DENVER– Mid-season Colorado rafting conditions are ripe and there are still plenty of adventures to be had this summer. With late season snow, cooler temperatures, slow runoff and higher water levels dominating most of June, July is bringing more steady water flow levels that promise to run for an extended season into at least early fall.
Temperatures throughout the state have warmed up, and with flows returning to more moderate levels, rafting trips with professional outfitters are starting to book out. In 2018, Colorado’s commercial rafting companies hosted more than 520,000 rafters over the course of the season, resulting in a nearly $176 million economic impact across the state. Members of the Colorado River Outfitters Association collectively raft more than 30 distinct stretches of river across eight major water basins.
“Water conditions vary by the river – all geographic areas have different levels of rafting, but we’re anticipating many runs will be open later this season than they have in several years,” said CROA Executive Director, David Costlow. “Durango has family to wild rafting, as does the Buena Vista to Canon City area. The Cache la Poudre outside Fort Collins, the Rio Grande near Creede, all sections of the Colorado and the Taylor near Crested Butte are enjoying consistent and full level flows. Talk with an outfitter of choice and take their suggestions, they know the best route for your preferences.”
Rafting outside of Glenwood Springs, Winter Park/Steamboat and Grand Junction will continue into the fall; most likely lasting until into October; the traditional close of the regular rafting season. The Animas in Durango should flow through September and the Poudre should have rafting to early September. In some sections, the Arkansas River will flow through September and Clear Creek will be raftable at fun flows to the middle or late August.
For comparison, last year at this time, some trips were unavailable due the low water levels. This year the steady melt and temperatures have delayed low water and is allowing outfitters to offer a range of moderate level trips for the next several weeks. Except for a few extreme runs, most all sections are available for rafting.
The Colorado River Outfitters Association (CROA) offers the following tips for both tourists, and locals alike, looking to book a rafting trip this season:
Raft close to where you are vacationing. There are many types of rafting options out there – if you have a vacation planned, it could be the perfect opportunity to check with an outfitter nearby to see if they have availability. This is a great starting point to get you out on the water. Then, discuss options with them to tailor your trip experience.
Choose a trip that is appropriate for you. Once you know where you are located either due to a planned vacation or day trip, most outfitters offer a variety of trips from more family friendly options to more extreme adventures, which can be selected based on experience level, fitness and desires for the trip.
Bring the kids! Rafting can be a wonderful experience for children, and Colorado outfitters offer many trips appropriate for kids. This time of year, some trips allow children as young as four. Still, be sure to verify any age and weight restrictions in place for the given conditions on the trips you’re considering.
Listen to the guide. Rafting guides are specially trained and experienced, as well as knowledgeable about local history, culture, geology and wildlife.
Know what to bring and wear. Some items are generally considered standard for any Colorado rafting trip. The outfitter will give you a list of what they have and suggested additional items you may need to bring. For example, an outfitter will have life jackets (PFDs), splash jackets, wetsuits and paddles but suggested items to bring may include quick drying shorts or swimsuits, river sandals or old tennis shoes, sunscreen, lip balm, change of clothes, etc.