Big Thompson - Main Section



Run from below the Gnar Section to Idylwilde Dam. 

At normal flows this is a class IV run with a character similar to its neighbor to south, Clear Creek, except a little steeper and more continuous.  Those looking for a little more excitement can start by running the last drop of the Gnar section, Cannon Shot, one of the cleaner rapids in the Gnar section.

Below Cannon Shot, is continuous read and run class IV whitewater.  At lower flows mank is your biggest enemy, but as flows increase above 550 cfs, some hole punching is required to avoid an unexpected surf.  The Drake rapid occurs midway through the run and is usually scouted on the drive up via a large pullout by the river.  This is a long multi-tiered rapid, easily recognizable from the road.  It has a technical entrance to avoid pitoning/pinning in mank off a 5 foot ledge followed by a couple holes, a brief respite, and more holes below.  It's a frequent site of carnage.  At lower flows it's a solid IV+ and at higher flows moves into class V territory.  Portaging is fairly trivial along the highway.  Once the river passes Drake, the water mellows to class III/III+ until it pools up above the dam.  The dam has been run, but boaters should use extreme caution here due to the deadly hydrolic below.  If the flows are good, many will choose to continue for a another couple miles of fun whitewater below the dam. 

The character of this run changes dramatically with different water levels.  At lower flows (300-500), it's suitable for a class IV boater used to continuous runs.  At flows about 600 cfs, most class IV boaters will have their hands full as the holes get large, and the water moves quickly and with some push.  I ran this once on a 1100 cfs release from Lake Estes, chasing daylight, and it was one of the more intense runs I've ever done with fast pushy water, big holes, a flooded shoreline, and minimal eddies.

Put in: Below Canon Shot

Take out: At the Idylwilde Dam parking area


KSC, Joshua Darnell
Class IV+ to V
Current Flow 416.0 CFS
06-26-2019 08:00
Recommended Flow Minimum: 300.0
Average: 550.0
Maximum: 1100.0
Typical Season Begins: January
Ends: January
Recommended Use Kayaking: Yes
Rafting: No
Canoeing: No
Packrafting: No
Fishing: No
Length 3.0 Mile(s)
Gradient FPM