Colorado Kayaking :: Colorado's online Journal and Guide to kayaking whitewater creeks and rivers.  Contains resources for individuals who kayak in Colorado.
Home Gallery Stories Rivers Reviews Safety Posse
RSS News Feed for Colorado Kayaking
Announcements
SITE DISCLAIMER
Feedback
River Reports
-Lake Fork Canyon, IV+
-South Canyon, Playspot
-Bluegrass Creek, IV-V
-King Sol's Balls, V+
Stories
-Bull Lake Creek - The Return
-BSSV - Exploratory Paddling with the Wives and Children
-Vacation at the Equator
-What Makes a Misadventure
Safety Articles
-Safety When Flying In Heli-Style
-River Running and Creeking Strategy
Reviews
-Young Gun Productions - Source
-Big Worm Clothing
-Lendal Paddles

TREASURE Canyon

By: Todd Gillman
Photographer: Ben Horton

Rick Stohlquist in the Twizzler

In early June of ’04, I received a somewhat frantic v-mail from Rick Stohlquist and “Fifty-Six,” with an invite to some supposed first-descent shenanigans. The voice on the other line was giddy with the kind of excitement that I’ve learned to be very cautious around. “It’s the new Big South!” Fifty-Six exclaimed. Nonetheless, I was totally skeptical. And anyway, by the time I got the message, my crew was already en-route to our own exploratory mission/fiasco.

In the weeks that followed, I had several conversations with Rick and Fifty-Six about the creek, and even checked out some promising photos that they had taken. It looked legit, and Rick swore up and down that it was, so, reluctantly, I committed to the long-ass drive from Jackson, WYO to … ohhh, let’s just say “Southern Colorado.”

Brent Toepper mystery move

The plan was to meet the crew at camp, which conveniently was the take-out for the run, and then to head upstream, checking out a promising tributary along the way. We spent far too long hiking the entirety of said trib, from top to bottom, only to come to the conclusion that the only section worth running would be the bottom gorge. The stacked waterfalls and slides, reminiscent of Canyon Creek of the Animas, looked awesome. However, low flow forced us to get back to the main purpose for being there, which of course was Treasure Canyon.

We spent the rest of the day bushwhacking down the main stem of Treasure Canyon, stopping frequently to remove wood with a come-along, and appreciating the mini-gorges and ridiculous whitewater that lay before us. Our goal was to make it to “The Plank,” a 30-footer into a butt-crack gorge that was choked up with logs. Upon arrival, the task of moving/removing tons of lumber from that very inaccessible, very cold, dark and deep gorge, proved to be too daunting for the little bit of daylight we had left… then the hike got shitty.

Conor Finney drops into the goods

The next morning, after a big breakfast and some target practice with Rick’s “gat”, we headed straight to the put-in. The run starts at a tiny bridge in a beautiful meadow that could be the doppelganger of the upper Slate River valley in CB. The creek drops immediately into a fun mini-gorge, before falling into a weird 10-footer with an undercut/cave thing that proved to be not that big a deal. From here we experienced fun, pool-drop, mini-gorge rapids, in the range of 10 to 15 feet, all with some kind of one-two punch combination.

About a mile into the run we came to the gorge we had flossed the day before. It features a long technical lead-in with some fun ledges and a super-tight move to either side of a gnarly fang-looking rock. Apart from that bastard, the rock in the gorge was smooth, black, and beautiful (just the way Johnny Banker likes his women).

Conor Finney and the smooth rocks

This gorge relents for about a minute before heading into a second gorge. The lead-in drop of this gorge would be great except for the chockstone that renders it unsafe/unrunnable. We portaged on river-left to an eddy just below this drop, which put us directly at the start of gorge number two. This bit was twisty and steep, and had three or four really good moves, including two huge boofs. Definitely one of my favorite lines on the creek.

From here we rolled through a couple miles of good pool-drop, a couple log portages in flat water, and one marginal wall-banger rapid that was pretty, but offered a special reward if you didn’t stick it. Somewhere along the line, we came to another gorge with a beautiful 20 foot vertical falls. From downstream, it is seriously one of the more beautiful falls I’ve seen in Colorado, but alas, it falls on a river-wide shelf of rock which is angled 30 degrees back upstream - had to walk it. There are fun rapids leading right up to it – just don’t miss the eddy on river left.

Brent Toepper hitting a sweet line

Shortly thereafter, we came to “The Plank,” the 30-footer previously mentioned. It drops into a super-tight chasm with several ledges and sticky holes. There’s also a sketchy cave involved that should be easy enough to get past if you don’t get surfed in the first ledge. This gorge opens up on river-left and then falls immediately into the rapid that we were calling “The Twizzler.” The view from the Twizzler back up into the Plank was insane, mesmerizing and scary all at the same time. We didn’t spend too much time staring because the Twizzler was a serious drop that was runnable and was calling our names.

The Twiz was guarded by a river-wide log and a weird lateral hole which fed into a gnarly corkscrewing deal on the left, and a sketchy cauldron on the right. The preferred line was right off the middle of the main drop and then through a run-out slot/hole center-left. It drops maybe 15 feet, and since you have to negotiate a tight S-turn in about .5 seconds, it’s a pretty difficult move… but so fun.

The author nailing the Twizz

After the Twiz, another mile or so of super-fun, gorged-out, read ‘n’ run class V remains. Shortly after a sketchy collapsed bridge, which has to be limbo’d on the right, we came to a steep scree slope on the left. We got out here and started climbing up to the campground.

There is certainly more whitewater for miles (yes miles) downstream that we didn’t do. Treasure Canyon is definitely the steepest section on that particular river, but the downstream stuff looks to be class III/IV, with the odd V thrown in.

The crew that day consisted of Rick Stohlquist, Brent Toepper, Johnny Banker, Conor Finney, & Todd Gillman, with Ben Horton manning the still camera www.benhorton.biz. For some cool quick clips from Treasure Canyon check the intro for LVM #13 www.lunchmag.tv