The Dolores, or “River of Sorrows” lives up to its name. This high-desert gem, which scenery rivals that of the Grand Canyon, has been tragically de-watered for years on end, thanks to over-allocation for crops that are unsustainable in a desert environment. This has left the lower Dolores below McPhee Reservoir with 40cfs or less most of the year, nearly destroying the habitat for native fish and other wildlife in the canyon. You’ll need to wait for a big snow year to find sufficient flows to boat the Dolores, enough to fill and spill the dam. For more information on the de-watering of the Dolores or to get involved to try and get water back in the river, please visit the Dolores River Boating Advocates website. Dolores releases and other up to date information can be found at the Dolores Water “Conservation” District web page. Additional Dolores information can be found here.
This is generally a two or three-day trip. One-day trips are possible between Bradfield Bridge and Mountain Sheep Point Recreation Site (19 miles). Total trip length from Bradfield Bridge to Slick Rock is 47 river miles. Shuttle distance is approximately 40 miles/50 minutes one way via paved and gravel roads. This stretch of river drops an average of 19 feet per mile and contains the most difficult and challenging whitewater on the Dolores River, including “Snaggletooth Rapid” (Class IV-V). The access point to this segment of the river is the Bradfield Recreation Site on river left 1/4 mile downstream from the Bradfield Bridge. The Bradfield Recreation Site offers campsites, toilets, potable water, and a gravel-surfaced parking area and boat launch ramp. Campsite fees are $8.00 per night. Sloping canyon walls covered with oakbrush and other shrubs characterize the first few miles of river below Bradfield Bridge. Then the canyon deepens, sandstone walls appear and groves of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir cover the benches along the river. This stretch of river is appropriately called “Ponderosa Gorge.” The unique combination of pine groves and red sandstone cliffs makes this one of the most scenic segments of the Dolores River. Approximately 19 miles downriver from Bradfield is the Mountain Sheep Point Recreation Site, which can be accessed by driving about 6 miles east from Dove Creek along gravel and dirt county roads. This access site has limited parking, a boat launch ramp, toilets, and limited primitive campsites just down river at the “Box Elder” campsite. No fees are charged for camping here. There is no potable water at this site. Snaggletooth Rapid (Class IV-V) is located about eight miles below the Mountain Sheep Point Recreation Site near mile 27. This rapid has been portaged as often as successfully run. Stop and scout this rapid (river left). Below Snaggletooth, the canyon becomes drier and the vegetation begins to change to that of Upper Sonoran life zone. Piñon-juniper, yucca, cactus, and various shrubs are predominant. A few miles above Slick Rock the canyon widens to rolling, arid hills. Maximum group size 25 persons.