Put in – 6,300ft
Takeout – 5,700ft
The upper part of the North Fork Valley used to be coal country though most of the mines aren’t in operation today.
This is the most popular of the runs in the North Fork Valley. As you drive up the canyon from Paonia to the put in, all of your questions as to where it got its name will be answered. Don’t let the industrial nature of the run deter you though. Despite the mining operations this is a pretty fun class II/III and when you’re not looking at a giant conveyor over the river it’s actually a beautiful run. Besides, the mining operations seem to have created a couple of nice class III holes as you head under the conveyor.
You can put in at the state park campground at the bottom of the dam but parking sucks and the launch isn’t much better. This only adds about a half mile of flat water to the better put in on the upstream, or east, side of the Gunnison County Public Works building. It might not look like your typical boat ramp but it is legal access, even on the county map as such, and as more and more boaters come her it should continue to improve as the county starts to manage it more for boaters and fishermen.
The Fire Mountain Diversion about a ¼ mile after Somerset is a manmade feature that was not made with boaters in mind. It is survived more often than it is run clean. A swim here could end pretty badly, as such we recommend taking out above the diversion and either portaging it or take out here. There’s enough room for a couple of cars to park on the side of the road here.
Bowie Run, aka Major Tom
This less popular run puts on where Bowie Rd meets CO 133 on BLM land and heads to Paonia River Park 7.7 miles downstream. This is mostly class I/II water with the occasional manmade irrigation diversion that bumps the difficulty up to class III. The diversions are often full of debris and it is highly recommended that you scout each and every one, you will likely need to portage most if not all of them. They were not created with boaters in mind so expect them to feel awkward even when they are clear of debris.
It’s quite possible that I’m the only one that calls this run Major Tom, but I mean come on, it’s the Bowie Run, what else should we call it? Ziggy Stardust maybe? Of course, locals pronounce the name a little different than the late great David Bowie or the bowie knife. It is a long-standing Colorado tradition to mispronounce the names of things and then correct when you pronounce it properly, much like people from Illinois like to say the “s” is silent. The locals pronounce it like you would owie, as in I have a boo boo.
In all fairness though, it was named after a person, Alexander Bowie, and it is quite likely that this was the way the family pronounced it. Alexander Bowie owned one of the coal mines in the area in the late 1800s – early 1900s. In 1907 the Bowie Post Office opened to service the mine, it operated till 1967.
Water sports are inherently dangerous sports in which severe injuries or death may occur.
Do not use this website or maps unless you are an expert, have sought out and obtained qualified professional instruction or guidance, are knowledgeable about the risks involved, and are willing to assume personal responsibility for the risks associated with these activities. If you have any doubts in your ability please stay off the water.
DO NOT USE THIS WEBSITE OR MAPS UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO ASSUME PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH THE ACTIVITIES DESCRIBED OR DEPICTED!!!