navigation bar

Eagle River, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

Dowd Chute
~ 4 Miles

navigation bar River descriptions categorized by state First Aid and general safety information Southwest Paddler on-line store Southwest Paddler Yellow Pages listings Environmental issues and concerns Photos of rivers and surrounding areas Trip reports with photos How to advertise on Southwest Paddler Advertiser Index Internet links to related information and services Southwest Paddler visitor comments General disclaimer Product Reviews Federal and state navigation laws Credits for contributors Web Campfire

SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

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.

Distance from major cities

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.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

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.

Best time to go

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.

Hazards to navigation

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!

River access points

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.

Campgrounds and accommodations

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!

Liveries, Outfitters and Shuttle Services

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.

Reviewer's comments

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.

Technical Data
Class Rating III+ to V
Length 4 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow 500-3,000 cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in USFS Visitors Center
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Riverbend bus stop on SH 6
Lat. / Long.
Elevation 7,800-7,520 feet msl
Gradient 70 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Minturn
Boats Canoes w/ flotation (< 2,400 cfs)
Kayaks (Expert > 3,000 cfs)
Rafts (Expert < 2,600 cfs)
Season May through July
Permits No

Canoeman River Guide Services - guided river trips, trip planning and canoe instruction on rivers in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Visit the Rocky Mountain Canoe Club web site by clicking this banner

Poudre Paddlers Canoe and Kayak Club

Lone Star Paddler - the paddlesports web site of Marc W. McCord

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Eagle River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Eagle River Homepage ] [ Gilman Gorge ] [ Upper Eagle ] [ Lower Eagle ] [ Gore Creek ]

Southwest Paddler
Click to return to the Southwest Paddler Homepage
Home Page
Southwest Paddler

Colorado Rivers Index
Canoeman River

Guide Services
Return to the homepage
Home Page

CobraGraphics - Web Designs with a Bite!

Send E-mail This web page designed, created and maintained by
Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics
© February 15, 2003. All rights reserved.
Last updated September 13, 2014

Copyright © 1998-2014, Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. All rights reserved. Southwest Paddler, CobraGraphics and Canoeman River Guide Services are trademarks of Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. The textual, graphic, audio, and audio/visual material in this site is protected by United States copyright law and international treaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except for your personal, non-commercial use. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All original photographs on this web site are the exclusive property of Marc W. McCord or other designated photographers and may not be copied, duplicated, reproduced, distributed or used in any manner without prior written permission under penalty of US and International laws and treaties.