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Kannah Creek, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

US Highway 50 to SH 141
~ 6.5 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Kannah Creek is a truly gorgeous Colorado whitewater run that paddlers with intermediate or higher level whitewater skills can run in canoes, kayaks and small rafts. It flows north to south from above US Highway 50 to the Gunnison River about 5 miles below SH 141 bridge at the Town of Whitewater. The creek starts several miles above the short reach described in this report, but is a Class IV to V run on a very steep 150 fpm gradient amid many natural and man-made hazards that include barbed wire fences strung across the creek, poison ivy, cactus, ticks, difficult rapids (actually, it has been described by some as being one continuous rapid with limited scouting opportunities) and major log jams that make it too dangerous for most paddlers to safely enjoy.

Starting where US Highway 50 crosses Kannah Creek, this run is about 3 miles of Class III whitewater down to its confluence with the Gunnison River, followed by about 3.5 miles of flatwater down the Gunny to the SH 141 bridge take-out at Whitewater. The creek run drops at about 57 fpm, but the Gunnison reach is a much flatter 6 fpm on a slow-moving current. Kannah Creek is drop-dead gorgeous. The only real hazards for competent boaters on this section are the possibility of some barbed wire fencing across the creek, and a small dam located about 1.5 miles below the put-in. The fences, if they are there, can usually be easily avoided. Below the dam is a log-choked, very strong hydraulic current that would probably cause serious injury or death if run, but which is easily avoided by taking out on the long pool above the dam and portaging on river left. The surrounding area is characterized by ranches, old homesteads from the 1800's, grassy meadows, tree-lined banks, rolling hills, sandstone cliffs and very pretty water. It is eye candy made with real sugar - no artificial sweeteners were used by Mother Nature in creating this stream! Unfortunately, it has a very short late-spring to early-summer season, but if you catch it when it is flowing, then you are in for a real treat that you will not soon forget.


Mesa County, about 25 miles southeast of Grand Junction, flowing out of the Grand Mesa National Forest to the Gunnison River just south of the Town of Whitewater.

Distance from major cities

Grand Junction 25 miles; Durango 195 miles; Denver 271 miles; Salt Lake City 310 miles; Albuquerque 408 miles; Phoenix 649 miles; Oklahoma City 896 miles; Dallas 1,055 miles; Austin 1,110 miles; San Antonio 1,018 miles; Houston 1,292 miles; Little Rock 1,212 miles; Kansas City 877 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is excellent, flowing clean, clear and cold, but not drinkable without purification. The creek may occasionally have some dead-fall debris, but is often free of such hazards. The flow is usually swift on a moderately steep 57 fpm gradient that runs in late spring through early summer in normal precipitation years.

Best times to go

Usually, May and June are the months when Kannah Creek will have navigable flows, but that depends entirely upon winter snowpack and spring rainfall. It is prone to flash flooding, and runs screaming like a banshee when it does. It is very bony when low and very dangerous when too high.

Hazards to navigation

Other than possible barbed wire fences across the creek and the small, concrete diversion dam located about 1.5 miles below the put-in at the US Highway 50 bridge, there are no significant hazards for competent whitewater boaters on Kannah Creek. The dam can be portaged on river left by taking out on the long pool of flatwater just above it, avoiding a nasty drop into a strong recirculation current that is usually choked with dead-fallen trees. Barbed wire fences are seasonal, and may or may not be present. Keep an eye open for them while enjoying the beautiful scenery.

River access points

US Highway 50 bridge across Kannah Creek southeast of the Town of Whitewater at 0.0 miles; SH 141 bridge across the Gunnison River at the Town of Whitewater at about 6.5 miles. There are no other access points for this reach of Kannah Creek.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no campgrounds located along Kannah Creek or this section of the Gunnison River. Saddle Horn Campground off SH 340 in Grand Junction offers camping with drinking water, restrooms and other amenities. Motel accommodations are available in Grand Junction. Several campgrounds are available within 50 miles of Grand Junction for those wanting a more remote campsite.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

Several commercial operators offer rentals, shuttles, guided trips and river information for Kannah Creek.

Reviewer's comments

Kannah Creek is gorgeous! It is also thrilling when it flows. The creek offers some great Class III rapids that are not technically difficult for boaters with at least good intermediate level whitewater skills, and is suitable for canoes, kayaks and small rafts (not those Sevylor vinyl jobbies from Wal-Mart, but Hypelon rafts made for river running.) The creek flows by old homesteads and ranches dating from the 1800's, when Colorado was wilder than it is today. The beautiful sandstone cliffs contrast against lush, green meadows and tree-lined banks that are picture postcard material in every way. Hazards are few and most are minor, but require attention and good judgement to safely navigate. A mandatory portage is about 1.5 miles below the US Highway 50 access where this run starts, and failing to portage could have dire consequences, especially for others who have to carry your limp, lifeless body on down the flatwater of the Gunnison to the take-out. The only real drawback is the very short season in late spring to early summer that may not exist at all in years with below normal precipitation. This run demands that you photograph it, so be sure to bring a camera. While you are here you might as well also run any of several other great reaches on the Gunnison and other nearby rivers and creeks.

Technical Data
Class Rating I to III w/ mandatory portages
Length 6.5 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in US Highway 50 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out SH 141 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Elevation 4,830-4,630 feet msl
Gradient 57/6 fpm
USGS Gauge Web:
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season May through June
Permits No

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

Poudre Paddlers Canoe and Kayak Club

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[ 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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