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Eagle River, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

Lower Eagle River
~ 17.4 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Lower Eagle River "begins" at the Edwards water treatment plant and "ends" at the Town of Eagle, though the river can actually be run in canoes, kayaks and rafts all the way to the confluence with the Colorado River near Dotsero. This section is a good warm-up run for less experienced paddlers wanting to get a feel for the excitement of whitewater river running. This is where the aspen and spruce forests begin to recede into the high desert juniper trees and sagebrush. It is also where the river valley widens, the river channel becomes more open and forgiving, and the rapids become less complex and demanding.

Most of the Lower Eagle is a Class II run, but there are three solid Class III drops between Wolcott and Eagle, and one Class IV drop below Chambers Park at the Town of Eagle. There are some holes that can flip a raft or swamp an open canoe, so be on your game if you choose to test yourself. Of course, there are also lines around the "hazards" if you want a tamer ride. The scenery is gorgeous, though in contrast to many of the mountain valley runs typical of Colorado rivers. Kayakers will enjoy numerous play spots where they can surf and pull enders. Canoeists and rafters can enjoy a pool-and-drop section that offers excitement without extreme risk.

The water is cold, so dress appropriately to stay comfortable and as dry as possible. This section offers about 18 miles of whitewater fun with a shallow gradient of about 36 fpm. It also offers numerous photographic opportunities, but bring a water-proof camera in a protective case and keep it securely lashed to your boat.


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, clean and clear, but not drinkable without purification. Class II to III rapids will be encountered at almost any navigable flow.

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

Trestle Rapid (Class III) lies just below the SH 131 bridge at Wolcott, where the river turns sharply to the right under the railroad trestle. Scout on river right or from the railroad tracks (if no train is coming). The exit features two holes that can send paddlers into an unplanned swim in cold water. Paddle hard and straight to negotiate the holes; Interstate Rapid, where IH 70 crosses over the river, features breaking waves on river left after which lies a boulder garden that can be rough in low water and challenging in moderate to high water. Line up early and paddle hard to avoid the left bank, keeping the boat straight downriver through the rock garden; Dead Cow Rapid (cows never were very good paddlers!) is a serious drop characterized by a long roller coaster ride of a wave train with a big hole in the middle that spans nearly the entire width of the river. The hole looks meaner than it is, but paddle hard and straight to run it. This hole can flip a raft and send paddlers swimming in very cold water; Rumble Seat Rapid is the only Class IV drop on this section of the Eagle River, and is easily avoided by taking out at Chambers Park in the Town of Eagle. Rumble Seat is just downriver from the park, behind the rodeo arena. When the flow is high a big hole, known to locals as Dr. Steve's Wave, forms as a play spot for squirt boats. This hole is not recommended for open canoes or rafts paddled by less than advanced level whitewater paddlers. There are no other significant hazards on this section of the Eagle River.

River access points

Edwards water treatment plant at 0.0 miles; BLM Access at Wolcott on SH 6 at about 7.0 miles; Chambers Park, on river right, in the Town of Eagle at 17.4 miles; on SH 6, just below Dr. Steve's Wave, on river left at about 17.7 miles.

The final take-out point on this section of the Eagle River is Chambers Park, on river right, in the Town of Eagle at 17.4 miles, if you are not planning on running the Class IV Rumble Seat Rapid, and just below Dr. Steve's Wave, on river left at about 17.7 miles if you are planning on running Rumble Seat.

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 III
Length 17.4 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in Edwards water treatment plant
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Chambers Park (in Eagle)
Lat. / Long.
Elevation 7,160-6,540 feet msl
Gradient 36 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Avon
Boats Canoes, 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 ] [ Upper Eagle ] [ Gore Creek ]

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