Colorado is bursting with opportunity to explore the outdoors. And one of the best ways to get outside is by jumping into a whitewater raft and hitting one of many rivers throughout the state.
When you close your eyes and think about adventure, often time your vision is filled with images of rugged mountains, tall trees, and winding rivers. The draw of these wild and untamed places is that there are dangers to be faced and spectacular landscapes to be explored. With that in mind, it’s no wonder why Colorado is one of the top destinations for those who love adventuring in the outdoors!
Colorado is bursting with opportunity to explore the outdoors. And one of the best ways to get outside is by jumping into a whitewater raft and hitting one of many rivers throughout the state!
The biggest challenge for those who aspire to go whitewater rafting in Colorado is narrowing down where to put in your raft and what sort of gear to bring along to ensure your trip is as spectacular as possible. Thankfully, we’ve created the ideal guide to solve just that for you today! From raft put ins to advice on the gear you’ll want to have along (like the best machete to help clear brush at camp if you go over night) you’ll be confident of where to go rafting in Colorado! Let’s get started.
Upper Colorado River
As one of the best spots for beginners, the Upper Colorado River is ideal for those who are new to whitewater rafting. The Upper Colorado section starts below the town of Kremmling and winds down until it meets Dotsero along I-70. There are several easy to access put ins along the way, making it easy to have as long or short of a trip as you like!
There are only a few tricky class III rapids to navigate, depending on the area that you put in at. Outside of that, there are mostly class II and I sections of river and plenty of easy to access spots to pull over and relax on the banks!
For those who are interested in a longer float, it’s important to pack along the right supplies. Consider bringing along several dry bags to keep all your gear for camp dry and organized. It’s also required that you bring a fire pan if you plan on having a campfire and to pack out all your ashes when you’re done. By doing that, you’ll be within regulations as well as ensuring that the rivers stay clean for the animals and plants that depend on it for life!
For those who want a shorter trip, but a lot more thrill, look no further than the Eagle River. Located close by the Upper Colorado, the Eagle River offers several class III and class II rapids. And, if you put in by Minturn, Colorado, you could ride through Dowd Chutes, which is the name of the class IV rapid on the Eagle! The steep terrain and large rocks make for large waves and a fun, technical descent!
Be sure to either wear a dry suit or a wet suit when rafting the Eagle. It is fed mostly by snowmelt, making the river temperatures cold to the unprotected skin. Whether you decide to wear a wet suit or a dry suit is a matter of personal preference as well as water conditions. In either case, be sure to wear a wet suit or a dry suit when rafting the Eagle!
Another thrilling stretch of river to run in Colorado is the Arkansas River. It begins near the town of Buena Vista and is full of class II, III, and IV grades of rapids! One thing that makes the Arkansas River unique is that it runs through a national monument: Browns Canyon.
While rafting through Browns Canyon, you’ll be alone with the river and the canyon walls. That is because roads are not able to be built through or near this section due to its national monument status! Rafting the Arkansas through Browns Canyon feels like stepping back in time to the days when the quickest way to get around was by river and not by highway! Royal Gorge rafting is exciting and fun for the whole family.
What’s even better about rafting the Arkansas is that there is plenty of camping nearby. A great spot to put in a reservation for a camp spot is just minutes away from Buena Vista and inside of the Collegiate Peaks recreation area. Book early to ensure you get your spot as this area is gorgeous!
Located in the southwestern corner of Colorado, the Animas River challenges rafters with plenty of big whitewater waves throughout! There are continuous class II and III rapids along this stretch of river with several class IV and even class V thrown in. To that end, please make sure to either book a trip with an experienced guide or group up with boaters who have navigated this stretch of river before!
For those who are brave enough to face the Animas, you’ll be rewarded by spectacular views and solitude. This is because the Animas runs through the Weminuche, which is the largest expanse of wilderness in Colorado! Be sure to read up on all the regulations for how to enjoy wilderness designated land before you go!
Roaring Fork River
Rounding off our list is the Roaring Fork River, located near beautiful Glenwood Springs Colorado. With plenty of technical class II and III rapids, the Roaring Fork is sure to thrill and challenge intermediate boaters!
What’s even better is that the Roaring Fork River passes through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Colorado. You’ll be treated to views of Mount Sopris as well as of the flat top mountains as you make your way down the river to where it meets the Colorado River. Don’t forget to bring a quality travel camera with you to capture these stunning views!
There certainly is no shortage of amazing whitewater opportunity in Colorado. From the Arkansas to the Roaring Fork, there is something for practically everyone to enjoy! And what’s even better is that located nearby each of these rivers are plenty more opportunity for hiking, mountain biking, and soaking in the beauty that is offered by the great state of Colorado!
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