Guadalupe River thru San Jose


Stretch: Blossom Hill Road to Alviso
Difficulty: Class I-II with strainer hazards
Distance: 14.8 miles, shorter runs possible, 1 day
Flows: kayaks 300 - 600 cfs, 450 is good
Gauge: flow measured near downtown San Jose (USGS site)
Gradient: 12 fpm average
Put-in: under Blossom Hill Road bridges, 180'
Take-out: Gold Street in Alviso, 0'
Shuttle: 20 miles (30 minutes) one-way
Maps: Delorme N CA, AAA San Francisco Bay Region
Season: winter, from recent rain
Agency: private, city parks
Notes: © 1998, 2002, 2011 Bill Tuthill, CreeksYahoo

In the early 1980s, everyone was surprised when salmon were discovered spawning in the Guadalupe River. During the roaring 1990s, redevelopment projects turned the Guadalupe into more of a creek than a mere concrete channel. Open space lining the creekbed makes this a more pleasant run than one might expect in an urban setting. On our paddle to Alviso, we enjoyed observing the cleverness of flood-abatement engineering in the downtown section. We also discovered some surf spots that can help you save gasoline!

The highest normal put-in is Blossom Hill Road. Above that point are percolation ponds at the confluence of Alamitos Creek. Perhaps a better put-in is near Branham Road, just above the Ross Creek confluence. Recently the city built a salmon ladder with 3 steps where the creek goes under Capitol Expressway. This is fun to run. In early 1999 there were 2 strainers between there and downtown. Big concrete drops are gradually being replaced by salmon ladders. There are some rapids in the section before the San Jose Arena, and excellent playspots under St. James Street and the Nimitz freeway. Near downtown, the Guadalupe is often lined with city parks. Past the airport, the channel becomes wilder but noisier. Trimble Road is a recommended take-out; after that the brush gets worse.

mile 0
Blossom Hill Road, below percolation ponds.
Capitol Expressway.
I-280, a good put-in if you want to run just the downtown section, for example to the I-880 surf spot. Free parking is available near the corner of Palm and Grant Streets.
Good surfing hole under the Saint James Street bridge.
Three excellent surfing holes, sweet, under the I-880 Nimitz freeway. Recommended levels are between 400 to 1100 cfs, when the holes start to disappear under a flood-like flow. Bring a throwbag, because the river enters a narrow spot between trees just downstream. The water is brown but relatively unpolluted and uncontaminated.
Guadalupe River CA Guadalupe River CA
Kayaker throws down a backflip!  Movie frame-grabs by Ben Waxman
To reach the surf spot, find West Hedding Street south of the SJC airport. Just west of the Guadalupe river bridge and riparian open-space, turn north on Ruff Drive, where there is plenty of free parking. Carry boats about .1 mile to the Los Gatos Creek confluence, where it is easy to put in. The return walk is about .2 mile.
Downstream the river enters a tree-lined channel, brushy at times. Before long you enter a straight-away past the San Jose airport.
Trimble Road, perhaps the first possible take-out with free parking past the airport. Brush worsens downstream.
Montague Road, another possible take-out. Brush gets even worse.
Guadalupe River CA Guadalupe River CA
Not many kayakers see this section of river  Brendan and Bill, taken by a runner's iPhone!
Photos © 2011 by Stoddard Vandersteel.
Footbridge, where we encountered the worst brush in 2011. It might be faster to portage along the semi-flooded road on the right. Not long after the footbridge, brush eases and gives way to riverside reeds.
Tasman Drive crosses after you pass the Cisco campus.
Highway 237, a double bridge.
Gold Street, the last convenient take-out. If you can push your way through the reeds, you find an old paved road up the right embankment, avoiding mud.

Other Runs Near San Jose

Below Alum Rock Park, Penitencia Creek has some nice drops and makes an interesting run after recent rains.

Below Anderson Reservoir, Coyote Creek is extremely brushy and not recommended for boating, especially when the reservoir is spilling.

Los Gatos Creek from Lexington Reservoir to the Guadalupe has been called “a good run” although it starts in a concrete channel.

The streams flowing from the slopes of Loma Prieta peak into Uvas and Chesbro Reservoirs are reportedly runnable class II.

From Loc Lomond to the San Lorenzo river at Ben Lomond, there is a creek with class II rapids, runnable when the reservoir spills.

Stevens Creek below Stevens Creek Reservoir is class I moving water, with the advantage of sometimes running in autumn as the reservoir drains. Further down it becomes steeper and more difficult, with occasional concrete-lined waterfalls and slaloms.

San Francisquito Creek from Stanford campus thru Palo Alto to the bay is usually runnable after even minor rainstorms. There is a good put-in just downstream of I-280 along Alpine Rd. This section contains several concrete-lined waterfalls, and potentially brushy spots before and amid Stanford golf course. Rapids get easier shortly after Foothill/Junipero Serra, where there is a flow gauge reporting to the USGS site. One waterfall, named Basketball Falls, lurks below the railroad tracks. There are good take-outs near the Chaucer Street bridge, and just before the bridge at University Avenue.


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