The first section flows from the Bradfield Bridge near Cahone in Southwest Colorado, a few river miles down from McPhee Reservoir to Slickrock, a distance of 47 miles. This section travels through high desert terrain and begins cutting deep sandstone canyons forested by Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir and Oakbrush.
The scenic combination of red sandstone walls decorated with firs and pines makes this stretch known as “Ponderosa Gorge” appealing to many boaters as well as offering exciting whitewater with the river’s most challenging rapids. Snaggletooth Rapid (IV – V) comes 27 miles downriver from the put in and marks a change into a Pinyon / Juniper woodland that creates a desert environment for much of the trip. As Slickrock approaches the canyon widens into rolling hills and open terrain.