San Juan River, West Fork - West Fork San Juan



Like to hike with your boat?  Like a little adventure in your creeking?  Like deep gorges with steep mountain peaks soaring above you?  The West Fork fo the San Juan may be for you. This section of river is an underserved 4 mile stretch of class V whitewater.  It requires a 3 mile hike in on a established trail.  Expect to scout a lot of blind horizon lines.  There's plenty of wood fall in the area and nobody cleans this run.  The adventure factor is high.  There are several fun drops and plenty of gradient in the boogie water to keep you on your toes.

From Hwy 160, take CO Rd 648 to the West Fork trailhead.  A mile before the trailhead is a bridge, which is the standard takeout.  From the trailhead, hike in approximately 3 miles on the West Fork/Rainbow trail until the trail comes back to the river.  Put-in at the bridge or anywhere that looks good.  

This is a class V run 



There's no gauge on the West Fork so you have do some guessing based on other gauges.  There are gauges below the confluence near Pagosa Springs and on the East Fork.  Don't forget to take a guess as to what Wolf Creek is adding to the equation and any small feeders.

I did the run with about 550-600cfs on the gauge near Pagosa Springs and the group concensus was that the run was on the low side of good.  I estimated the creek flow to be in the low 200s cfs range, but that's merely my guess from looking at the creek.  The creek channelizes significantly more in the gorge than it does at the takeout bridge.  At high water this run would be scary, especially considering frequent wood moving around in the creek and poor scoutability from the rim.



Gauge below the confluence:

East Fork SJ gauge;


Class V- to V
Current Flow Visual or Unknown
Recommended Flow Minimum: 175.0
Average: 275.0
Maximum: 500.0
Typical Season Begins: May
Ends: July
Recommended Use Kayaking: Yes
Rafting: No
Canoeing: No
Packrafting: No
Fishing: No
Primary Gauge VISUAL
Length 4.0 Mile(s)
Gradient FPM