Clear Creek (Lower)
|Rigor Mortis to Diversion Dam
|Class III+ to IV
|200 to ~1,500 cfs. USGS Clear Creek near Lawson gauge
|103 fpm average
|Shoulder of US-6 at Rigor Mortis
|Shoulder of US-6 at Diversion Dam
|2.9 miles, (5 minutes one-way)
|Spring off snowmelt
Colorado Road Trip 2021: Day 14 Afternoon
This section starts right at the outflow of Rigor Mortis. Walked under the bridge and seal launch into the river. The river is mostly class III continuous boogie but there are two standout rapids. One will sneak up on you, Elbow. It was a big IV, I would almost give it a IV+ rating but maybe we just boofed the meat of it. Not too far downstream is a left bend and a big eddy on the left. This stares down the Screaming Quarter Mile. The crux of this is a river wide ledge to boof near the top. Below, the boogie just keeps coming all the way to take out.
We had 800 cfs and I thought that this was a great flow, though probably a big on the healthy side. I know people run this at 1,200 or even 1,500. But the river had power at 800 cfs and it was not a chill class IV day. It was a swim and you may lose your gear or worse sort of day.
The run is fairly short. But you can extend it by paddling down to Golden (a task that will soon be safer when they put in the boat chute at the dam) or start higher up at Black Rock if you want some class IV to V action.
I thought the day from Kermit's to Golden was spectacular. One of the highlights of our trip. So if you have 3 hours to spare, consider doing that link up of sections.
- Boogie (III to III+). The boogie just keeps on coming. It is mostly class III- to III moves, but the continuous nature of it is unrelenting.
- Elbow (IV to IV+). A long section of boogie leads into this. Diane was off in front and couldn't hear Nick's hollers, so she just ran it blind with no knowledge of it. She hugged far left. Nick hollered to be to hit a big boof, and we did left of center off a big curler. I have also seen shots of people running a center moving right line too. Walk your elbows as there are submerged rocks on the right, and the right wall is undercut so stay off of that too. I imagine with easy lines at mellow flows it is easy IV, but I just can't give our boof that rapid as the hole behind it was large. Maybe if I scouted it would not seem like a IV+, but for now, after a loan lap... I am saying at our 800 cfs it felt harder than just a IV.
- Screaming Quarter Mile (IV to IV+). Again, flows make all the difference here. On a sharp left turn you get the one large eddy that I remember since putting in at Kermits, two sections upstream. Nick gave us the beta about the river wide ledge just downstream followed by a quarter mile of tougher boogie. He said it reminds him of Christmas Tree on the Cherry Creek section of California's Tuolumne river... a rapid that the rafting companies call V and for sure is not class IV. I agree in that the ledge is stout and riverwide, though it was also a very straight forward delayed boof over the 4 foot drop to clear through. If though you do not boof, the plug to backender would be guaranteed and the likely resulting swim would be heinous. So, at the 800 cfs I saw it at, I say the ledge and runout combo seemed to me to be IV+. We boofed far left. Avoid the middle. The runout below is busy but read and run. I didn't get any pictures because I assumed my gopro was running and instead the battery died in the eddy just above the rapid.
- Take-out: Scout this before putting on. Take-out just before the left hand bend in the river (the first left hand bend since Screaming Quarter Mile). Once the river bends left you see you are at the top of the Dam and have very very few eddies to work with. Super sketchy to take-out after the bend. We didn't know and nearly flushed into the dam.
- Dam (V to V+). Just describing it in case you bumble into it. There was a small window on the right, but this also had a weird cement pillar in it that forced you to be even more precise. The center is terrible, fingers crossed you don't end up here. The right if you flushed out of the eddies was where you would be, paddled hard and take a big boof stroke to clear the hole. Paddle hard and drop over the next tier which seemed less dangerous but just as sticky. Apparently, very soon (2021 writing), there will be a boat chute on one side of this dam, nullifying the hazard with a method of safe passage.
Take-out: From Golden, take US-6 up the Clear Creek canyon. After 1.5 miles you will go through a tunnel. You will then 100 yards later begin a right bend, park in the turn out on the river side of the road.
Put-in: Continue up US-6 for 2.9 miles. Just after crossing the river via bridge, park on the right above Rigor Mortis. There is a trail down the side of the road, and under the bridge, to put-in below the rapid.
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