San Lorenzo River near Boulder Creek


Stretch: Boulder Creek to Ben Lomond
Difficulty: Class III or IV with cement waterfalls
Distance: 6.1 miles, one short winter day
Flows: kayaks 300 - 1200 then harder, IK minimum 250
Gauge: estimate 3/5 of the flow at Henry Cowell park (USGS site)
Gradient: 25 fpm average
Put-in: on R below Fairview bridge in Boulder Creek, 440'
Take-out: on R at Highlands Park in Ben Lomond, 290'
Shuttle: 5 miles (15 minutes) one-way
Maps: Delorme N California, AAA San Francisco Bay, Topo1, Topo2
Season: Winter, from recent rain
Agency: private, city park
Notes: © 2010 Carl Reuter, Land and Sea Solar

If you enjoy running steep drops over concrete slabs, which you might call urban waterfalls, this is the best run I know. This stretch has four or five of them depending on where you take out. Additionally this section offers some good play spots and scenery, plus many naturally occurring rapids, mostly easy. The downstream run thru Henry Cowell park is better, but boaters who live nearby should run this upper stretch at least once.

Thanks to Roger Schumann of Eskape Sea Kayaking and his wife for acting as models for these kayaking pictures.

mile 0
Put in downstream of the bridge. Boulder Creek joins the San Lorenzo a short distance upstream. At high flows the cement falls is called Spin Cycle.
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You must avoid a big rock to the left  View from below shows how steep it is
Good pseudo-wilderness scenery below put-in.
Second Thoughts, a drop with underwater rock that uncovers as flows decrease.
Green Wave, a dam with several sections, the center having the deepest water.
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Second Thoughts has a submerged rock  Green Wave is right below someone's house
Bubblemaker, class III or worse. To avoid the tenacious hole, go right of the mini tree. At higher flows the hole is difficult to exit and can hold swimmers for a long time.
Long class III- starting at a cement crossing. Especially at high flows, enter on the left to avoid the recirculation on the right,
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Bubblemaker has this tenacious hole  Cement crossing recirculates on the right
Sticky river-wide ledge in a wooded section.
Tight brushy rapid with main channel on the left; needs river maintenance.
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Carl below sticky river-wide ledge  A man's castle is his home
Alternate take-out just upstream of the Castle. Why did guards fail to pour boiling oil on the kayakers?
Highlands Park take-out on the right. Yet another cement falls to run.
Downstream the gradient eases. The river is not as much fun as the upstream and downstream sections. From Highlands Park to the Felton covered bridge is 3.5 miles with a gradient of 15 fpm, steepest just before reaching Felton. Below Felton is the famous Henry Cowell Park run, class III with a class IV falls.

Shuttle Directions

To reach take-out, drive north from Felton on Highway 9. After passing the San Lorenzo Valley high school and junior high school, the road crosses the river twice on two closely spaced bridges. Shortly thereafter turn right into Highlands Santa Cruz County Park. Pancake breakfasts are sometimes available there on weekends.

To reach put-in from there, continue north on Highway 9. In the downtown area of Boulder Creek, turn right on East Lomond St. At the intersection of Middleton Ave, this becomes Fairview Ave, and soon crosses a bridge over the San Lorenzo. Park and put in on the west side.


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