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Eagle River, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

Upper Eagle River
~ 7 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Beginning at the bottom of Dowd Chute is the 7-mile section of Class II to III whitewater referred to by locals as the Upper Eagle River, even though the river actually begins many miles to the southeast. From here on down, the Eagle is boatable in canoes, kayaks and rafts. The river drops some 60 fpm from an elevation of 7,520 feet down to 7,160 feet msl. This section is very scenic and generally hazard-free, with minimal signs of encroaching civilization.

Above Avon, the river is primarily a fun-filled Class III boulder garden. Below Avon, the river is more gentle, with Class II rapids, though there are some Class III drops in the "Edwards Mile" that can escalate to Class IV in high water conditions. While most of the Upper Eagle is not too demanding, paddlers should be aware of the dangers that await if they capsize in the Edwards Mile. In the first place, the water is very cold. In the second place, the boulder garden rapids tend to flow as one continuous rapid that can tumble and beat a swimming paddler. Below the Edwards Mile all the excitement suddenly ends and the river channel opens into pasturelands just above the take-out at the water treatment plant.

At least 8 feeder creeks join the Eagle River between Riverbend and the Edwards water treatment plant adding to the flow of the river. Three access points allow choices of runs. A diversion dam/boulder pile just above the Avon bridge is a hazard that should be treated as such. Other than that, the Upper Eagle River is an exciting and beautiful run for boaters with intermediate or higher whitewater skills.


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

The water is cold, somewhat fast and occasionally turbulent. Above Avon, the river is generally rates as Class III whitewater, dropping to Class II below Avon with the except of the Class III (and occasionally Class IV) run through Edwards Mile.

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

The diversion dam about one half mile above the Avon bridge is dangerous, but can be run down the middle after scouting on river right. Boulders are piled across the river, so choose your line carefully. The Edwards Mile, past the second of two bridges about 3 miles below Avon, is a continuous boulder garden rapid rated Class III that can escalate to Class IV in high water. Big haystacks form a roller coaster ride requiring strength, stamina and control to keep your boat pointed downriver and directly into the teeth of the waves. You WILL get wet, so wear layered water-repelling garments, wetsuits or drysuits with warmly insulated river boots and gloves to prevent hypothermia, especially if you go swimming. This is NOT a good place to swim, so boaters without adequate whitewater skills, outfitting and preparation should avoid the Edwards Mile.

River access points

Riverbend bus stop at 0.0 miles; Avon bridge at about 2.5 miles; Edwards water treatment plant at 7.0 miles.

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

While other parts of the Eagle, and most Colorado rivers in general, are limited to advanced or expert level whitewater kayakers and rafters, the Upper Eagle River offers an exciting, moderate whitewater experience that can be enjoyed by almsot everybody, from novice paddlers in a guided raft to experienced paddlers in canoes, kayaks and rafts. Like most Colorado rivers, the scenery all around the river is just awesome to behold. A moderate gradient, coupled with many Class II to III rapids, makes this section of the Eagle River a lot of fun without being too demanding or dangerous. It is a great pleace for a camera, but make sure it is water-proof (or carried in a water-proof case) and securely strapped to your boat when not being used. This section of the Eagle is a good warm-up run for those preparing for more difficult runs on this river, or other Colorado streams of higher technical difficulty.

Technical Data
Class Rating II to IV
Length 7 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Riverbend bus stop
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Edwards water treatment plant
Lat. / Long.
Elevation 7,520-7,160 feet msl
Gradient 60 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Minturn
Boats Canoes w/ flotation, Kayaks, Rafts
Season May through July
Permits No

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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 ] [ Dowd Chute ] [ Lower Eagle ] [ Gore Creek ]

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Last updated September 13, 2014

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