Ah! Could there be a greater spectacle than that of snow-clad mountains surrendering their icy slopes to the growing strength of the sun? Then, the generous snowpack turns into a trickle that awakens slumbering waterfalls and rivers to challenge amateur and seasoned rafters at the most beloved watersports among thrill-seekers.
No other destination offers this one-of-its-kind adventure better than Colorado. Its icy mountain slopes are a skier’s paradise during winters and they become rocky during the summers, inviting the wild and free around the world. Colorado has often been referred to as the Mecca of adventure and beauty, and rightfully so!
With opportunities for hiking, biking, river rafting, and more, you will scarcely need to complain of boredom. If you’re planning to explore the unparalleled beauty of the Colorado wilderness this summer, rest assured that only thrilling adventures await you (all of which are discussed in this article).
Top Rivers to Enjoy White Water Rafting in Colorado
Colorado’s rivers are unique in the sense they offer rafting adventures for both novice and expert rafters. Plus, many creeks are suitable for people of all age groups (though the age limit is usually mentioned in the outfitter’s package). Also, there are options for a few hours or a multi-day rafting in Colorado. So, let’s look at the most popular rivers and creeks.
1. The Colorado River
If you’re travelling with a group of rafters where some are risk-averse whilst others are more daring, the Colorado River with its various stretches is a good option to explore. On one hand, you’ll be treated to exquisite sightseeing; on the other, you get to experience the typical rapids and calms of a steadily flowing brook.
Moreover, this river offers the most stunning wildlife views – you may spot great blue herons, golden eagles, mountain lions, red-tail hawks, and elks. Top departure cities for this river include Grand Junction, State Bridge, Glenwood Springs, and Kremmling.
2. The Arkansas River
If you want a rafting adventure that will take you through some of the most scenic geological landscapes, then the Arkansas River is your ideal option. Falling at nearly 5000 ft. within the first 125 miles, it cuts through Central Colorado, flowing along Browns Canyon National Monument, the stretches of Royal Gorge, and the Bighorn Sheep Canyon.
The Browns Canyon route that passes through Salida offers the most picturesque views. Typical departure cities for the Arkansas white water rafting include Salida, Canon City, and Buena Vista. Check out northern territory crocodile tours for more information.
3. The Animas River
The Animas River rafting adventure is divided into upper and lower lines, where the upper line offers zipline tours of the Durango region and the lower line runs through the Silverton area. According to Raft Echo, the lower Animas region offers some of the toughest waters with steep stretches and Class IV and V rapids.
The upper region is more suitable for novices as the waters are calm and lazy. For each section, the typical departure city is Durango.
4. The Clear Creek
Only have time for a quick splash in the scenic white waters? Then, Clear Creek is a good option. Located 30 miles west of Denver along Interstate 70, Clear Creek is chosen by families on day trips for a few hours of rafting adventure.
Though suitable for beginners, this creek offers some of the steepest stretches for high-grade rafters. The only uber-accessible departure town for this route is Idaho Springs.
5. The Cache La Poudre
One unique feature of the Cache La Poudre River is that it is the first and the only river to be designated as nationally wild and scenic by the Fed. The Poudre Canyon found along this route is highly picturesque and makes for a perfect backdrop for photos.
This river is only suited for seasoned rafters and those familiar with its course. Though rafting along this route begins in May, the more challenging rapids do not occur till August. The typical departure city for Cache La Poudre rafting is Fort Collins.
6. The Yampa River
Also known as the Green River, the Yampa rafting adventure is usually a multi-day trip that charters through historic and archaeological sites, namely the Dinosaur National Monument. The stretches of Yampa are open for rafting from mid-May to mid-June, and it is the longest river in the state to have no dam.
There are sandy beaches along this route for you to cover during overnight camping. The typical departure site for this north-western gem is Steamboat Springs.
7. The Piedra River
The name Piedra literally means rock in Spanish. This river is also found near the Durango region and is popular for its steep Canyon walls (hence the name). Divided into upper and lower Piedra, the upper region features scenic wildlife whereas the lower region offers Class III and IV rapids for experienced rafters above age 16.
This river also offers greater thrills through a 1000-foot drop box canyon. The typical departure cities for this route include Pagosa Springs and Durango.
Off-Water Adventures You Must Not Miss!
If you’re on a relaxing, multi-day trip with your friends and family, and have some time to spare, don’t miss out on the overall beauty of Colorado’s white water rafting adventure. For that, you must at least visit the following off-water spots.
1. Driggs Mansion Ruins
The Driggs Mansion is a sandstone property built in 1918 for Laurence Driggs at the Unaweep Canyon. Today, it stands as a famous historic landmark on the Colorado rafting route, impressively showcasing the Italian-style architecture at the base of the Thimble Rock.
The landmark’s ruins only add to the existing oddities and beauties of the Unaweep Canyon. Tourists love to explore the scenic and quiet surroundings of this mansion after a satisfying white-water rafting adventure.
2. The Palisade Ranch
If you’re a horse-riding enthusiast, the Palisade Ranch is your ideal detour spot on a white water rafting adventure in Colorado. This ranch spans 500 acres of land featuring uneven terrain. You can take a ride of the area on horseback, from the red rock canyons to the breathtaking desert and the Uncompahgre Plateau.
The ranch offers horse-riding experiences for both beginners and advanced riders.
3. The Scenic Blanchard Family Wines
Craving a one-of-its-kind wine-tasting experience mingled with a detailed knowledge of viniculture? Then, you need to visit the Blanchard Family Wines located in Fort Collins, Colorado. An award-winning winery, this place is ideal to wind down for limited-edition California wines, gourmet popcorn, and a lip-smacking charcuterie board.
The winery is open throughout the week; however, it’s active only in the second half from Monday to Friday. On Saturdays and Sundays, you can visit between 11 AM to 11 PM and 11 AM to 9 PM, respectively.
Let the Adventure Begin!
Colorado’s rafting outfitters have witnessed a massive growth in white water trips, as many as 625,000 in 2021 alone. These numbers are only expected to increase as people of all age groups are unleashing their inner adventurer.
As you embark on this journey, make sure you follow important safety tips such as wearing the right outerwear and a life jacket, holding the paddle properly, and staying in the boat (do not fidget and play with the waters!).
Most importantly, choose a licensed rafting outfitter with decades of experience through the Colorado white waters and you’re good to go!