The Lake Fork of the Gunnison flows through a scenic semi-arid canyon as it's last
stretch before pouring into Blue Mesa. Set in a canyon that is somewhat deeper
than most would expect, sagebrush, trees and volcanic rock outcroppings make up
most of the scenery. There are four big rapids on this run, two of them approaching
V at higher levels. These are scattered through the run and come in a
pool-drop format. This run will never be a super classic, but it is a Colorado
gem, as it is short and fun at almost all levels.
The best and ideal put in is at Redbridge Campground, a BLM run campground at the
head of the canyon. To get here, take 149 S from US 50. As you drive down
this road, you will go over a small pass and come into a wide, green valley with
a bunch of ranches. This is Cebolla Creek. Keep going over another small
pass and down into a small canyon. This canyon drops down into the Lake Fork
Valley, and the road you want to find is right at that intersection. 149 will
make a turn to the left, and a dirt road will take off to the right.
Take this dirt road for approx 2 mi to get to the campground, which makes a
great place to get haggard the night before and wake up on the river.
The first "rapid" isn't a rapid per se, but merely a tight s-twist through
a block of volcanic rock. This is right below the put-in. Kayakers shouldn't
have much of a problem, but rafters need to be heads up. After some easy
II and III for about a mile or so, the first drop, Surprise Ledge (or
Peanut Butter Falls if you've read CRCII) comes up rather inconspicuously.
The easiest way to watch for this rapid is to look for a very large pine tree
growing right out of the bank on river left. Though the small (4-5') pourover
is powerful, it almost always flushes, and if you're skilled with a raft, you
can surf the boil at the bottom. The trickiest part of this rapid is for rafts,
who tend to get spun around on the sleepers just above this and go off line.
|Rattle Snake Log Jam
The next rapid, Rattlesnake, is the doozy of the run. Set on a long s-turn,
it has some easy III+ waves that leads into a turn to the left and down into the
meat of the rapid. There is a large boulder on river right, with a logjam on
the upstream side. This would probably ensnare a swimmer, and maybe even an
off-line boater. The runout consists of some easy IV- into III. Stay to the
center of this for the whole way and you'll be alright. Scout this drop if
you haven't ran it before. The next rapid, Raft Ripper (also called Strawberry Patch)
comes after about a mile. This is just a simple jumble of boulders in a shallow
part of the river. Kayakers shouldn't have a problem as it's just dodging rocks,
but rafts should use a lot of caution and make sure appropriate levels are present.
The last rapid is called Last Chance Falls, and it's a blast. A river-wide
pourover that is a 5-6' ski jump on river left and a 2-3' pourover on river right,
the main danger of this drop is the cave that is backed-up by a GIANT boulder on
river right just below the rapid. As long as you stay left you'll be golden.
Takeout in the micro-eddies below this drop; it is a hairy experience but it works.
The hardier can continue downstream for two small III's but you have to hike back about
a half of a mile. A road parallels this run the whole length, and it makes scouting super
easy. This run can be run a few times in one day and will provide you a lot of fun.