A wonderful trip down a classic stretch of Grade V kayaking in Colorado. Great friends, great time.
Vallecito Creek - "The Best Mile of Kayaking in Colorado" - David Farkas
The original guide book to Colorado paddling was created by Gordon Banks and Dave Eckart and in the Durango section it claims that Vallecito is the best 1 mile of kayaking in Colorado. I'm not sure if this is correct or not but every time I paddle it, I think of that statement. And you know what...it seems to make sense.
My first trip down Vallecito was in 1996 while passing through and every time I'm in there I'm always blown away at how beautiful it is, how wonderful the crew I'm with is, and how lucky we are to have this gem near Durango.
From the Vallecito campground you hike up about a mile and a half to the usual put in above Entrance Falls and the short warm up rapids.
A long hallway and a few fun boofs puts you above Entrance Falls and the real crux of the run. A tricky 20 footer, Entrance has definitely handed out it's share of battering's over the past few years. The key is to set up a little right of center and plant a slow and delayed lefty. At medium/low flows, the pool below entrance has current and a small boil but not too much to worry about. As flows increase, the boil becomes bigger and the current off it pushes into the undercut walls and the log jammed cave behind the falls. Also...Trash Can which is the next rapid and right below Entrance Falls come into play as flows increase.
Entrance lays down some sweet treats and the feeling land in the pool is something special.
Trash Can comes up next and it's name describe the line...a mess of boulders with the move bouncing through. This puts you into to a short pool and 2 boofs to freedom. The last boof is really sweet.
After Trash Can the next moves are fun boofs and sweet lines through a variety of rapids until you get to Fuzzy Bunny. This drop is as sweet as the name depicts...an awesome slanting 10ft boof into a slot not much wider than a boat width that pushes you into a pool above the bottom 3 most difficult rapids. Until now, getting out of your boat isn't impossible yet the places upstream of Fuzzy where you can get out are really small. Here you finally get a chance to pull into a cobble stone eddie, get outta your boat and stand on a giant boulder that forms the left side of the drop.
The next 3 rapids come at you real quick. Bouffant Blast and Paddle Bitch form on long difficult rapid and the higher the water, the harder it gets. When you make the moves through Bouffant, you catch an eddie on the right wall that's big enough for 2-3 boats. It's also place to hike out of the run if things are going wrong and/or you need rescue. The hike's not easy but it's doable. These 2 drops are steep, boulder choked and the final move requires you to make 2 boofs and cross-grain a lateral hole that feeds you directly into the "Dick" rock. The "Dick" is a granite boulder shaped like the name sticking out of the water upstream at an awkward angle. I've seen a lot of guys get launched via the lateral feeding straight into the Dick and pinned in there. Upright, upside down...all of it. I've seen shoulder dislocated in there as well and worse. So you really wanna miss this thing.
The final rapid called No Way Out is awesome. You can go right of left at the top. Going left is the Rib Ripper line named for the move you make through a tight slot. The right line requires 3 boofs into an eddie on the left and each boof has a ledge hole to boof over. Both lines end up in the same final current setting you up to make one final boof over a hole to the finish pool. It's a great finale to the rapid.
Vallecito is one of my favorite all time runs. It's short so most folks end up lapping it. The hike in is not the best yet the more you do it, the easier it gets...or at least the more you get used to it. It's the quintessential Grade V/V+ run in the state and although only a mile...it's packed with goods.