vallecito creek

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So one day last year I got the bright idea to be the first to raft Vallecito Creek. There were logs, which we cut out, but I never got my chance. Today I can say its now been done. As predicted, there was carnage - but no serious injuries. Read on for the full story.

Note: We have since learned that the creek was paddled by an unknown duo from the South in a shredder in the early 90s (does this count as a raft?). Sound like they also walked a couple of the drops and flipped once - but credit should go to where credit is due.

Note 2: Tragically expert kayaker Adam Barron died here on May 27th. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends.

vital statistics

first raft descent of vallecito creek

My original partner for this mission (Jeff) got hurt on a recent Owyhee trip (another epic story), so I recruited Brad Higgenbotham, another 4 Corners Whitewater guide, for the attempt. Brad was a good choice since he has kayaked Vallecito many times. This would be my first run.

After hiking the raft up a giant hill for a mile, then pumping it up, were were already pretty tired. Several hikers passed us with confused looks but also with no idea what we were about to attempt. I remember at one point thinking, "What the hell am I doing?".

We portaged the first rapid due to a log, ran the next 6 footer fine, then portaged another rapid due to a log. Next up was the 18 footer known as Entrance Falls.

picture of raft in Vallecito
Dana and Brad after running entrance falls.

This is Brad and I after sucessfully running entrance falls (an 18 foot waterfall seen in the background). I installed a strap across the floor to hang onto and that is the only thing that kept us in the boat. The backwash wants to suck you back into the falls, so we had to paddle pretty hard to get to this point.

picture of raft in Trash Can rapid
Dana and Brad in Trash Can.

We then ran Trash Can, got spun around - but remained upright. I almost swam once again but managed to hang on. This is where creative highsiding comes in handy.

We did okay in pickup sticks, and decided to walk Fuzzy Bunny.

Next we ran S-turn and Brad swam. This is when things started to go wrong. I tried to get Brad back in but got slammed backwards in a drop. With the possibility of running Paddle Bitch blind by myself I opted to jump into an eddy. This was a mistake since Brad had managed to recover himself back into the boat just as I had jumped out. He was able to stay upright though the rapid and eddy out behind the so called penis rock.

Now I was faced with hiking out or swimming across the river just above a class V+ rapid to get back to Brad. I walked as high upriver as I could on a small ledge about the size of a quarter. I really didn't want to jump in but went for it. It was the swim of my life. I just barely made it with the help of some micro-eddies. Everyone cheered.

Shawn helped me ferry across once again to get back to Brad and the raft (thanks Sean). This was almost as hard as my prior swim as now I was getting cold.

picture of raft flip in Vallecito
Our Flip

Next we went about 20 feet before flipping on an evil rock just above No Way Out. Fortunately we were able to unflip. This was critical because you really don't want to be here without a boat. I was getting cold.

picture of unflipping raft in Vallecito
Unflipping the raft.

We ran No Way Out on the right. Things went okay until the very bottom which is super narrow, where we both got slammed out of the raft. Billy will tell you he rescued us here but really we were in a pool.

picture of raft in No Way Out
No Way Out.

picture of raft in No Way Out
No Way Out part 2.

After this we hiked around a bit to try and warm up, Then went back and finished the run. We walked Finish Line because we had had enough carnage for one day.

picture of Brad and Dana back at the campground
All Done.

Here we are back at the campground. We both vowed to never raft this creek again. Props to Shane Benedict and crew, Shawn Fullmer, Luke, Billy and Jared Leon for the assitance and footage.