Rafting on Clear Creek – History
Colorado Adventure Center offers whitewater rafting adventures for every experience level, from scenic float trips on which you get a chance to view wildlife or sit quietly listening to nature, to heart-stopping whitewater rapids with crashing waves and vigorous paddling. To enhance your rafting experience, why not get familiar with Clear Creek and the class of rapids you will be navigating. Here is a little history on Clear Creek and its different sections of whitewater.
Clear Creek is the 2nd most rafted river in Colorado, and for good reason. With more rapids per mile than any other river in Colorado, Clear Creek offers world class rafting conveniently located just 45 minutes from Downtown Denver. Clear Creek is a tributary of the South Platte River, approximately 66 miles long. The creek flows through Clear Creek Canyon in the Rocky Mountains, directly west of Denver, and descends through a long gorge where it emerges on the Colorado Eastern Plains and eventually joins the South Platte River. Clear Creek is unusual because it is actually a stream, but named a “creek” and is fed by stream called a “river” – the Fall River, which empties into Clear Creek along I-70 west of Idaho Springs.
Clear Creek is famous for its location as one of the most intense early gold mining hot spots during the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859. Clear Creek also provided the route for the Colorado Central Railroad and later, U.S. Highway 6 and I-70.
The Clear Creek riverbed is composed of blasted river rock as a result of the gold mining industry. This is what creates the rumbling rapids through Clear Creek Canyon as water flows over river rock and makes for challenging raft trips as you navigate through these giant boulders and class II – IV rapids. Appropriately named by French hunters on the Stephen H. Long expedition as early as 1820, Clear Creek was originally called Cannonball Creek – after the oversized river rock. In the 1830s, Clear Creek became known as Vasquez Fork and later, Vasquez River, after fur trader Louis Vasquez who built his fort at the mouth of Clear Creek and trapped along it. Clear Creek officially gained its present name from the gold rushers in 1859.
Kayakers discovered Clear Creek in the 1950s, but were chase away with the construction of I-70. Then, in 1989, commercial rafting kicked off on Clear Creek and has since become one of Colorado’s most popular whitewater rafting and kayaking destinations.
Clear Creek has an average gradient of 67 feet per mile and over 100 feet per mile on its advanced sections – simply meaning more rapids per mile. Clear Creek is divided into different sections according to class of rapids from perfect beginner rapids to thrilling intermediate and heart-racing advance sections. Here at Colorado Adventure Center’s Idaho Springs Base Camp, Clear Creek typically runs from Class II to Class IV rapids, providing fast-paced, exciting white water conveniently located along I-70. Colorado Adventure Center runs beginner rafting trips between Idaho Springs and Two Bears Tap and Grill (previously historic Kermits), and intermediate and advance trips along the neighboring historic mining towns of Dumont and Lawson.
A little further up the the hill from Denver, the Upper Clear Creek runs Class III and IV rapids, offering exhilarating white water that is both fast-paced and challenging. For even more of a challenge, the Lower Clear Creek Canyon, close to Golden, houses Class III and V rapids. This exciting section of white water provides a great side raft trip just outside the city.. While fun to watch, this section is advanced, steep, technical, and demanding white water, and not for the faint of heart!
Now that you’ve learned a little history about Clear Creek and the types of rapids you will be cruising on, check out our raft trip pages and book your raft trip today!