Adventures at the Top and Bottom of the Arkansas River Valley
Colorado Raft and Zip Line Packages
By Casey Fitchett, Adventure Blogger, River Runners
There aren’t too many places where you can zip line over the headwaters of a river in the morning and whitewater raft on that same river’s rapids in the afternoon.
River Runners offers Colorado Raft and Zip Line Packages that include either a morning of whitewater rafting and an afternoon zip line tour or vice versa. For my adventure, I chose to spend the morning soaring through the brisk high altitude air in Leadville, Colorado and the afternoon rafting class II-III rapids through Brown’s Canyon near Buena Vista, Colorado.
Top of the Rockies Zip Line demonstrates a stunning feat of engineering combined with an impeccable backdrop of the Rocky Mountains at 11,000 feet in altitude. After a quick and simple check-in at the main building on the property, our guides for the day fit us for harnesses and helmets. The group of ten meandered to the beginner “bunny zip” to learn the proper technique and experience the hands-free stopping mechanism on all the zips.
Though slightly bumpy, the ride on the 6-ton Monster Truck from the base camp to the top provided spectacular views of the surrounding area, including an aerial view of the origin of the Arkansas River. I stared at the humble beginning of the second most rafted river in the United States and began to daydream about the rapids I would tackle later in the day. It wasn’t long before a bump on the trail jolted me back to the present moment.
The five zips took us over the river and through the woods (yes, one of them was named “To Grandma’s House”) down the side of the mountain. A few of the zips allowed us to grab a partner and soar side-by-side for the entirety of the 600-foot long zip. On the “Leap of Faith” zip, one couple held hands as they ran and jumped off the platform together, happily squealing as they sped towards the next platform.
As we finished the final zip, our guide pointed out the sixth zip in construction. This final line is set to be completed this fall and will eliminate the need for a shuttle from the end platform back to the office. For now, we hopped in a van for the short 5-minute drive back to the main office.
The photographer who had been following us around for the day appeared in his shop, having already separated the pictures by group and put them on the screen for us to watch. The photos turned out great; the smiles on our faces were genuine and the angles captured the natural beauty of the landscape.
From Leadville, I hopped in the car and followed the Arkansas River south to the River Runners outpost in Buena Vista to raft the famous Brown’s Canyon that afternoon. Before checking in for the rafting trip, hunger struck. Luckily the River Runners Riverside Grill was serving up some of their delicious fish tacos, giving me the fuel I needed to paddle through the class II, III, and IV rapids. I ate my lunch right on the bank of the Arkansas, soaking up the sunshine and watching the kayakers, stand up paddle boarders, and other rafters enter the canyon.
Rafting through Brown’s Canyon is always a magnificent experience, especially for those who might have lost touch with their appreciation for nature. Brown’s Canyon is currently a Wilderness Study Area, which means that it is being federally protected and conserved. The result for tourists and rafters is a pristine experience in an undeveloped nature area.
There is plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and watch the wildlife – BUT WAIT! Don’t forget to paddle! Here comes Zoom Flume rapid! Smile for the photographer!
By listening to Stan, our guide, my boat didn’t let rapids like Raft Ripper and Widowmaker live up to their respective names. Stan’s careful maneuvering around rocks combined with our ability to paddle on cue led us to a splashy and fun three-hour trip. On the bus ride back to the outpost, Stan amused us with his comedic skills (be sure to ask him about the “SMT” on your next trip) to pass the time.
Concerned about the August water levels? Don’t be! The flows are great for this time of year and your rafting trip is guaranteed to get you wet.
With Browns Canyon rafting through Labor Day of 2013, there is only a month left to experience the best of Colorado by air with Top of the Rockies Zip Line and water with River Runners! Call 800-723-8987 or book your Colorado rafting trip online.