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Cebolla Creek, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 149 to Blue Mesa Reservoir
~ 14.5 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Cebolla Creek begins in northeast Hinsdale County, then flows north to Blue Mesa Reservoir in Gunnison County, running parallel to the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. The first 10 miles is a very scenic, remote, Class III wilderness run ending with a 4.5 mile flatwater paddle across Blue Mesa Reservoir to the take-out. As with nearly all lake paddles, the culmination of this run can be less than enjoyable when the wind is blowing. However, the natural scenery and wildlife to be observed on the creek leg make it worth the extra effort at the end. Occasional logs in the river are about the only real obstacles, but as with all creek runs, tight maneuvering will be required - leave your 21 foot Tripper XL or sea kayak at home.

This is a run for intermediate level whitewater paddlers in canoes, kayaks and small rafts. The general rule of thumb is, "the shorter the boat, the better." Much of the land along Cebolla Creek is privately owned, and boaters should be respectful of property rights by avoiding trespassing. There may be some fences to avoid where the river makes sudden turns. Good rudder or draw strokes will come in handy for negotiating these minor obstacles. Cebolla Creek drops some 610 feet in elevation, from a high of about 8,000 feet msl with a gradient of 61 fpm over the 10.0 miles leadidng to Blue Mesa Reservoir.


The Uncompahgre National Forest of Hinsdale and Gunnison Counties in west central Colorado, between Denver to the northeast, Grand Junction to the northwest and Durango to the southwest.

Distance from major cities

Durango 200 miles; Grand Junction 165 miles; Denver 286 miles; Santa Fe 412 miles; Albuquerque 412 miles; Phoenix 654 miles; Oklahoma City 955 miles; Tulsa 1,060 miles; Dallas 1,064 miles; Austin 1,254 miles; San Antonio 1,334 miles; Houston 1,440 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Cebolla Creek sources from snowmelt run-off, with a season starting in late spring and lasting through mid-summer. It is rated Class III at normal level, and will require a substantial snowmelt or spring/summer rainfall to increase it designation as a moderate whitewater stream. Drysuits or wetsuits with a base layer, Neoprene gloves and Neoprene hard-soled river boots are recommended to prevent hypothermia if you go swimming.

Best times to go

May through July is the best time to run Cebolla Creek, depending upon winter snowpack and spring/summer temperatures and weather conditions in the drainage basin. A light winter snowpack portends a shorter season, and a heavy snowpack, with or without heavy late spring or early summer rains, signals a slightly longer season.

Hazards to navigation

There are no significant hazards for boaters with intermediate or higher level whitewater skills. Novice or beginner paddlers may not be able to recognize and negotiate the rapids successfully.

River access points

Put in where SH 149 crosses Cebolla Creekjust north of Powderhorn at 0.0 miles; Take out across Blue Mesa Reservoir, directly opposite where Cebolla Creek flows into the reservoir, at 14.5 miles.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are campgrounds near the headwaters of Cebolla Creek, as well as in the surrounding general area. Check other reviews for additional campgrounds on nearby streams.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known liveries or shuttle services operating on or near Cebolla Creek. However, outfitters on other rivers in the not-too-distant vicinity may be able to provide rentals, outfitting and shuttles. Ask local paddlers for advice.

Reviewer's comments

Cebolla Creek is a gorgeous run in Class III whitewater that is suitable for canoes, kayaks and rafts, though shorter boats will fare better due to the tight, technical nature of the creek. Running parallel is the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River just a few miles to the west. The first 2/3 of the trip is good whitewater paddling, followed by an intense paddle across Blue Mesa Reservoir to the take-out. This is especially true when the wind is blowing in your face. Cebolla Creek gives a feel for creek boating, where the greatest difficulty may be maneuvering in tight sections of the river.

Technical Data
Class Rating III
Length 14.5 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in SH 149 at Cebolla Creek
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Blue mesa Reservoir
Lat. / Long.
Elevation 8,010-7,400 feet msl
Gradient 61 fpm
USGS Gauge Web:
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Small Rafts
Season May through July
Permits No

Click HERE to visit the web site of Rocky Mountain Canoe Club

Poudre Paddlers Canoe and Kayak Club

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

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

Gunnison River

[ Gunnison River Homepage ] [ Headwater to Blue Mesa ] [ Upper Lakes ] [ Black Canyon ] [ Gunnison Gorge ]
[ North Forks to Delta ] [ Delta to Escalante ] [ Escalante to Whitewater ] [ Whitewater to Colorado River ]


[ North Fork ] [ East River ] [ Taylor River ] [ Lake Fork River ] [ Ruby Fork Anthracite Creek ] [ Cimarron River ] [ Cebolla Creek ] [ Henson Creek ] [ Kannah Creek ] [ Uncompahgre River ]

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Last updated April 21, 2019

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