Some Local River Descriptions

lower Animas River through town
class I-III
length – 7 mi
season: most of the year if you got the gear
levels – 200 cfs minimum to as big as you dare!

the Animas running through town

The lower Animas River runs directly through the town of Durango and is a wonderful stretch of forgiving whitewater.  With a large section of flat water above the main stretch there is plenty of time for a beginner to get their feet wet! The rapids through town are super forgiving and fun at any level and provide a constantly changing dynamic based on the flow for locals to play with and beginners to learn on.  The nature of the flow through town and the multiple put in and take out options provide one of the best means to breaking down the river into short stretches for play or education. The biggest of the rapids (smelter), named after the once very prominent smelting plant that used to exist there, is actually a man made whitewater park, one of the first of its kind and constantly changing slightly as the non permanent features move around from high flows and the locals maintenance it every few years.  Some excellent surfing spots can be found throughout the stretch as features come and go with the changing water levels.
Piedra River 1st & 2nd boxes
class II-IV (IV+)
length – 2nd box 12 mi / 1st box 10 mi
season: spring run off and fall rains – typically May – August

The 2nd box of the Piedra

The 1st box of the Piedra River is the lower runnable section of this stretch as it is possible to add the upper section (the 2nd box) to make for a longer day or possible overnight paddle.  This is a magnificently beautiful section of river, with very active wildlife, amazing scenery, and some pretty sweet whitewater as well. The upper section is only runnable during the peak runoff and this is ok as the only access to the river early season is from the put in to the upper stretch.  As the snow pack melts the forest opens up 1st fork road which provides access to the lower stretch. The upper section only contains two rapids of significance, in the class IV range, and it is recommended to scout both as the wilderness nature of this run makes new and moving wood a real issue.  Floating past the put in on 1st fork rd or putting in here is where the real action is about to begin and is the section that gets paddled more as it runs down to a flow of about 400 cfs. There are a handful of quality rapids with the biggest two being formed by active mudslides in the river canyon.  This can make it interesting as it seems there is a slight change in the nature of the flow every season, when in doubt – scout.  The difficulty tops out at IV+ even at the biggest of flows, and when the bigger rapids are navigated safely the river mellows to an enjoyable class II-III paddle for about 7 miles to the take out at the bottom of 1st fork rd.  This is an excellent section of river for intermediate creek boaters to step up their game.
Vallecito Creek
class V (V+)
length 1 mile
season: spring run off and rain fed, LARGE drainage, allowing for some seriously long seasons some years, and shorter others

dropping into 'trash can'

This section of creek is considered one of the best anywhere and for good reason.  No rapid comes easy in this section and they all offer a challenge to even the best paddlers however delightful they are.  To break it down, this section of sweet gradient flows through a narrow, committing, granite gorge and drops roughly 250 ft in one mile. Yes, you read that correctly.  This is a run that most paddlers look at with the highest respect and there is no doubt that you need a solid team of friends that have skills not only boating steep drops but good communication and swift water rescue experience as well.  You will highly appreciate having a local guide on this run because even though it is short, scouting every rapid is not possible and lines can be deceiving on the rapids that are scout-able.  With rapid names like ‘trash can’, ‘fuzzy little bunny’, and ‘no way out’, how could you not be curious?

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