Raft/Kayak Gunnison Gorge Class III+ to IV-

This is an amazingly beautiful and exciting river section.

Unfortunately it's located in the bottom of a deep canyon (the Black Canyon) and YOU HAVE TO CARRY YOUR BOAT IN.

The trail is steep and about 1 mile, so you want a SMALL boat for this section. The best options are light inflatable kayaks or very small rafts.

If anyone would like to try to set up the mules for larger boats and gear you are welcome to.

According to BLM river managers, the Bureau of Reclamation is planning to increase flows to ~500 cfs. Even at 500 cfs plan on a very long day and with very technical - lots of twists and turns- rocky rapids.

With relatively low water, long shuttle, and hike in, we need to get an early start.

We can either leave GJ early or car camp at the put-in. There is no camping at the take-out. I'm up for either option.

We will need at least one 4x4 to get gear to the put in, and preferably two for a complete shuttle.


  • Boat (please state in RSVP what boat)
  • $3/person for the permit fee, paid to a fee box at the river
  • Wet or dry suit
  • HELMET (REQUIRED on any WSA river trip of class III or higher)
  • Broad brimmed hat and other sun protection clothing
  • River shoes (sandals are not suggested by some for wear on > class III+ whitewater)
  • Sunscreen, bug juice, sun glasses  
  • PFD (Life Jacket) suitable for whitewater
  • Plenty of lunch and snacks for a LONG day
  • Drinking water or a way to purify river water


RSVP is only for yourself; each person must make their own RSVP

You need to please state:

  • what kind of boat you will paddle/ row
  • prior class III+ experience


There is a $3/person day-use permit fee


According to USGS


Stacie Boyles[masked]

Doug Van Etten[masked]


Acknowledgement of Risk

Click on this link. Read the whole statement and in the questions you must respond to to RSVP, please type "I accept" if you do agree. If you do not agree, by typing "I accept" you will not be considered a WSA participant on this event.


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  • Stacie B.

    Another amazing day on the river. We had a beautiful canyon to explore, exciting rapids, good weather, and great company.

    July 1, 2013

  • Doug Van E.

    Like Paul said, everything about the trip was fantastic. For those with concern about walking down the mile to the river, that was about a 30 minute walk down. A backpack frame was used by Paul, NRS soft carry-frames were used by Stacie & Chuck, a large dry bag with shoulder straps by Aron, large mesh bag with shoulder straps by me. Water was almost crystal clear and COLD since it comes from the bottom of the lake and has only had a few miles to warm up. Flow today was 740 cfs- very playful level, making all the early rapids a good splash and the latter more difficult ones a good dash, so to speak. Only 1 swim among us testified to workable water level, some skill and maybe some luck. Even a swim likely has only small to moderate consequences since each rapid is pool-drop configuration with a long flat water section below for possible recovery if need be. Amazingly we saw only one paddle raft party, one fishing raft and a small flotilla of fly-fishing mini-catarafts. Let's do it again.

    June 30, 2013

  • Paul S

    Another wonderful day on the river. Picked up our shuttle driver Joe at Pleasure Park at 7am, and were at the Chukar trailhead by 9. Then the hike to the river. Embarked on our float just after 10am. 3 duckies and a 9 foot Hyside raft. The 17 named rapids get bigger, more frequent and much more technical toward the end of the gorge. The only casualties were my camera (sorry no photos from me this trip) and my pride (dumped in Grand Finale). Enjoyed exploring the pools and falls up Smith Creek at the end. Great to meet you Aron and Stacie.

    June 29, 2013

  • Doug Van E.

    Yea Aron !!!!

    June 28, 2013

  • Stacie B.

    Aron will be coming in his IK. With Lorraine stuck in Denver it leaves us with 5. See you tomorrow:)

    June 28, 2013

  • Paul S

    I've reproduced Doug's email for the benefit of the group.... Paul
    Some of you said you cannot see the calendar item --- click here and let me know if you find it?

    For GJ folks (all of us but Paul) meet at Orchard Mesa City Market so we can LEAVE by 6:10 AM. Once we get to City Market we can decide which car(s) to travel in.

    We need to be a Pleasure Park - end of the day's run of the river - BY 7 AM. The PP turn-off is just 8 miles east of Delta so our timing should be good.

    A shuttle driver is costing us $75 but saving hours at the end of a long day. That cost will be $15 or $20 depending on if we have 5 or 4 coming along.

    Present flow is 735 cfs, about 2x the volume Paul, Chuck and I ran last year. I cannot tell from the USGS web site or the Bureau of Reclamation web site if the flow will stay there or move up or down. 735 is still well below the median flow for this time of year at 2000 cfs.


    June 28, 2013

  • Paul S

    WSA Raft/Kayak Gunny Gorge Saturday 6/29

    Hi all,

    I took the liberty of reserving a shuttle driver at Pleasure Park at 7 am on Saturday 6/29.

    This meetup didn't have a date on it, I took the liberty of putting the date on it. This is for Saturday, right?

    My assumption is that everyone will be at Pleasure Park at 7 am on Saturday. We drop all the cars, put the equipment in my Ram 1500 truck, pickup the shuttle driver, and leave by 8. That'll put us on the river by 10:30 or so.

    Paul [masked]

    June 28, 2013

  • Chuck C.

    OK, I want to do it again. Are there any meeting details I should know, such as the car shuttle from Orchard Mesa City Market at 6 am?

    June 26, 2013

  • Chuck C.

    Will be paddling my Lynx II. I did this river with you guys last summer in the same craft.

    June 26, 2013

  • Paul S

    I have an NRS IK and all required gear. I've done this trip 4 times and love it! I have a 4WD truck that can carry 6, and a motorcycle to do the shuttle with.

    June 18, 2013

    • Doug Van E.

      Sounds great, Paul. Are you planning to carry the kayak down or arrange horse or mule?

      June 19, 2013

    • Paul S

      If this is just a day trip I'll carry it.

      June 20, 2013

  • Paul S

    From Chris Menges, American Whitewater:
    On Thursday, June 20th, releases from Crystal Dam will increase by 200 cfs. This will bring flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge to 500 cfs. BOR anticipates that ‘an additional increase will likely take place next Wednesday the 26th’. Paddlers should also be aware that the Black Canyon Water Right one day peak flow target for 2013 is 685 cfs. We are not currently certain of when the one day peak will occur.

    1 · June 20, 2013

  • Suzy N.

    Dang, too bad this conflicts with my Wetterhorn Basin backpack and Fourteener weekend! Wish I could be a passenger on one of the bigger boats. Well, some other day! You all have a great time!

    June 18, 2013

  • Dru W.

    Hola Doug -- that is one hellofva cool pack boat you've got -- similar to one I have that I've never found available around here -- and in which I've never even imagined doing white water. Did you get that boat down here or up in Alaska? If here -- where? Thanks. Dru

    June 18, 2013

    • Doug Van E.

      Get it on the Alpacka web site; or go to their factory in Mancos, CO to buy direct.

      June 18, 2013

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