Frequently asked questions about rafting in Colorado

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River Runners Colorado

The River Runners FAQ

River Runners is known as the whitewater professionals, and our staff have been asked all kinds of questions through the years. Check out this list of Colorado rafting FAQs. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, please give us a call at 800-723-8987.


 1. How long has River Runners been in business?

River Runners started in 1972 as the first commercial river outfitter on Colorado’s Arkansas River. Jon Donaldson and Kevin Meadows have owned and operated the company since 2003. They both have been in the outfitting business since the early 90s when they started as river guides.

 2. Are rafting companies regulated?

All commercial river outfitters in Colorado are regulated by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and all guides must complete an extensive training program to meet criteria outlined by the state. River Runners exceeds the minimum qualifications for Colorado river guides by more than double. *The Arkansas River is managed by a sub-division of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife called the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA).

 3. Why should I choose River Runners?

There are many reasons to choose River Runners over any other rafting company, but they can be summed up with experience, customer service, location and equipment.

Experience:
As a long-time river outfitter River Runners has an established training program that has been passed on and improved upon for generations. As a large outfitter our guides are on the river every day.

Customer Service:
Our staff is passionate about what they do from the first phone call to the shuttle back from the river. A safe and positive guest experience is our number one priority.

Location:
River Runners has four locations on the Arkansas River, which is double that of any other outfitter. This gives you more trip options. Three locations are on the Arkansas River and the Royal Gorge location is right at the turn-off to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park with easy shuttles to and from the river.

Equipment:
River Runners invests in new equipment every year to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the river.

 4. Is whitewater rafting safe?

Rafting the Arkansas River.

The first step to staying safe: choose the right trip for your group

Whitewater rafting is a fun summer activity with a range of difficulties for almost all ages and abilities, but as with any activity there are inherent risks and you will need to sign a waiver to participate. You have taken the first step of mitigating that risk by researching an experienced outfitter. Certain river trips have less risk than others and choosing an appropriate level of whitewater for your group is critical. Call 800-723-8987 to speak with a whitewater professional about your options.

 5. Can I go rafting if I can’t swim?

Swimming is a recommended skill for all whitewater activities, but not always mandatory. Beginner trips are less risky for non-swimmers, especially at lower to moderate water levels. Personal flotation devices are mandatory on every outing and are designed to help keep your head above water.

6. Do we have to paddle?

You can choose a paddle raft (everyone paddles), an oar raft (guide rows and no one paddles) or a paddle assist (guide rows and guests help paddle).

 7. What are the age requirements to go rafting?

Age guidelines vary for the different rafting trips based on the degree of difficulty. These guidelines can go up or down depending on the flow of the river, so please call if someone in your group is near the cutoff.

Age guidelines for raft trips departing from the Buena Vista location at South Main

  • The Happy Hour Float (Beginner) – Class III
    Recommended minimum age is 8
  • The Narrows (Intermediate) – Class III-IV
    Recommended minimum age is 10
  • The Numbers (Advanced) – Class IV-V
    Recommended minimum age is 14
  • Pine Creek (Extreme) – Class V
    Recommended minimum age is 18

Age guidelines for raft trips departing from River Runners at Browns Canyon

  • Family Float (Beginner) – Class I-II
    Recommended minimum age is 3 years old and 35 lbs.
  • Browns Canyon (Intermediate) – Class III-IV
    Recommended minimum age is 6 years old and at least 50 pounds

Age guidelines for river trips departing from the Salida outpost

  • Salida Town Run (Beginner) – Class I-II
    Recommended minimum age is 6 years old and 50 lbs.
  • SUP and Kayak Tours (Intermediate) – Class II
    Recommended minimum age is 12 years old and strong swimmer

Age Guidelines for raft trips departing from the Cañon City location at the Royal Gorge

  • Royal Gorge (Advanced) – Class IV – V
    Recommended minimum age is 14
  • Bighorn Sheep Canyon (Intermediate) – Class III-IV
    Recommended minimum age is 6 years old and at least 50 pounds

 8. When and where do we meet?

Plan to arrive 45 minutes prior to the scheduled trip departure time. River Runners trips depart from four different locations depending on what you book. River Runners at Browns Canyon is the meeting place for Browns Canyon, the Family Float and all overnight rafting trips; River Runners at South Main is the meeting place for the Numbers, the Narrows and the Happy Hour Float; River Runners at Salida is the meeting place for the Salida Town Run, Stand Up Paddle Board tours and Inflatable Kayak trips; and River Runners at the Royal Gorge is the meeting place for the Royal Gorge and Bighorn Sheep Canyon. Your confirmation e-mail includes the departure time and meeting place. It is your responsibility to know where your trip meets. If you are unsure, please call to confirm.

 9. Are life jackets provided?

Life jackets and helmets are required.

Yes. We provide the highest quality Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (pfds). Your pfd will be fitted and checked by a guide and all buckles must be clipped while on the river. Helmets are also required on every trip except the Family Float.

 10. Do people ever fall out of the raft?

Yes, people fall out of the raft from time to time, but if you pay attention and listen to your guide, the chances of falling out are small. Young children, people with disabilities and non-swimmers can request an oar raft with a senior guide, which will further reduce the risk of falling out.

 11. Is there a guide on each raft?

Yes. Each raft has a highly qualified guide. Each guide has completed an extensive training program with more than double the requirements set by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

 12. What should I wear/bring?

This is largely weather dependent, but you should plan to wear quick-dry clothing like fleece, poly-pro and board shorts, plus secure footwear like strapped sandals or an old pair of tennis shoes. Wetsuits, neoprene boots, and splash jackets are included in the cost of your trip. Cotton, flip-flops and Crocs are not appropriate. We also recommend sunglasses, sunscreen, and personal drinking water. Your guide will have a dry bag for small items, but please keep towels and dry clothes in your vehicle.

 13. Do I need to bring extra money?

It is a good idea to bring extra money for souvenirs, food, and photos of your trip. Guide gratuity is also appropriate, if you have a good time on your raft trip.

 14. Is lunch provided?

A catered riverside lunch is provided on full day raft trips and an onsite Riverside Bar & Grill is available at the rafting resort. Half-day trips do not include lunch.

 15. When is the best time to go rafting in Colorado?

The Colorado rafting season runs from April through Labor Day. The most exciting time to go whitewater rafting is during spring run-off, which occurs from late-May through mid-July. The best time for timid rafters and young families is July and August. Learn more about the best time to go rafting in Colorado for your group.

 16. Do I need to book in advance?

Advanced reservations are highly recommended, but walk-ins are welcome if space is available. This is not always the case – especially during peak season and on weekends. You can save 10% instantly if you book at least one month in advance or book online with promo code: RAFT10.

 17. Is transportation provided to the river?

Shuttle are provided.

Browns Canyon raft trips depart from River Runners

River Runners will provide transportation from the meeting location to the river, and back to the office where your vehicle is parked following the trip. All four outposts are located at or near the river put-ins and take-outs.

 18. Are raft trips canceled due to weather?

Raft trips depart daily rain or shine and are almost never canceled with the exception of an extreme event such as a wildfire or a large snowstorm in early spring.

 19. What is the cancellation policy?

If you cancel your reservation at least 14 days prior to your trip date, you will receive a refund less $10 per person cancellation fee. Cancellations made inside of 14 days are not subject to refund. We will hold your funds in the form of a rain check – less $10 per person cancellation fee – to be used through the following season.