Dowd Chute, located at Dowd Juntion and the confluence with Gore Creek, is a 4-mile, nearly continuous, boulder garden rapid that fluctuates between Class III+ and V whitewater, depending upon the flow. It offers easy roadside access and can be approached from upstream on either the Eagle River around Minturn, or Gore Creek, as well as directly across from the USFS Visitors Center on the Eagle River. With a channel constricted between US Highway 24 on river left and the rail line on river right, Dowd Chute drops 70 fpm from 7,800 feet to 7,520 feet msl in elevation.
"Das Chute", as it is referred to by some, is just a shor distance west of Vail. It is NOT a good place to swim! The water is very cold, the rocks are sharp and numerous, and swims in Dowd Chute can cover a long distance in a short time. Das Chute features some definite trouble spots that require pre-planning and a lot of hard paddling to avoid. While surrounding scenery is quite beautiful, there will be little time to absorb it as paddlers do a river runner's version of a rodeo cowboy's 8-second ride. This one is rough and ready, so you need to be, also! Be sure to dress warmly and bring along your best paddling skills. This is mainly a kayak run, but expert paddlers in rafts may be able to run it, and expert canoeists with whitewater outfitting may be able to run it at lower flows.
Eagle County in the White River national Forest of west central Colorado, near Vail. Nearby streams include the Yampa, Colorado, Fryingpan, Roaring Forks and Arkansas Rivers, with many feeder streams in close proximity.
Grand Junction 174 miles; Denver 98 miles; Santa Fe miles; Albuquerque miles; Phoenix miles; Oklahoma City 739 miles; Tulsa 844 miles; Dallas 948 miles; Austin 1,138 miles; San Antonio 1,218 miles; Houston 1,194 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Dowd Chute runs cold, fast and furious, with a rating of Class III+ below 1,100 cfs. Difficulty increases to Class IV from 1,100 to 2,400 cfs, Class IV+ from 2,400 to 3,000 cfs and Class V at flows above 3,000 cfs. The water is generally clean and clear, but not drinkable without purification.
Typically, May through July, depending upon the winter snow pack and/or recent local summer rains. Heavy snowpack and/or heavy rains can extend the season by a few days to a few weeks, while drier years may result in a similarly shortened season.
Generally speaking, Das Chute IS a hazard! Some spots are more trouble than others, especially a higher flows. Near the bottom of the run, where the river widens, is a bend to the right under a railroad overpass. The strong current runs to river left, where log jams form around the bridge pilings - avoid this obstruction at all costs! At high flows moving right is difficult, but absolutely necessary. Start the move to the right very early and get as far right as possible. Below this hazard awaits a quarter mile of Class IV whitewater. It is imperative that you nail the bend, avoid the bridge pilings and log jam, then line up straight for the long rapid below. This is NOT a good place for a swim!
Put in across from the USFS Visitors Center where US Highway 24 exits IH 70. Take out at the Riverbend bus stop on SH 6. Alternate accesses can be found on the Eagle River above Minturn, or on Gore Creek above or below Vail.
There is a campground on Red Sandstone Creek, between Gore Creek and the Piney River. There are numerous accommodation facilities nearby that cater to skiers and others, some of which may be open during the Eagle River paddling season, but be sure to bring your wallet!
Rentals and shuttles may be available from any of several outfitters serving the Eagle and surrounding rivers. Other outfitters elsewhere in Colorado and other states may also provide services on the Eagle River.
Dowd Chute is an exciting and sometimes treacherous place where expert kayakers, and occasionally rafters, go to play on the Eagle River. It is conveniently located near Vail, where the scenery is astonishing, to say the least. Tree-covered mountains, a winding road, beautiful water and a very rocky riverbed all add up to gorgeous settings for photographs, but not any taken from your boat unless you have a water-proof camera and can shoot quickly. Das Chute will demand your attention and your best paddling skills. This is definitely an E-ticket ride on Colorado whitewater.