Vallecito Creek - Vallecito



Welcome to California - I mean - Colorado?  This is a classic 1 mile class V run near Durango.  Its smooth bedrock and consistent big clean drops in a unique gorge give it the distinction by many of being the best 1 mile stretch of whitewater in Colorado.  Its reputation for being steep and unforgiving had my stomach reeling as I geared up in the crisp cool breeze under clear blue skies.  The day starts out at the Vallecito campgrounds, where many wisely choose to set up camp for the night.  

Start the day by rigging up your favorite hiking system and commence on a beautiful 1-2 mile hike that takes you to the rim of the gorge and then back down to river level.  Don't expect to get good visuals of the rapids from the rim.  Having a guide for your first time through will help significantly.  When the trail comes back down to river level, it's time to gear up and the true adventure begins. Note the quality of a couple warm up boofs before the gorge proper.  It's a sign of things to come.

An obvious horizon line signals the first crux of the run, Entrance Falls.  This roughly 20 foot entrance drop requires a tricky boof with the potential to punish bad lines by sending boaters into a cave behind the falls or into an undercut wall on the right.  Fortunately at lower flows, the hazards are not as significant.  At high flows, a well placed boof is mandatory.  

A small pool separates the landing of the falls from Trashcan.  Trashcan contains numerous sieves, so don't swim into Trashcan.  The pattern of large clean drops separated by decent sized eddies repeats for the rest of the run.  Pick your way through Pick-Up-Sticks, enjoy cranking out your boof on Fuzzy Little Bunny followed by Boofaunt.  

The second crux of the run is Paddle Bitch.  A funky hole wants to feed boaters into what is aptly named the "penis rock", which has a penchant for stripping boaters of their paddle and/or boat.  Most people that have "hiked" out from Paddle Bitch report an epic technical climb to the rim.  No Way Out is the only drop that's not scoutable from river level, but fortunately it's clean and fun with an awesome exit boof.  Paddlers are rewarded by one more clean boof at Finish Line before paddling back down to the campgrounds.  As you exit the gorge, fisherman, hikers, and tourists appear along the banks to marvel at you for being the badass that you know you are.


The flows are typically described in feet on the gauge near Bayfield. 

1.6 = low

2.0 = medium

2.4 = high


Class V+
Current Flow 558.0 CFS
05-28-2024 03:45
Recommended Flow Minimum: 100.0
Average: 250.0
Maximum: 500.0
Typical Season Begins: April
Ends: July
Recommended Use Kayaking: Yes
Rafting: No
Canoeing: No
Packrafting: No
Fishing: No
Length 1.0 Mile(s)
Gradient FPM

Entrance Drop

05-27-2012 - 1.9 ft

Photo By: Kevin Cripps

Subject: Josh Mack