Information on Boulder Cr.

Boulder Cr.

     Rating: IV-V+ (P)
        TDCR: 9996
        Location: Newton Co.;  Put-in is near Mt. Sherman and Kyles Landing
                on Hwy. 74.  You're looking for a dirt road leading steeply
                downhill roughly across from the road to Kyles Landing.
                It should go down quickly to some pastures and you want to
                stay right past a house on your right.  Just past this
                the road turns ugly and only determined 4WD will make it
                to the bottom.  About 150 yards downhill is an old 
                abandoned shack of a house.  Assemble gear here and then
                hike straight down the old road to the creek about 75 yards
                downhill.  The takeout is reached by following the Mt. Sherman
                Cemetery Road south toward Diamond Cave.  Park on the LEFT
                (creek) side of the road just upstream of the slab stream
                crossing.  Do not block the driveway on right side.
		Area Map
        Topo Quad(s): Jasper, Parthenon
        Gradient: 250 fpm (1.25 mile @ >500 fpm)
        Length: 2.75 mi
        Season: FLOOD
        Gauge: Only runnable after extended heavy rainfall.
                Buffalo R. should be over 2 or 3 ft. over the Ponca bridge.
                Beech Cr. should have plenty of water.  The creek should
                look flush with water at the takeout - unless it's raining,
                you'll lose most of the flow by the time you finish the run.
        Hazards: continuous severe rapids, unrunnable boulder sieves,
                numerous undercut rocks, keeper hydraulics, numerous strainers
        Description: Boulder is not your typical Ozark steep creek run.
                The vital statistics of the creek are sobering for paddlers.
                First, the gradient is amazing: 250 fpm average, but that
                includes a 60 fpm half mile at the end.  The steepest part
                is found in a quarter mile near the end, known simply as 
                The Falls, that drops almost 200 ft in that distance.  The 
                creek also lives up to its name; huge boulders abound creating
                nearly continuous and blind class IV-V rapids mixed with
                sieves of questionable runnability.  And the watershed is 
                large by Ozark standards - the lower two miles of the creek
                is fed by runnoff from almost four square miles of land.
                A trip down Boulder Cr. sets the paddler up for a full day
                of mental and physical stress testing that is unrivaled
                anywhere in the state (and few places in the country).
                The first attempt on the creek was made on 11/7/96 by 
                Bill and Chanoy Herring and Kevin Fendley.  A 3/4 mile 
                section of the creek was completed before an injury
                forced the group to hike out of the gorge.  The first
                successful run of the gorge happened during the memorable
                "Earth Day Floods" on April 23, 2004, when Zach Williams,
                Sean Ruggles, and Bill Herring completed the entire trip
                at an optimal level with around a dozen portages.  This
                group knew the creek intimately after numerous pre-run hikes,
                but the trip still required more than 7 hours to complete -
                despite an early start, the takeout was reached just before
                nightfall.  Hiking the creek dry before running it should 
                be considered a requirement (hike from the takeout up, not 
                the put-in down), and consideration should be given to 
                identifying landmarks for scouts and portages in advance.
                The creek begins just below an old abandoned house as a
                tiny stream and immediately plunges over an angled fall
                with a bad landing, followed by a ledge into an undercut
                grotto.  It looks a bit dicey, but the creek dishes out
                far worse for the next three miles - if the first drop
                gives you pause, a hike back to your vehicle is still an
                option.  The rapids are typically class III with small
                eddies for the next third of a mile, with a few tricky
                spots thrown in for good measure.  The Upper Gorge rears
                its ugly head when a large jumble blocks the stream under
                a pretty dripline bluff on the left.  This drop feeds into
                a severely undercut boulder - scout with care.  From here
                the creek alternates between bouts of relatively tranquil 
                water and pure class V mayhem for the next quarter mile 
                or so.  If there aren't too many trees, it is all runnable, 
                though questionable at times.  Scouting is difficult but
                essential, and these rapids must be gotten through or around
                quickly since the water level is probably dropping out
                fast and there is a lot of creek left to boat.  In the middle
                of this is maybe the biggest sheer drop on the creek -
                "Hang A Lefty".  It's an 8-foot ledge onto a rock shelf on the
                right, but the current helps funnel you left into the
                undercut base of the drop - no worries!  When you see/feel
                two tributaries kick in and the gradient slack up, be ready
                to get out.  The "Strainer Strainer" is rock sieve through
                which not much will pass - portage right.  Class III water
                provides some rest for the next quarter mile, and then
                the class IV+ "Pretzel" signals the start of the Lower Gorge.
                The bottom part of this rapid may not go at low levels.
                The infamous "Elbow" follows - a very long class V rapid
                consisting of multiple tricky ledges followed by a sharp 
                turn into an ugly-looking hole.  The only reasonable scout
                is from river right.  The next half mile presents an almost
                constant barrage of long, complex, blind drops.  This is
                a very intense section of water, but all drops are boatable
                under the right conditions.  When the bottom looks like it
                is really starting to drop out, it is.  This is "The Falls",
                so get out on either bank to scout and portage the next 
                quarter mile.  The long lead-in is solid class V (V+?) water 
                that roughly ends at a drop called the "Pearly Gate" - a 
                steep plunge between two boulders into a wicked looking hole.
                Past this is "Salvation Eddy", a semi-pool of water
                on the right bank.  Failure to reach Salvation will
                result in a severe pummeling in the monster class VI cascade
                that follows.  Even the hairiest of boaters will want
                to carefully consider this section - even just standing on 
                the bank comptemplating the ramifications of an attempt 
                at running this incredible chunk of gradient can be a 
                quasi-religious experience.  The carry down to the small
                pool below is not as bad as it first appears, and after
                the pool, a long, complex series of drops through 
                boulders leads into the base of a large cliff with a 
                cave in its base on river left.  "Cliff Rapid" is just 
                above the cliff, and unfortunately a large seive in 
                the middle of the drop is not runnable except at very 
                high levels.  It's hard to see this without careful scouting,
                so make sure you see the entire rapid before committing to
                it.  The class III-IV water after Cliff may seem easy by 
                comparison, but don't relax too soon.  Just When You Thought
                It Was Over, a tricky class IV+, comes in this stretch and
                another long, difficult rapid follows it.  From here to
                Panther Creek is solid class III+ water with some holes to
                beware of (the worst is a ledge right at the confluence
                with Panther).  Take a deep breath and paddle through
                fast class II-III water for the next third of a mile down 
                to the takeout.  Kiss the ground and walk up to run your 
                shuttle.  Boulder Cr. should obviously not be taken lightly.  
                It is a serious, all-day undertaking suitable only for a 
                team of well-prepared class V creek boaters.  Dozens of
                class V drops must be run or portaged quickly, often
                without good bank scouting or support, since water levels
                drop quickly and virtually the whole creek can sieve out.
                Expect a great deal of serious hiking/climbing though 
                jungles of poison ivy and you will not be disappointed!

See the Photo Gallery for photos.

Return to Index