Clear Creek - Black Rock

Colorado-US  

Description

This is the steepest section of commonly run whitewater on Clear Creek.  Many class IV and V Denver area boaters consider this their afterwork training run.  If ever there was a crowd pleaser, Black Rock is it.  Located close to the largest metropolitan area in all of Colorado and having one of the longer seasons of the Front Range creeks, this 6 mile stretch of whitewater attracts an eclectic crowd.  At ultra low to low flows, class IV boaters come here to test their mettle negotiating the steep signature drops.  At high water, class V boaters relish the big pushy water funnelling through various constrictions and forming large holes.  

From the put-in, enjoy some fun class III-IV boogie water as a warmup.  The first major drop is Black Rock.  At low water it's a technical class IV.  At higher flows many more lines open up but it becomes much faster and the difficulty increases to class V (V- at most flows).  Enjoy the fun IV+ runout of Black Rock and wind your way through another couple miles of boogie water before the Narrows.  A bridge spanning the creek signals the start of the Narrows.  At high flows, this constriction creates fast moving water with large holes that could be deadly for a swimmer.  At lower flows, it can be broken apart using the many available eddies, but the manky riverbed will punish boaters upside down or out of their boat. The scariest feature is Mr. Bill, a large hole backed up by a recirculating eddy and undercut cliff.  Mr. Bill looks intimating, but usually goes fine for boaters in control above it who have carefully scouted their line.  Accidentally dropping into the hole however, often ends unpleasantly.  The runout of the Narrows is some of the finest whitewater on the run.

Some afterwork desk jockeys trying to meet their significant others in time for dinner will take out after the Narrows.  But if you like boating  through steep mini-gorges that terminate in large holes, that's a mistake because Rigor Mortis, the hardest drop on the run, awaits downstream.  Affectionantly known as Rigo, due to its proximity to parking for climbers and boaters this drop often draws a crowd.  The trick involves staying in control through the entrance ramp to avoid getting stuffed into either of the bottom two holes.  The horseshoe entrance leads into a ramp slide that has a tendency to flip boaters who get lured too far left.  If you're upside down or out of control at the slide, expect to log some hole ride time.  

In 2011, I was running the drop in the 700cfs range with frequency and thought I had the line dialed.  However, one sloppy stroke at the top resulted in a brace in the slide and forced me to charge directly for the bottom hole, rather than skirting the side.  My attempt at boofing the bottom hole didn't quite work and I instantly backendered and flipped.  A quick roll along the boil line resulted in a lucky break as I was put into a huge bow stall and was released from its grasp.  A prominent Boulder hair boater says he's surfed the bottom hole at Rigo at least 50 times and comes out every time, but not everybody has such strength and patience!  If you swim, swim hard to river right away from the sievey slot and undercut.  This is a good place for safety.

Takeout after the green bridge, or if the flow is good enough, extend your trip through Lower Clear Creek and even on down the playpark in Golden.

Statistics

KSC
Class IV to V
Current Flow 1150.0 CFS
06-22-2017 21:45


View River Forecast

Recommended Flow Minimum: 200.0
Average: 600.0
Maximum: 1500.0
Typical Season Begins: April
Ends: September
Recommended Use Kayaking: Yes
Rafting: No
Canoeing: No
SUP: No
Packrafting: No
Fishing: No
Primary Gauge CLEAR CREEK AT GOLDEN, CO
Length 5.0 Mile(s)
Gradient FPM
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Rigor Mortis

06-22-2014 - 960 cfs

Photo By: Toni Frank

Subject: Kevin Cripps