The St. Vrain River ran shallow and mellow – perfect for floating with little ones. Just before we beached on the sand bar, a few children plunged into the cool waters and began to tow our inner tube train back up for “another run!” We went up and down this stretch of water over and over and over again, taking breaks now and again for snacking and lunch and warming our bodies. As the creek gurgled along, the children chased minnows, watched sparrows nest, and built waterways in the sandy edges – an idyllic quintessential childhood moment.
We accessed the St. Vrain River at the Apple Valley road bridge on Hwy 36 just west of Lyons. This is a slow gentle section with some sandy beach areas on both sides of the creek. Traveling upstream there are some light “rapids” and downstream from the sandy beach areas the creek gets rougher with greater rapids and limited take-out places. To keep the children safe, we station one adult at end of the run (before the big rapids) and a second adult next to a strainer near the bridge.
The flow of the St. Vrain River was 122 cfs (cubic feet per second), slower than we’d expected having scouted the week before at 183 cfs. 122 cfs is about as low as you can go and still run the Apple Valley Road section without dragging on the bottom. Flow data is provided by Colorado Division of Water Resources and can be found here.
The St. Vrain River at the Apple Valley Road is tamer and less crowded than Boulder Creek, which is great for younger children but less exciting for older more adventurous children. Once everyone is comfortable, you can run the rapids and take-out in downtown Lyons (you just need to coordinate driving to and from the take-out and put-in). That will be our adventure for next summer!
There is a parking area on the south side of and along Highway 36, just west of Lyons and about 20 minutes from North Boulder.
Here’s a Google map to the parking location.
Gear up: life jackets & tubes.
Safety first: read up on tubing hazards and tips.