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Whitewater Rafting in Colorado: There’s a Trip for Everyone

Jamie Goswick13 Jun 2014Things to Do and SeePost a Comment

If you’ve never tried whitewater rafting, this is the summer to give it a try. Thanks to a winter of generous snowfall, the rivers are in great shape this year. I had the opportunity to hit up the Blue and Arkansas Rivers the last couple of weeks. As a former rafting addict, I was anxious to get on the rivers, especially when they are at their highest levels. After two summers of the Blue River being closed to commercial rafting, I was really excited about this trip. I had never rafted the Blue River before. I have to say, it was a blast. The water was cold, which is to be expected, considering it’s purely snowmelt. If you’re looking for a quick trip, with a lot of fun wave trains, this would be the trip to try. As long as Denver water keeps releasing water from the Reservoir, this river will hopefully be open to commercial rafting for a few more weeks. Keep in mind that you’re only on the river for a short period of time. Personally, I prefer to be on the river a while longer. I also had the opportunity to hit up Brown’s Canyon on the Arkansas River. I’ve rafted this section a couple of times before. The last time I rafted it, I was on a raft that flipped in Seidel’s Suckhole, so it was almost like I was seeking redemption. And I got it. It helped that our guide was probably one of the most experienced guides on the Arkansas River — he’s been guiding for 36 years! Our chances of flipping were pretty minimal. It wasn’t exactly the most ideal time to be on the river, either. A storm moved over us, dumped a bunch of pea size hail and temperatures dropped into the upper 40s. Thanks to the awesome staff at Arkansas Valley Adventures for not only making it a great experience, but for also letting everyone on the boat get in the heated van to warm up during our lunch stop. Would I do it all over again? Absolutely. And I’m pretty sure the family who was on my raft would as well. Thanks to three of our whitewater rafting partners — Arkansas Valley Adventures, KODI Rafting and Performance Tours — for always allowing our guests to safely experience some of the best whitewater in the country. By the way, all three companies offer discounted rafting trips to anyone who stays with Summit Mountain Rentals. For information, click here. Whether you are looking for a mellow float trip or a trip that will have your adrenaline pumping, there’s a trip for you. Below is a breakdown.  

Family Float Trips

Upper Colorado

Located near Kremmling, this Class II section of the Colorado River is a gently flowing river that is inviting to all ages, including children three years or older. You’ll encounter a few small rapids as the river winds through the Gore Range and Mountain Ranchland. If you want to get your heart racing, you even have the option of leaping from Jump Rock or Little Jump Rock into the refreshing river. This trip allows you plenty of down time to sunbathe, swim or just relax and enjoy the day.

Brown’s Canyon on the Arkansas River

This section of the Arkansas River is located near Buena Vista. This trip delivers a mix of exhilarating whitewater and the majestic views of the Collegiate Peaks. Brown’s Canyon offers a variety of Class III rapids and is suitable for children seven years or older.

Lower Eagle River

Located near Vail, The Eagle River whitewater rafting experience offers a variety of paddling for all levels of boating, and the Lower Eagle is perfect for families. There are plenty of rapids to get you wet, with small holes and splashy wave trains. Between rapids, you’ll have time to take in the scenery as you meander down the valley into high desert terrain. It’s a great whitewater trip for families with kids and for first time rafters hoping to experience whitewater. Must be at least six years or older.

Intermediate Trips

Clear Creek Beginner/Intermediate Section

Conquer some of the most intense whitewater on Idaho Springs’ Clear Creek! Starting high in the canyon, there’s just enough time to warm up before you drop into the first class IV rapid. Enjoy this steep, technical section that will keep your paddle moving! Good physical condition is recommended and a minimum age of 15 years is required.

Blue River

This Summit County whitewater trip offers action-packed rapids as well as the incredible scenery of the Gore Range. The Blue River offers a fun whitewater excursion perfect for families, first-timers and those looking for a shorter adventure. This trip is known for its great mix of whitewater adventure and breathtaking Rocky Mountain scenery. You’ll get stunning views of the Gore Range, a line of craggy, sharp peaks north of Summit County. Make sure you bring your waterproof camera! Children must be six years or older.

Shoshone on the Colorado River

Shoshone Rapids are an awesome blast of Class III whitewater accompanied by the stunning scenery of Glenwood Canyon. This action-packed trip is guaranteed to give you a thrill — without scaring the daylights out of you! Children must be six years or older for this trip.


Trips for the Thrill Seekers

Pine Creek and the Numbers on the Arkansas River

Pine Creek and the Numbers is the most advanced section on the Arkansas River. This section of Class IV and Class V whitewater begins near the small mountain town of Granite and ends near Buena Vista. At one point, the river narrows by almost half and the gradient drops 200 feet. Pine Creek and the Numbers’ sections demand good physical condition and you must be at least 15 years or older.

Clear Creek’s Advanced Section

If you’re looking for technicality, Clear Creek is the way to go! Blast down the Lower Canyon of Clear Creek, near Idaho Springs, and enjoy one of the most continuous sections of whitewater in Colorado. Rush through impressive scenery and even more impressive gradient drops. Paddling experience is recommended for this trip and you must be 15 years or older.

Ten Mile Creek in Frisco

Ten Mile Creek is the newest commercially run river in the State of Colorado. It’s an intense four mile, Class IV run, dropping 110 feet per mile in the upper stretch. After floating through the town of Frisco you finish up at the Island Grill at the Frisco Bay Marina. It’s recommended that you have previous rafting experience. You must be 16 years or older.

Gore Canyon

The Colorado River’s Gore Canyon near Kremmling is a section only for serious paddlers. That’s because this remote wilderness canyon on the Colorado River serves up the steepest gradient drop per mile in Colorado. Gore Canyon is one of the most advanced whitewater sections in the country! Dropping an astounding 120 feet a mile with a vertical waterfall in the heart of the canyon, this trip is strictly for the adventurer. Excellent physical condition is required and you must be 15 years or older. Due to water flows, this section typically can only be rafted July through September.

For information on discounted lodging during the summer, visit