Golden’s whitewater park is probably the epicenter of the front range whitewater scene (though not necessarily the surfing scene). Don’t expect much solitude here. Depending on flows, you may see brand new kayakers trying out their first eddy turns, pro kayakers throwing huge tricks, or endless half drunk tubers on hot summer days. But you wanted to know about surfing the waves.
Four features warrant your attention, depending on the flows.
Rodeo Hole is the most obvious feature upstream of the main parking lot, and one of the two more popular kayaking holes. It’s best over 300 cfs.
Bleacher Hole is the obvious feature directly in front of the main parking lot. It will accomodate a wider variety of boards, and comes in as low as 90 cfs. As flows get higher though (>220 cfs) it becomes tougher to stay on.
Library Hole is, surprise surprise, in front of the library. You can get a board onto it as low as 70 cfs on a SUP and continues to be rideable on the way up.
Bingo Hole is further downstream, past the Washington Street Bridge near where the path moves away from the river. It may provide some of the best low-flow groveling at the park, even under 60 cfs if your board is durable or your ding repair skills are solid, and you’re working with enough volume.
If you’re surfing either of the lower holes at low flows, bring something with rocker though, otherwise you’ll get smashed into the green water and purl. The IRS from Badfish is a good option.
High flows make for swirly eddys and potentially rough swims in the park, and low summertime flows can lead to the place being a zoo of tubers and pool toys floating through. On the bright side though, the park provides for some good medium/high flow features, and some good low flow summer/fall options on the front range, particularly for paddleboards.
Clear Creek at Golden is an accurate gauge for this stretch of river. The features change significantly depending on flow, as described above, but you can find something to surf as low as 50-60 cfs if you’re willing to bang up your boards. High flows (>650) start to make for nerve-wracking swims, and once the flow value has a comma in it, swims are dangerous and scary.
For photos of the waves at specific flows, check out the River Surf Report.
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There is lots of free parking running all the way along the park, from Lions Park all the way east to Washington Street.