Late last month, Craig Richardson and I, having heard only rumors of its passability by boat, decided to take a canoe trip down the lower Arkansas River from Pueblo to Avondale. We spoke to many fine people during the planning of this trip including the fine folks at the Army Corps of Engineers in La Junta, who pointed us to this incredibly useful Colorado Division of Water Resources website where you can find the daily water discharge levels at their many stream and reservoir monitoring sites. They also put us in touch with Las Animas local Duane Nelson, who put us in touch with his son Peter who made the paddle from Pueblo to just outside of Rocky Ford several years ago over the course of 2 and 1/2 days. Peter’s primary warning to us was that the low water irrigation dams can sneak up on you without warning and that you have to go when the water is high enough or you spend your day scraping sand bars and river rocks.

So we purchased a used Mohawk canoe from a gentleman on Craiglist for $220, borrowed some paddles and life jackets and picked a sunny day not long after a rain when the gage levels were above 3 feet, drove to Pueblo and … the audio slide show above tells the rest.

Click HERE to watch Part 2 of the story.


16 Responses to Canoeing From Pueblo to Avondale, Part 1

  1. What a nice surprise on a Monday morning. Thoroughly enjoyable. Can’t wait for part two. Anyone going to get wet?

  2. Krony Kupkake says:

    Can the Mohawk be rented for a nominal fee?

  3. Nancy says:

    Loved it – got that little adrenaline rush myself. Will definitely tune in for part 2 tomorrow.

  4. Susan says:

    Love this!

  5. Karen Crump says:

    I hate to sound stupid, so maybe you can explain, but aren’t you paddling upstream? Why didn’t you go from Avondale to Pueblo?

  6. Craig says:

    Karen, Avondale is East of Pueblo, the river runs downward and eastward from Pueblo to Avondale, ergo, no upstream paddling required. I shudder to think of covering that same distance in the same vessel in an upstream type of way. I don’t think we possess the endurance and power required for such an endeavor. Although, perhaps following a strenuous off-season training regimen we may be able to accomplish such a feat come springtime… but who are we kidding, a strenuous off-season training program? That sounds ludicrous. Thanks for watching, Karen! And come back tomorrow to watch the dramatic second installment where all manner of wonders and disasters will be revealed!

  7. Dan Kulp says:

    Thanks guys, sounds like something my daughter and I used to do fairly often, except in other states (Utah, Nebraska, etc.). I had considered (only very briefly) canoing down Fountain Creek after a rain (way too low otherwise) but, knowing parts of it intimately from hiking up and down the Front Range trail, I also knew it could be dangerous to the point of being just plain stupid. It never occurred to me to do the Arkansas below Pueblo. What a great idea. I must admit though, the fear of low water puts me off a bit; that could be real bummer. I look forward to the exciting conclusion.

    • Noel Black says:

      Dan, be sure to check the Division of Water Resources page we link to in the post. If you go when the gage is around 3′ or more (though you should be careful about high water in the Spring) you should be fine.

  8. Dave says:

    I notedc a lawrge bird with a white tail in one of the last photos. Was that a Bald Eagle or an Osprey?
    Nice piece
    bird bander 🙂

  9. Wes Prichard says:

    My friend Lars and I did this segment of the Arkansas a few years ago (and above Pueblo Reservoir also). I definitely agree with your advice to go when the water is up although getting out to drag through the shallows feels pretty nice on a hot day. It’s amazing the wildlife that’s right there once you get on the river.

  10. Sarah M. says:

    I had to put my shades on when the photo of Craig’s legs came up. What a marvelous photo essay – thank you!

  11. […] CommentsSarah M. on Canoeing From Pueblo to Avondale, Part 1Amy Hillman on The Middle Distance, 9/17/10: “Learning Curve”Wes Prichard on Canoeing […]

  12. Tom Rampton says:

    I don’t use “feet” to measure river level. That only tells you a little about some particular point. I only use cfs (cubic feet per second). This number tells you how much water you’ve got. I’ve been rafting rivers for thirty years.

  13. Craig says:

    Sarah, those weren’t actually my legs. I was wearing a white latex bodysuit beneath my clothes so as to avoid being poisoned by the dirty, dirty, diseased water.

    Tom, good point about cfs. We described things in depth measurements because it’s a little more approachable than cubic feet per second for the layman. If you’re familiar with the territory and have a good sense of flow rate variables, cfs will give you a more complete picture of the water conditions.

  14. Joyce says:

    Lovely scenery on a swiftly moving river. Someone had to stop under the bridge to create graffiti. Was it artistic? Now I can read Part II. Nice reporting!

  15. Sicily Irie says:

    I am so going to do this. We have the canoes already.
    Thanks for the adventure.


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