Spring Runoff on the Upper Dolores River

The Upper Dolores River is one of our favorite rivers to stand up paddle board in Western Colorado!

Stand up paddle boarding the Dolores River

During spring runoff in the San Juan Mountains, the Dolores is non-stop fast and fun, and moderately challenging with various of wave trains, drops, fun eddies and surf waves. This section, from the confluence of the West Dolores River to the town of Dolores is perfect for intermediate paddle boarders with some river experience who are looking to get more into swift water and grow their whitewater SUP skills. Because there are no major boulders or rock gardens, this is a relatively easy section to navigate. Which also means, you won't get too beat up when you fall in!


The Upper Dolores River experiences spring runoff during the months of April through June. Typically, the Dolores River's flows peak around Memorial Day Weekend (depending on snowpack and rising spring temps).


The Upper Dolores River can be divided into three (+/-15 Mile) sections:

  • RICO TO BEAR CREEK: Difficult/Advanced, Class II-III+ (difficult navigation, high consequence hazards)
  • BEAR CREEK TO THE WEST DOLORES RIVER: Difficult/Advanced, Class II-IV (moderate-difficult navigation, high consequence hazards, Class IV Stoner Stampede Rapid can be portaged)
  • WEST DOLORES RIVER TO THE TOWN OF DOLORES: Moderate/Intermediate, Class I-II (easy navigation, moderate/high consequence hazards)

The Upper Dolores is a wild river with no dam control. It can be very dangerous, especially during snow melt with very cold water temps. Take caution as debris from snowmelt, large tree strainers, irrigation dams, rocks and other hidden dangers may lurk.


ALWAYS WEAR YOUR PFD! We recommend wearing a wetsuit/drysuit due to just above freezing water temps, and because the Dolores is a shallow river, we also recommend wearing a helmet on any section of this river. Do not wear a leash on this river unless you have and are experienced in using quick release leashes.

What to know exactly where to put in? Click here to check out our maps for boat launch and takeout locations! For information on current river flows, click here!



Feel like getting your river SUrf on? The Dolores has a number of rad natural surf waves, including the famed Stoner Stampede! 

Check out this fun little video by Brittany Parker, River surfing in Dolores, Co!