Memories of Cherry Creek

Posted August 10, 2011 by Jeremy

My fellow reservationist Ian joined me last August on the biggest, baddest river of them all: Cherry Creek. Both of us had talked about trying to tame the wild upper portion of the Tuolumne River for a couple years. But we hadn’t yet found the time, gas money and … okay, fine the confidence to actually go. It all finally came together last summer and with deep breaths, we jumped in.

For anyone who is scared off by Cherry Creek’s intimidating class V rating and legendary status as one of the most challenging runs in North America…you’re not alone. And I’ll be honest – it does live up to the hype. Which is precisely why if you have the chops, you should give it a shot. If you have rafting experience, pass the rapid swim test, and are physically fit to go, you must. One other unofficial requirement is being okay with having a near heart attack when you stare down the throat of each new rapid as you teeter on the top of a steep, watery abyss. If you fit these qualities, you will be just fine on Cherry Creek.

In all seriousness, any rafter who thrives off the adrenaline and excitement produced by hitting a perfect line with a sharp back paddle, shooting through a couple rocks and making a coordinated left turn to avoid falling out of a raft you are only secured to by your toes…this is the river for you. It may sound scary, but there is no bigger rush in any sport.

Ian and I entered the river that day as boys, and came out as men. Men who needed new, clean bathing suits after the Miracle Mile. The rapids were unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Tunnel Chute on the Middle Fork, Clavey Falls on the Tuolumne, Satan’s Cesspool on the South Fork; nothing compares to the rapids on Cherry Creek. It seemed like every corner we turned brought the roaring of a new nemesis. Class V rapid after class V rapid made for an amazing, intense, unforgettable day on the river.

And I can tell you there is no better, more accomplished feeling than getting to the bottom of the last rapid and looking back up (I mean way, way up – Cherry Creek drops an astounding 105 feet per mile, more than double the gradient on the Tuolumne. Trust me, you’ll notice!). And the best part? You’ll just want to hike those rafts back up to the top and do it all over again.

So when the Creek gets down to normal flows and we open up our reservation book for the most insane, incredible river rafting experience in the country later this summer, make sure to take a leap of faith and jump on a trip. You won’t regret it. These AO rafters sure didn’t!


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