How to run Velvet Falls
You know you’re here when you see the large house rock on river left and Velvet Creek coming in on river right.
Velvet Falls is a river wide shelf that creates a large drop. The river left side of the shelf is broken up, allowing the water to slide over it without creating much of a hole. Just upstream of this river left slot, a large house rock is placed exactly in the spot you need to be, which means the standard line is to pass this large rock, then a hard pull left into the slow water behind it. After that, you simply line it up straight for the drop on the left. At low flows, the move is easy as the water is slow and the eddy fence non-existent. As the water comes up, busting through the eddy fence behind the large rock becomes increasingly harder. Even more problematic is the meat of the hole is center, meaning if you can’t break through the eddy fence, you’re heading towards the biggest hole in the rapid.
Pulling over to scout this rapid is not an easy feat. If the water is up, look for a small eddy on river left immediately after Hell’s Half Mile. Pull into the eddy and then hike downstream.
When the water is low the move is easy and the shelf hole far less consequential in the event you somehow don’t make it. There is no reason to take an alternate line at low water, just the standard run of tucking behind the large guard rock and zooming down the left side of the shelf.
Two lines exist at medium flows. The standard pull left behind the guard rock line as well as a right of center run. The standard run is fine and should be your first option. If you are worried that you won’t be able to make the pull then looking at the right of center / right run is a good idea. This run requires momentum and that’s about it. The right of center portion of the shelf’s hole is soft – soft enough to punch through. Line it up and get your momentum going as it’s a big hit.
When the water is high you have three lines to choose from. The standard line, which at high flows is hard as the current is fast and the eddy fence is strong. Then there’s the right of center line, which is described above. Finally, if the water is high enough, a channel going to the left around the guard rock opens up. If this is open, take it, as it means you won’t have to make any moves whatsoever and you won’t have to run the big shelf hole.
Looking upstream at the drop. This is at very low water, between 1.6 – 1.8 feet. You can see how close the guard rock is to the main drop, there’s not much room between the two. Which, at flows when this photo was taken, doesn’t matter at all, but as the water gets higher the current will be barreling past that guard rock. This photo also shows why the left “sneak” around the guard rock is only open at high flows, as it’s high and dry unless the water is way up.