Information on Boulder Cr.
Rating: IV-V+ (P)
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.
Topo Quad(s): Jasper, Parthenon
Gradient: 250 fpm (1.25 mile @ >500 fpm)
Length: 2.75 mi
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!
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