Cherry Creek Flows

Ah Cherry Creek, the most sublime and thrilling extreme whitewater in the nation let alone the state of California. Its class V rapids provide a serious challenge and ultimate adventure to both expert kayakers and seasoned boaters. These waters should not be attempted by someone who has not had a lot of class IV+ kayaking experience and commercial rafting trips with a professional guide are recommended if you haven’t been commandeering your personal boat for, let’s say…10-25 years. Optimum flows for kayaks range between 600 – 1500+ cfs and rafts can maneuver well at 800 – 1800 cfs. Canoes of any kind are discouraged (let’s just say quick maneuvering in tight spaces=no room for a canoe), inflatable kayaks and catarafts can be dicey but a riot for those watching the carnage downstream and tubing (though supposedly it has been done) is just downright crazy!

A run on the Creek is a mad dash down angled hydraulics and through a blur of what seems like almost constant rock gardens. The average gradient is 105 feet per minute. At mile three, Mushroom rapid followed by Toadstool make for a thunderous adrenaline rush and Miracle Mile offers up an extreme descent of 200 feet per minute. Be aware of dangerous current flowing under large boulders and undercut rocks which make for extremely technical rapids. Both kayakers and boaters need to follow precise lines. Kayakers should have “an unfailingly quick offside roll”. Rafters need serious technical boat control and the ability to pick up swimmers quickly.

Cherry Creek is an upper tributary of the Tuolumne River. After winter, even normal spring runoff makes the water too high to run until the flow begins to be regulated by Holm powerhouse and upstream reservoirs. This typically begins by mid-July. Depending on the snowpack, this river runs well through Labor Day for whitewater rafting, kayaks can continue to navigate Cherry Creek into the fall.

Up to date chart for current Cherry Creek water levels:

1000 – 1500 CFS = Medium flows. Challenging Class V+ whitewater, exciting for veterans. Previous experience needed. Big drops over and around huge boulders mean quick maneuvering around powerful obstacles. Difficult and long swims are possible should someone fall out of the raft.

1500 – 2200 CFS = High flows. Very challenging Class V+ whitewater, with powerful and fast moving water. Rapids consist of big drops into giant holes with very turbulent water. Calms between rapids are short and swift. Participants should be very athletic and aggressive and have previous Class IV+ rafting experience.

CFS=Cubic Feet per Second
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