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June 25, 2009 — Rafting in Colorado is perhaps the most enjoyable summer activity available – and trips for all ability levels are available throughout spring, summer, and autumn.
For brochures and information on half-day, full-day, or multi day rafting adventures anywhere in Colorado, call the Colorado River Outfitters Association at (303) 280-2554.
Here are suggestions for rafting trips for three different categories: scenic beauty, fun factor, and big adventure, along with a selection of guide services which operate in that area.
Scenic Beauty Ruby Horsetheif on the Colorado River, class I-II: Those who shy away from the rapids of Westwater Canyon downstream revel in the tranquility of Ruby/Horsetheif, located on the Utah-Colorado border near Grand Junction. The southern bank of the river is largely wilderness area, and offers beautiful hiking and even some ancient Native American petro glyphs. The northern bank is excellent four-wheeling, horseback riding, or mountain bike riding. All of it makes for great grilling out and relaxing in the sun. This is among the most mellow runs in the state. Contact Adventure Bound River Expeditions at (800) 423-2668 or visit www.adventureboundusa.com.
State Bridge on the Upper Colorado River, Class II: The Colorado River takes its time wandering through this high desert scenery between Pump House and State Bridge (between Vail and Steamboat), but a few interspersed rapids can still make a big splash. At lower levels (after mid-June) this is the place for inflatable kayaks and first-timers, but beware: big water in this canyon can be surprisingly dangerous, cold, and unpredictable. Inexperienced rafters and fisherman should stay away until runoff subsides. There are many different outfitters who operate on this stretch, but for a start call Colorado River Runs at (800) 826-1081 or visit www.coloradoriverruns.com; or call (970) 845-RAFT (845-7238) or visit www.novaguides.com.
Durango town run on the Animas River, Class II: Short of water in recent years, this stretch will likely have 90-plus days of rafting this year. At any level, this run is like a Sunday drive through the quaint mountain town of Durango. Rafters can stop, stretch, and hang out with the locals before floating into the alpine scenery downstream. Rafters can also watch the acrobatics of local kayakers as they perform tricks in Durango's whitewater park. There are many different outfitters who operate on this stretch, but for a start call Durango River Trippers at (800) 292-2885 or visit www.durangorivertrippers.com; or call Mountain Waters Rafting at (800) 585-8243 or visit www.durangorafting.com; or call Outlaw River and Jeep Tours at (877) 259-1800 or visit www.outlawtours.com. Fun Factor
Shoshone on the Colorado River, class III:This is Colorado's classic rafting experience. Dam-release water ensures that first-timers and veterans alike can enjoy the big, soft waves of Shoshone in Glenwood Canyon through every month of the year – but summertime is when the water is warm and inviting. Beware: This year the water will rage at an expert-only level through late May and early June, so consider the Grizzly Creek run just downstream during this time of year. There are many different outfitters who operate on this stretch, but for a start call Colorado Whitewater Rafting at (800) 993-7238 or visit www.coloradowhitewaterrafting.com; or call Rock Gardens Rafting at (800) 958-6737 or visit www.rockgardens.com.
Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas River, class III: Clearly the state's most popular rafting destination, Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas offers swelling waves and rugged mountain scenery. Brown's Canyon is somewhat dam controlled, meaning this year’s season ought to extend well into September. There are many different outfitters who operate on the this stretch, but for a start call Wilderness Aware Rafting at (800) 462-7238 or visit www.inaraft.com; or call Arkansas River Tours at (800) 321-4352 or visit www.arkansasrivertours.comor call Good Times Rafting at (800) 808-0357 or visit www.goodtimesrafting.com; or call Four Corners Rafting at (866) 745-7238 or visit www.fourcornersrafting.com.
Dumont on Clear Creek, Class III – IV-: Front Range residents can make a day-trip out of the Dumont run and cool off on a small, fast-paced mountain stream. From Dumont all the way to Golden, Clear Creek offers a run-and-gun journey through a canyon ecosystem which seems worlds away from the roads which follow its course. Kayakers should be sure to visit the very popular whitewater park in the heart of Golden. There are many different outfitters who operate on this stretch, but for a start call Clear Creek Rafting at (800) 353-9901 or visit www.clearcreekrafting.com. Adventure
Dowd Chute on the Eagle River, Class IV: Snowmelt from Vail's high country ensures that this local favorite is always rockin’ in June. Ask your outfitter what “the gauge” reads, and get ready for a wild ride anywhere at 5 feet or higher, with mellower rides under 5 feet. If the sun comes out this spring, the gauge may all but disappear – if that’s the case, choose to put in downstream of the Chute unless you’re ready for the ride of your life. There are many different outfitters who operate on this stretch, but for a start call Nova Guides at (888) 949-NOVA (6682) or visit www.novaguides.com; or call Lakota Guides at (970) 845-RAFT (845-7238) or visit www.lakotariver.com; or call Timberline Tours at (970) 476-1414 or visit www.timberlinetours.com.
Pine Creek/Numbers on the Arkansas River, class IV – IV+: This could be one of the best year’s ever on the Numbers. At peak runoff it will provide the adrenaline it’s been lacking in recent years, and after runoff it ought to be a great challenge for strong groups looking for a team-building experience. Twisting and turning, the run requires lots of paddling and the ability to listen well to the guide. For information call Arkansas River Tours at (800) 321-4352 or visit www.arkansasrivertours.com; or call Good Times Rafting at (800) 808-0357 or visit www.goodtimesrafting.com; or call Four Corners Rafting at (866) 745-7238 or visit www.fourcornersrafting.com.
Cache La Poudre Canyon: The Poudre is Colorado’s only federally-designated National Wild and Scenic River, and it lives up to its billing for every level of rafter. It is, in a word, sublime: Aquamarine water slides through regal rock formations of varying color and type. It’s location near Ft. Collins makes it a great choice for those in the northern part of the state, but again, beware: this run will be absolutely cranking during runoff. For information call Rocky Mountain Adventures at (800) 858-6808 or visit www.shoprma.com.
THE BIG ADVENTURE Gore Canyon on the Colorado River, Class V: If you’ve run class IV water and loved it, then a huge adrenaline fix awaits at Gore Canyon on the Colorado River. A classic, pool-drop class V, Gore Canyon’s rapids involve river-wide waterfalls and strong potential to swim (be prepared for a possible flip!). But it’s all in the name of a good time and it all happens in the tight narrows between the razor-sharp cliffs of Gore Canyon near Kremmling. Damn release makes the water levels of this run follow strange rules – it can sometimes be bigger in July than June, or visa versa. Only a few guide services run this stretch, so for a start call Timberline Tours at (970) 476-1414 or visit www.timberlinetours.com.
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