Surging snowpack sets the stage for epic whitewater on Colorado’s Arkansas River

Mount Princeton near Buena Vista, Colorado.

In the heart of Colorado, the Upper Arkansas River Basin is currently bustling with anticipation. As snowpack levels surge and reservoirs brim with life-giving water, the stage is set for another epic whitewater rafting season.

Snowpack in the Upper Arkansas River Basin is tracking at 117% of normal for this time of year, just two weeks shy of the average peak. This surplus, combined with robust reservoir storage and above-average imports from the Fry Ark project, signals the promise of an exciting water year on the Arkansas River.

The Voluntary Flow Management Program (VFMP) is on track with an allocation of 10,000 acre-feet. This program targets at least 700 CFS at the Wellsville Gauge near Salida, Colorado from July 1 – August 15. In a year like this, we may not need it. The VFMP also targets to keep the river low during the early spring and fall for the fishery. 

The Best Time to Go Rafting

If you are planning a Colorado summer vacation, the question may arise: when is the best time to go whitewater rafting? While peak season on the Arkansas River spans Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day, the timing of high water and family-friendly flows can significantly influence the rafting experience.

June typically brings the peak of high water, offering thrill-seekers the opportunity to conquer challenging rapids fueled by the snowmelt. This period caters to experienced rafters seeking the ultimate adrenaline rush, but there are still beginner tours during runoff.

As summer progresses, July and August bring gentler flows ideal for nervous first-timers and families with children. These months provide a perfect balance of adventure and safety, allowing for memorable rafting experiences without the intensity of peak runoff.

Regardless of the time chosen for your adventure, the Arkansas River promises something for nearly all ability levels.

Book Now, Spring Sale Ends April 1

Save 15% on River Runners whitewater rafting tours if you book by Monday, April 1, 2024, with promo code: SPRING. Raft any date from May 24 through Labor Day.