Also known as the ‘Colorful Colorado,’ this state is often considered to be the most beautiful among all US states. From the serene and picturesque Alpine lakes to the unmatched loftiness of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado’s scenic views are directly out of the pages of a fairytale.
Besides hiking and bicycling through the charming woods and trails, tourists and residents alike enjoy the adrenaline-pumping and nerve-wracking activity of white water rafting. The state has a total of 30 main white water rafting locations, so finding a professional outfitter should not be a tough task.
Among the top rafting rivers include the Arkansas, Animas, Yampa, Colorado, Piedra, and Cache La Poudre rivers. If you have a hankering for adventure, consider Colorado white water rafting besides usual beach trips and alfresco lunches. This article will provide you with the boost you need to unleash your inner adrenaline junkie.
Reasons to Go White Water Rafting in Colorado
If your summer calendar is not booked already, it’s time to include white water rafting in Colorado on the list. Here are the top reasons why –
1. Good Old-Fashioned Adventure
Just imagine this, if you will – you’re riding along the Grand Canyon stretch of the Colorado River as the horizon gradually disappears from view and all you can see is a sharp drop just 15 seconds away. Then, as you get to catch your breath, you’re called to paddle for your life through Class III rapids. Could there be anything more adrenaline-pumping?
White water rafting is considered to be among the most thrilling water activities, ensuring that you meet your summer adventure quota, whether mild waves or wild rapids.
2. Breathtaking Scenic Views
Modern lifestyles revolve around technology, with people posting about every aspect of their lives on social media. In the midst of all this, it’s too easy to forget to connect with nature – man’s healing source.
White water rafting is your chance to leave behind all that tech hoopla and surround yourself with the beauty of nature. Colorado has much to offer in terms of creation’s glory – cascading waterfalls, towering mountains, and ancient rock formations.
3. Quality Time with Loved Ones
There are not many activities that can help you bond with your amigos like white water rafting. Just think about it – the fierce waters near Gore Canyon are threatening to overturn your boat as each one of you paddles with full force to save the other from falling.
Depending on your trip plans, you get to spend quality bonding time with your folks – breakfast, rapids followed by lunch, rapids, and then a relaxing dinner around the campfire watching the stars. It’s time to give that texting relationship a break and come together for some real-world fun!
Debunking Common Misconceptions About White Water Rafting
There are certain misconceptions about Colorado white water rafting that must be debunked, as discussed below:
1. You Must be a Skilled Swimmer
A lot of people hold back from an experience of a lifetime because they’re not skilled swimmers or can’t swim at all due to fear of the water. The good news is you do not need any major swimming experience to try white water rafting.
Generally, the extra-scared ones are allotted a cozy spot at the center of the boat, and the professionals keep a close eye on them. This is done to ensure they’re unafraid and wholly enjoying the experience.
2. You Must Have Previous Rafting Experience
Out of the 30 main spots to try white water rafting from, some are exclusively full of Class III and IV rapids (requiring solid technical skills), whereas others involve Class I and II rapids (shallow waters with fun splashes).
According to Echo Canyon River Expeditions, different rafting packages are available to ensure children and adults with a hunger for adventure get to enjoy it according to their skill level (or lack thereof).
The outfitters will help you decide which package would best suit your group. Besides, all rafters are given detailed demonstrations on using their safety gear and paddling the gorge.
3. Rains Spoil the Rafting Fun
Many aspiring rafters wonder if adventures are carried out during the rains, and the short answer is yes. Colorado’s river regions are renowned for erratic weather, and even on rainy days, it is possible to spot pockets of sunshine.
In case the weather gets risky with thunderstorms, there are places along the bank to pause and wait it out. On rainy days, the view may seem a little clouded, but for the most part, there’s nothing to worry about because you’ll get splashed anyways (why worry where the water’s coming from?).
4. Rafting is an Extreme Sport
While white water rafting is undoubtedly an adventure sport, it is by no means an extreme one. Not only the inexperienced and the non-swimmers, but even children can enjoy the activity in the shallow waters of Clear Creek.
The professionals ensure that you are safely tucked into the safety gear, and they take every precaution needed to navigate the waters. First-timers may naturally feel a bit more apprehensive, but all of it usually turns into wide grinning as the assurance of being watched by an expert settles in.
Best Places for Colorado White Water Rafting
We’re well aware that one exhilarating trip is not enough to explore all 30 white water rafting locations that Colorado has to offer. This is why listed below are the top three for all kinds of rafters –
This section of Colorado white water rafting comes under the Arkansas River – the most popular river among rafters. The Brown’s Canyon section is ranked as beginner/intermediate, offering solid Class III and IV rapids based on the season.
Usually, the river waves are strongest in this section during the month of June. The Canyon itself is a National Monument, offering breathtaking views of rugged mountain ranges and bizarre rock formations. This region can be covered in a half-day’s trip.
Also a part of the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge section is considered to be among the most challenging, full of Class IV and V rapids. This region is suitable for experienced paddlers looking for a wild ride along the waters.
Besides turbulent waters, the Gorge itself narrows down to just 25 feet where steep drops and challenging rapids are all too common. If you’re looking for the ultimate Colorado white water rafting experience, the Royal Gorge is your destination.
Bighorn Sheep Canyon
If you want a family-friendly rafting experience along the Arkansas River, the Bighorn Sheep Canyon section is the most suitable. Featuring mostly Class I to III rapids, this region can be paddled by adults and children alike (under the supervision of established outfitters).
As you ride on the waves, absorb the spectacular Canyon and keep an eye out for the namesake bighorn sheep. This region can also be covered in a half-day’s trip or combined with Brown’s Canyon for an entire day of fun and rafting.
Important Dos and Don’ts to Keep in Mind
The best rafting experience – one filled with thrill, joy, and fun – is reserved for those who are prepared ahead of time. Since there are risks involved with Colorado white water rafting, it is best to know the important dos and don’ts.
1. DO Pay Attention to the Outfitters
Before your rafting experience begins, the professionals will conduct a short training session to familiarize you with the paddle, safety gear, waters, etc. Take this time to carefully listen to the instructions being given.
If you have any confusion, do not hesitate to ask at once. This will spare you anxiety and panic when things take a slightly unexpected turn.
2. DON’T Carry Anything Along That You Mind Losing
On a white water rafting adventure, there is always the possibility of the boat tipping over or at least hitting unforeseen bumps along the way. When either happens, people end up losing their watches, expensive jewelry, or cell phones.
In cases where the gadgets are not water-resistant, the water may damage them. This is why it is best to leave such items behind at home or in the car.
3. DO Stay Within Your Comfort Zone
This instruction works in two ways – choose to go with milder rapids if you’re unsure about paddling along Class III and IV. An anxious trip will scarcely make for an enjoyable one.
Also, never attempt to jump out of the boat unless advised to do so by your rafting guide. Even if the situation demands, your guide is well-acquainted with the river’s layout, knowing where there are rocks, where the water is clear and shallow, etc. Trust them and wait for their cue.
According to the Colorado Rivers Outfitters Association, over 620,000 people participated in rafting tours in 2021. It is expected that the numbers will be higher in 2023. Perhaps it’s time for you to raise the figures?
The final pro-tip is to not let worry consume you, whether you’re an amateur, a seasoned expert, or someone who had a previous unpleasant experience. Just choose reliable professionals, listen closely to their instructions, and gear yourself for a rich taste of pure bliss!