On May 22, 2020, local paddlers Luke Cutler and Shawn McFarland manned a small raft down Fish Creek in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. According to Eugene Buchanan, this was the first R2 descent of this technical creek.

Looking downstream on Fish Creek. Photo Credit: Luke Cutler

Cutler and McFarland accessed Fish Creek from Steamboat Boulevard, where the water level was hovering somewhere between 400-450 CFS (or 2.2 – 2.4 feet).

Wearing their Astral GreenJacket Rescue PFDs, Immersion Research and Kokatat Drysuits to buffer them against the snowmelt runoff, whitewater helmets, and Astral Rassler Water Shoes, the gentlemen hopped into their Hyside Mini-Max, a 10.5′ Hypalon boat. They used commercial-grade Carlisle Standard Paddles and packed the Mini-Max minimally with a Watershed Drybag and Big Hollow Designs Throw Bags.

They scouted what they could and according to Cutler “realized it goes.” The level on May 22 was perfect. Had the creek been over 600 CFS they might not have gotten under some of the bridges that cross over Fish Creek.

American Whitewater lists this creek as a Class V run with nonstop, full-on IV+ rapids all the way down. There is only one eddy, which Cutler and MacFarland took a quick breather in. The Upper Fish Creek section is loved by and frequently paddled by Routt County locals Adam Mayo, Marty Smith and CKS Online’s own #boywonder JR Jennings.

Photo Credit Shawn MacFarland

Because this run is so pushy, and so technical, they chose to paddle Cutler’s Mini-Max over MacFarland’s RMR Phatcat. The Phatcat would be a little too long and too wide for this stretch. Cutler recommends the Mini-Max for future attempts, but would also try an Aire Puma in the future.

The only downside to this experience was that their extra Carlisle guide stick stationed on the back of the Mini-Max was ripped out and lost after the first bridge – so be on the lookout for it!

Cutler believes that if you have a good parter you trust, and have experience R2’ing Gore, Cross, and Pinecreek then you can add Fish Creek to the list. Cutler and MacFarland were influenced and inspired by Joel Wenblad and Tony Glassman of YAW! The Movie fame for showing experienced and trained paddlers what is possible on a raft.

Fish Creek. Photo Credit: Luke Cutler

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