Roaring Fork (Slaughterhouse)
|Stretch:||Henry Stein Park to Wilton Jaffee Sr Park|
|Flows:||200 to ~3,000 cfs (I can imagine at the high flows it is more IV to V). USGS Roaring Fork River below MAroon Creek near Aspen gauge|
|Gradient:||82 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Access at Henry Stein Park|
|Take-out:||Access at Wilton Jaffee Sr Park|
|Shuttle:||4.2 miles, (5 minutes one-way)|
|Season:||Spring off snowmelt|
|Featured in Video A Wet State #159|
Colorado Road Trip 2021: Day 9
We did Pine Creek and Numbers section of the Arkansas. They were repeats from a trip 3 years ago so I am not including a full blog of those.
Colorado Road Trip 2021: Day 10 Morning
Leaving Buena Vista we headed up over Independence Pass and the Continental Divide. We saw Lake Creek had a bunch of water in it, but we weren't looking for that class V to V+ action. We also got service and saw that if we had been on top of it in the morning we could have gotten the first day of snowmelt in the Clear Creek of the Ark. But we didn't. We had made plans to meet up with Laura and Steve out in Glenwood Springs. So we drove towards Aspen with hopes of getting Castle Creek into the Roaring Fork. Arriving there we determined Castle Creek was not running and decided to just do Roaring. At put-in, as we were getting ready, a car slowed down and we quickly noticed our friend Nate White. I knew he lived in Carbondale but I honestly had no idea where that was. It turns out it is the next town downstream! So anyways, we convinced him to join us for another lap (he had just gotten off) and he ended up sharing time with us that evening and the next day as well. Fortuitous meeting!
This run is a classic class IV run. At our flow of 700 cfs or so it was a bit on the low side, but the smooth granite rocks made the run a great splat and play run. Maybe the least abusive rock in all of Colorado! The run is mostly boulder gardens, with obvious channels and boofs to hit. The one exception is Slaughterhouse Falls which is a bedrock ledge drop which is not the hardest, but certainly the most out of character. It is also the waterfall that was featured on the cover of John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" album. So that is a fun fact for you.
The run was super fun. The rocks in the river were big enough it felt like kayaking we are more accustomed to. Boulder gardens with character. Instead of the endless gradient and non-stop non-descript rapids that make up much of the other whitewater in the state. While I can't declare it is the best class IV in Colorado, as I have by no means done enough to have that perspective, I will say that it was the best class IV we had done to this point in Colorado. Better than the Numbers. Better than Lake Fork of the Gunnison. Better than Royal Gorge of the Arkansas. The only thing lacking was scenery on this one. There really isn't too much on it, not compared to the rest of Colorado. But, if private jets are your thing, you will see plenty of those flying overhead. Lifestyles of the rich and famous visiting Aspen.
Note: This run is pretty darn continuous and sustained in a similar difficulty. This makes a rapid by rapid, after a single descent difficult. Therefore, I am just going to hit the few highlights of the run.
- Entrance Exam (IV). The first rapid is the biggest rapid! We boofed the left of center to enter and then worked center and eventually right. As a rule of thumb on this section, if it looks boofable, then it is! Enjoy the rock spins and boofs galore!
- Slaughterhouse Falls (III+ to IV). The cover of John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" was photographed here, so that's fun. At most flows you will boof far left. At high flows a right line opens up.
Boogie (III to IV). Busy rapids come in spurts with mellow rapids between. As is the name of the game here.
- Bridge (III). You will cross under a bridge that is part of the greenway trail system that runs the length of the river. A nice fun rapid is under it.
Boogie (III to IV). And it continues... other than a calm section from mile 1.4 to 1.6.
- Final Exam (III to IV). OK, this probably has a real name but I don't know it, so I figured stay with the "exam" theme since Entrance Exam is the real name for the first rapid. This is the last bigger rapid of the run. There was a fan that looked unnatured kicking up water in the middle, ideally just run right and punch the holes over there to avoid the gnarly fan. There was a hero line to the immediate left of the fan to spice things up more.
Take-out: From Aspen, head west on CO-82 for 6.8 miles. Turn right onto Smith Way just before the town of Woody Creek. Continue over the river in 0.3 miles and turn right immediately onto McLain Flats Rd and then immediately right again into the park.
Put-in: Go right out of the take-out onto McLain Flats Rd and continue upriver for 4.2 miles, parking in the park just before the bridge over the creek.
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