The hot summer sun beats down on your back as the sereneness of the river envelopes around you. The steep canyon walls rising on either side of you affords a sense of isolation and awe as you glance through the clear green water to the colorful rock colored river bottom. All seems quiet as you listen to the lazy chirping of the birds perched on the rocky ledges and tree branches. A distant, low rumbling sound begins to fill the canyon. Your river guide stands and searches downstream. The rest of the group begins to stare at the seemingly calm river ahead. The sound grows louder and more distinct and you know that sound can only mean one thing: whitewater. Your heart rate rises and your hand grips your paddle tighter as you too begin to search downstream for the sight of the inevitable. Your guide sits and asks the group to double check that everyone’s life vests are securely fastened. The sound now feels like it’s all around you and as you glance downstream you see a horizon line across the river with water spouting on the far side. The rubber raft slowly floats on in its inevitable march towards the obstacle ahead. You hear your guide yell behind you “forward three strokes” in an effort to propel you and your crew down the chute even faster. Your heart rate peaks as you approach the precipice of the drop and the water begins to pull the boat into the turbulent water ahead. You get the first glance at the churning water below just before the boat nose dives into a curling wave and you feel the jolt of rubber flexing against the awesome power of the river and the gush of gallons of water hitting your body. “Forward!” shouts the river guide over the crashing sound that surrounds you. You dig your paddle into the water as the boat pops up on top of the wave and spins away down the river. Excitement overtakes your crew as the hooting and hollering commences and you join in reveling in your survival. Adrenaline courses through your soaked body as you raise your paddle in the customary “paddle five” with the rest of your crew. Your guide commends your success and comments “that’s the first drop, only 8 more to go!”
Rafting in Colorado is a unique and unforgettable experience that is sure to excite even the most adrenaline junky person in your group. Whether it’s your first time on the water or you’re a seasoned pro, there is a stretch of river that’s perfect for you. Check out three of our whitewater rafting partners — Arkansas Valley Adventures, KODI Rafting and Performance Tours — and they can help you plan your whitewater trip anywhere in the country! By the way, all three companies offer discounted rafting trips to anyone who stays with Summit Mountain Rentals. Check out all of our favorite raft trips around our area below!
Family Float Trips
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
Read more: Raft roadmap
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.
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.
Read more: Squamish rafting
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.
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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.
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 www.summitrentals.com.