Class V: Enter the White Room

Get lost in the froth of Colorado's Gore Canyon

Jul 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

There's no place like foam: Gore Canyons Tunnel Falls

JOHN JAYCOX'S '71 Volvo is a river runner's machine, cluttered with paddles and congenitally musty with the smell of damp polypropylene. He gunned it up the broad-pastured valley of the Blue River, beneath the rugged escarpment of the Gore Range. It was late July, and a furnace wind poured through the open windows. Everywhere, the creeks and rivers were low, showing their bones. But not the Upper Colorado.
Gore Canyon is a six-mile chasm with a half-dozen distinct drops packed into about three miles. It's quintessential, accessible Class V, and relatively remote—the only things keeping you company are the railroad tracks bedded high above the river.

We parked by the tracks—they smelled of creosote and scorched sagebrush—and put in off a high rock. I just followed John, the undisputed Lord Gore. One of the best boatbuilders in the world, he won the upstart Gore Canyon Race six times in its first eight years. He even built a kayak just for the event: the Gorepedo. We flew over the first big drop, Applesauce—a ten-foot fall cascading into an ugly foam pile. John hammered for a tiny gap in a horizon line strung with boulders—Gore Rapid. He disappeared and I launched off the Shaq-high ledge into a pocket eddy hemmed in on one side by rock, on the other by a tearing, funneling current. I took a deep breath and peeled out hard, slamming into a curling haystack. I shook the water off my face and yelled with pure glee.
The next two hours were filled with unremitting speed, and the strange joy of moving rhythmically in a world comprised completely of dark rock, boisterous water, and a swath of sky. In the gentling tailwater, John paddled next to me and grinned. His hair stuck out of the holes in his homemade helmet. He never tired of this. We paddled out past ponderosas, willows, a single fly fisherman, and the sudden, surprising swales of green ranch land.
DETAILS: Put in at the confluence of the Blue and Colorado Rivers near Kremmling; take out at the Pumphouse Recreation Area. No permit needed. Timberline Tours (800-831-1414; runs full-day raft trips through Gore Canyon for $155 per person, from August through October.

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