until the confluence of the tonto pretty much.  It is called T dub, because well, team work will be mandatory 

Log Jammin'

Class - V Mile - 2.5
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A stout slide with a tight slot, it used to get run all the time, but the last time we ran it, which as far as I know was the last decent, a rock had shifted, closing the exit of the slot, and turning it into a portage

Tonto Creek Confluence

Class - N/A Mile - 2.64
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Tonto Creek comes in from river right.  Average gradient is 60 feet per mile from here to Bear Flat Campground.

Elevation: 5125 feet.

Bear Flat Subdivision

Class - N/A Mile - 4.28
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Private homes border the creek from here down to Bear Flat campground.

Elevation: 5000 feet.

Bear Flat Campground

Class - N/A Mile - 5.4
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A road fords the creek from left to right.  The undeveloped campground is next to the road, on river right. 

Elevation: 4960 feet.


Gage Descriptions

This gauge is just a reference. There isn't a gauge on Christopher Creek, but if you see Tonto spike above 100 CFS, you will be able to get down the creek. A good flow for Christopher Creek is around 400 CFS on the Tonto Creek gauge (spiked).


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.

No Accident Reports




Matt Muir


Craig Irwin


Paul Martzen


Kevin Colburn


Kestrel Kunz


Spencer Huff


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1198869 11/30/10 Matt Muir Added coords, abstract, and sig photo.
1194804 05/27/20 n/a n/a
1214487 03/03/20 Craig Irwin updated image position
1214488 03/03/20 Craig Irwin updated image position
1201853 02/13/13 Paul Martzen Added mileages & elevations
1201997 04/23/13 Kevin Colburn Put in info change
1202441 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz Updated Difficulty
1208411 10/26/17 Spencer Huff photos added
1210448 10/24/18 Craig Irwin 2
1210445 10/17/18 Craig Irwin 1
1211550 03/27/19 Craig Irwin updated image position