Pro tips for whitewater rafting in Colorado this summer

Posted on March 28, 2019

High water rafting trips.

Get ready for high water on the Arkansas River

A big snowpack equals big whitewater in Colorado, but there are still tour options for beginners. Whether you are looking to hit peak runoff or find something more family friendly, we’ve compiled a few points to help you plan your raft trip this summer.

PRO TIP: The best whitewater rafting in Colorado is on the Arkansas River – just two hours and 20 minutes from Downtown Denver or one hour and 15 minutes from Colorado Springs. 

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Pro tips for whitewater rafting in Colorado

Hire a whitewater guide company

Unless you are an expert whitewater boater with all of the proper equipment, you need to hire a licensed whitewater guide company to help you find the best rafting trip and keep you safe on the river.

Know your abilities and the limits of your group

Whitewater rafting can be fun and safe for nearly all ages and abilities, but you need to match the right trip and conditions with the collective limits of your group. High water is not the best time to go rafting if you or someone in your group can’t swim, has a health condition, or if you are rafting with young children.

Choose the best time to go rafting for your group

High water normally occurs towards the end of May and into June. This year you can expect big flows through June and into July. As a general rule, high water provides the most excitement, but July and August are a better time to go rafting if you are timid or have younger kids (ages six to 12). If you can only get to Colorado in June there are alternate routes for a fun and safe experience.

What to wear

A big runoff means cold water. Wetsuits, splash jackets, and neoprene boots are included with all River Runners tours, but extra layers will make you more comfortable. Wool socks, polypro, and fleece all can be worn underneath the gear provided. No cotton! It’s hard to put on a wetsuit when it’s hot outside, but there will be a time this summer when wetsuits are required during high water. It’s a safety precaution that you will understand when waves are crashing over the raft!

Choose the right rafting trip

Picking the right rafting trip for you and your family is important during high water. Our minimum ages can change during big flows and we will do our best to accommodate your trip. Rafting Browns Canyon and Bighorn Sheep Canyon, which are normally great for younger or inexperienced rafters may become advanced tours. In this case, we would bump trips to the Milk Run or Salida Town Run which are more appropriate for younger kids and timid rafters at high flows.

Advanced experiences such as rafting the Royal Gorge and the Numbers do close at certain levels to all commercial rafting companies. Make no mistake, if you are looking for excitement, this is the best time to go whitewater rafting. It means the river is HUGE and you are experiencing levels that we rarely see.

We are here to help

One of the many great things about the Arkansas River is the number of access points that allow us to move trips to comparable sections. Our expert staff monitor river conditions by the hour and will make game-time decisions that error on the side of caution. Our goal is to show you a good time and keep you safe on the river. Still have questions? Call 800-723-8987 or contact us.