Boulder Creek - The Source



At the end of my first run down the Source, as we were searching for gear in the beaver ponds below the run, Forrest, who has almost certainly done the run more times than anyone said, "Some people don't like the Source.  How can you not like it?  It's like you're getting worked the entire way down!"

Welcome to the Source of Boulder Creek.

Most California boaters will have trouble recognizing this as a kayak run, but for a true mank crew aficionado, the Source is the pinnacle of the mank temple.  This is a mile long run close to the headwaters of Boulder Creek known for being continous, steep, manky, and low volume.  Even though it's just up the hill from me, I'd managed to avoid this run for years.  I'd made one attempt several years prior and was handed the typical Source skunk treatment.  By the time we figured out where the putin was and walked the run, scouting and looking for wood, and doing some light cleaning, we'd run out of light.  Almost every year this run gets filled with new wood and requires someone to channel their inner beaver to clear a path through the singletrack.  Oftentimes that doesn't happen, which becomes the perfect excuse to put off the run for another year.

As rivers were peaking in June of 2016, I realized that without much intention, I'd managed to carry on a tradition of running at least one new river every year since I started boating.  This tradition was becoming harder and harder to continue.  With a kid at home, my range has become shorter, and I've already picked almost all the low hanging fruit.  Then it occurred to me...... The Source!

A small crew of Forrest and some Wigstons had done an evening mission the week prior.  The result of the mission was Forrest being stuffed under a log in his boat.  As one Wigston described it, "Forrest got pinned upside down in his boat under a river wide log.  He pulled himself out of his boat and up onto the log.  I've never seen anyone get pinned upside down underwater, then climb out laughing and smiling!"  They spent the weekend flossing the run, so there was really no excuse at that point not to go.

The Source is really two runs: low level Source and Sean Lee level Source.  What is Sean Lee level Source?  Well, back when he lived out here, he would tell everybody that people hate the Source because they all run it too low.  But if you run it with enough water,it's the best run on the Front Range.  He always had trouble getting anyone to go at a "proper" level.  The run peaks after dark, and spikes quickly as the evening approaches, so it's typically run as an evening mission to reduce the omnipresent mank.

We rounded up a team for a Weds evening run: Forrest, Clayton, Jeremy, Adrian, and myself.  Jeremy and I were newbies and while Adrian and Clayton had limited experience, they'd both done the run at least a couple times over just the past few days, so had a decent idea of the lines.  I committed, all the while realizing that based on the gauge, we were likely in for fairly high levels.  Because the gauge is below the confluence of Boulder & Jasper creeks, there's no way to know the exact level without a visual.  We walked to the bridge at the takeout and Forrest peered at the creek. 

"How does the level look?", I ask Forrest.

Forrest: "Oh, it's good! This is going to be fun!"

That confirmed my suspicion that it was high and it was time to bring my A game.  Forrest later confessed that the gauge rock they usually use at the takeout was buried.  As I looked around at the crew, my only consolation was that I saw a couple people that were also candidates for "the victim."  I hurriedly geared up figuring the longer we waited the higher the water was going to get.  A family that lived in the neighborhood was walking the road and began asking us about kayaking the run.  I was way too nervous to want to talk to anyone so let Forrest take the public relations lead.

I told Forrest I'd never done the run before and asked if I could follow him.  I had no clue what the lines were.  He said he'd be catching a couple eddies, if possible, and suggested back paddling and controlling your breathing as much as possible to avoid going anerobic. We all slide into the creek and found a huge beaver pond eddy on the left, the last good break before the steepness began.

One by one we slide into the current.  The run was fast, but I felt like I could control myself, which gave me comfort.  We succeeded in catching an eddy near the top and everybody was moving along with aplomb.  At one point I got beached slightly on some rocks on the outside of a bend.  To avoid getting bunched up, I let everybody continue past me and took position behind Clayton, who had just done the run a couple days prior, so surely knew the lines.  

We proceeded downstream and Clayton dropped over a small horizon line.  As I approached I noticed he was stationary on the left side of the drop, so I took it center, assuming he'd been caught in a hole.  As I came over the drop, I noticed he was completely stationary and likely pinned.  Unclear whether or not he had an air pocket, I charged for a micro eddy on the left shore.  Luckily I reached it and hoped out.  At this point I could see water pouring over Clayton's head.  His boat was vertically pinned.  I threw my boat and paddle on shore and as I started to scramble upstream, I saw that Clayton had managed to get out of his boat and was now swimming.  I snagged his paddle and ran upstream to pull him out of the boxed in hole.  

Clayton was shaken up, but ok.  His boat was stuck in the hole and clearly not moving.  While he belayed me over a small cliff to try and reach the boat, Forrest came running up.  "Where's Jeremy?" he asked.  I yelled, "I saw him on shore 100 yards downstream.  I think he must have stopped to see where we were.  Where's Adrian?"  Forrest says, "he's out, but I think he hurt his shoulder!" 

As I get a hand on the boat I yell, "Do you have a rope?"  

"I don't carry ropes!" Forrest replies.

Just about this time, Adrian ambles up holding his injured arm in place with his other one.  He does have a rope and recovers the boat.  Adrian explains to us that his shoulder popped out mid run and he had to paddle out the rest of the run using one side.  Jeremy apparently was looking for his boat after he got pinned in a log pile and had to swim. 

Clayton is done and decides to walk out the last 1/4 mi of the run.  I'm wondering if I should do the same as the victims are piling up and water continues to rise.  Forrest affirms that I can't miss the end and runs downstream to point out the lines from shore. His beta is actually perfect, as is his encouragement and I finish the run without issue, giving our team a 2/5 success rate.  

Jeremy never found his boat, but did find his shoe and a paddle from a crew last weekend.  

Clayton never found his pride.

Adrian's shoulder turned out to be fairly bad and required surgery.

Forrest declared it a typical run down the Source.

And me? I can't wait until next time. I think.


Class V
Current Flow 244.0 CFS
06-26-2019 08:15
Recommended Flow Minimum: 100.0
Average: 250.0
Maximum: 600.0
Typical Season Begins: May
Ends: July
Recommended Use Kayaking: Yes
Rafting: No
Canoeing: No
Packrafting: No
Fishing: No
Length 1.0 Mile(s)
Gradient FPM

The Source put-in

06-20-2017 - Enough water, but how many survivors?