Put in: 5 mile put in on the Taylor River, ~ 5 miles up county road 742 from Almount.
Take out: Gunnison River about 8 miles downriver from Almount along HWY 135 between Almount and Gunnison. There is a Public facility on the west side of the Hwy just as Hwy 135 passes over the river. There is a restaurant called “Garlic Mikes” just upriver and on the East side of the Hwy.
Along on this trip is Alec, Zach and myself. My wife and Jake dropped us off and then went into Gunnison to shop around for a few hours. Amy dropped us off at the 5 mile put in along the Taylor River. The put in is just after the county road crosses over the river. We arrived at 10am with a crisp 40 degree morning but the sun was out and it was clear. Two days prior the whole family had rafted the full stretch of the upper and lower Taylor River with a guide. I learned a lot from the guide about that stretch of river including the nasty issues going on regarding landowners and people kayaking or rafting the river. The laws regarding river ownership are a bit different than in Texas and present a real issue for recreational and commercial folks wanting to enjoy the Colorado Rivers.
We elected to only run the lower Taylor rather than the upper as there are 2-3 tricky rapids on the upper which I wanted Alec and Zach to put a bit more experience under their belts before they attempt those. Even so the lower Taylor offers a great ride with near continuous class II-III rapids for 5-6 miles to the confluence with the East River. It is this confluence where the East and Taylor rivers relinquish their names to that of the Gunnison River, called the Gunni by the locals.
We all donned our wetsuits, helmets and of course PFDs then loaded a few other items and lunch and off we were at 10:40am. The first 200 yrds were the slowest of the next 5 miles. The early morning shadows across the river presented a challenge in reading the river and rocks ahead. Amy and Jake honked and they drove by and shortly after that I am looking downriver and see Alec’s kayak flip and he goes underneath. So I am tooling down the river keeping my eye on him downriver from me and then wham, big rock sideways in the river and out I go into the river. I quickly got back in and see that Alec is also back in and then wham I do it again. I remounted and we all eddied out downriver to regroup and discuss what happened. I had missed it but apparently Zach also hit a rock and came out but managed to get back in and keep his paddle. What seemed to be the cause is a mixture of getting used to the many large rocks to dodge that were just under the surface, morning shadows, and our experience. My analogy to the river is driving on a bumper to bumper freeway doing 70 mph with many drivers weaving in and out of traffic flow. If you take your eyes off of the river for just a moment you may wish you had not. This stretch required your total focus and ability to make quick decisions on maneuvers to navigate downriver. After our initial dunkings that would be the last that any of us went in for the rest of the day, so maybe we did learn something quickly. We seemed to relax and get in our groove for the next one and half hours through the exciting rapids and scenery. Once we reached the confluence we stopped and ate our lunch at the public facility just past the confluence on river right. I removed my wetsuit before we departed for the rest of our trip down the Gunnison. As you start down the Gunnison the landscape changes quickly from the steep hills and forest to a more mellow, gently flowing river through thick willows with relative flat river banks. While the Gunnison is more gentle than the Taylor there are still some rapids which one should not take your eyes off of. There are also more downed trees/strainers along this stretch but you can spot most of these from a good distance. As we made our way down the river we kicked back took our time and just let the river carry us away enjoying the warm sunny day. We passed by several rafts with fly fisherwomen and men along the way. We had told Amy to expect us around 2-2:30 and best I could tell on time, but who is watching anyways. Well, after about an hour we could see dark clouds pushing in from the West and began to feel a light rain. We pushed on and reached the takeout shortly after 2pm. As you approach the take out you can begin to hear the Hwy traffic and on river right you pass by “Garlic Mikes” which has a nice set up on the riverside for people to stop and have a bite to eat or a frosty beverage. Just after you pass “Garlic Mikes” there is the Hwy bridge and the take out is on river right. You will need to be over far to the right and there is a good current and no eddy to the left. I picked up the phone to call Amy and tell here we were at the take out and just as I competed the voice mail she drove up, I love it when a plan comes together. We packed up and drove back to Lake City where we had rented a condo along the shores of Lake San Cristobal.
Next year if we are in the area I would like to kayak a day trip down the Lake Fork River from Lake City to a take out called “The Gate” or just down from that. I would also love to take a week long trip down the Rio Grand from the starting point below the reservoir to South Fork or Del Norte. However, there are reports about landowner stretching wires across both of these rivers about 18-24” above the water in attempt to stop people from paddling through the river that passes through their property. While I cannot confirm that this is the case it is noteworthy and one should be on guard for such obstacles.
Here are a few pictures of our trip, enjoy.
See you on the water,
All suited up and ready to go
At the put in
Alec waiting on me to finish taking pictures
Confluence of Taylor and East Rivers—Lunch Time
Alec coming through a rapid on the Gunnison
Making our way