Great Whitewater Extends Colorado Arkansas River Rafting Season

Great Whitewater Extends Colorado Arkansas River Rafting Season

Abundant water supplies in the mountains of Colorado will extend the whitewater rafting season this year, according to the Arkansas River Outfitters Association.

“We are having an unprecedented season,” AROA President Brandon Slate said. “We’ve already seen unbelievable river flows into August and that is expected to continue through Labor Day.”

August trips are delivering fun rafting typically seen in late June or July on the Arkansas River, Wilderness Aware Rafting guide Catelin Miles said.

“This is the prefect level to run the river because you still have big splashes that cover the boat,” Miles said. “Every day, we have spring water but with warmer summer temperatures.”

Colorado’s Arkansas River is fed by snowmelt from the state’s highest rocky peaks, bringing whitewater tumbling down for the nearly quarter-million visitors that go paddling each season. The river offers Class II-V sections as it drops 4,650 feet over 100 miles before leaving the Rocky Mountains.

Frequent afternoon rains this year naturally watered crops in the southeast portion of the state, allowing snowmelt to be stored in high-altitude reservoirs that were still full as of the second week of August.

“Water storage is in good shape and recreation benefits greatly from that,” AROA Executive Director Bob Hamel said.

As agricultural producers need the water for irrigation, it will be released from reservoirs and sent downstream through popular rafting sections such as Browns Canyon National Monument and the Royal Gorge, extending the boating season into the fall.

Variety is what makes the Arkansas River the country’s most popular rafting destination. The Class III sections in Browns Canyon and Bighorn Sheep Canyon are available to kids ages 7 and up. The trips are popular for intermediate-level rapids and granite spire walls that plunge to the river banks.

The Royal Gorge offers more technical Class IV boating challenges and stunning beauty as the river flows through a 1,200-foot granite chasm and under the Royal Gorge Bridge towering overhead.

Visitors can choose from half-day, full-day and multi-day camping trips on the river.

For information about current water levels and booking a Colorado whitewater rafting adventure, contact an Arkansas River outfitter at

Agreement Supports Longest Rafting Season on Colorado’s Arkansas River

Agreement Supports Longest Rafting Season on Colorado’s Arkansas River

A successful water management agreement on the Arkansas River exemplifies Colorado’s dedication to its natural resources and the visitor experiences they support, according to the Arkansas River Outfitters Association (AROA).

The Arkansas River Voluntary Flow Management Program helps ensure there is water for whitewater rafting on the river well into August. The cooperative agreement among water users is unique in that it includes recreation in water management decisions.

AROA is part of the agreement with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and other agencies that not only supports summer flows for whitewater rafting, but also manages water year-round for a healthy fishery.

The program, which started in 1990, is a model management technique for all other rivers in the American West. It allows whitewater rafting outfitters to offer the longest boating season in Colorado, AROA Executive Director Bob Hamel said.

“The water program recognizes that recreation is part of our lifestyle, and that its economic impact is important,” Hamel said.

Whitewater rafting generated $179.8 million in spending among the state’s commercial users last year, according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

The Arkansas River is America’s most popular whitewater rafting destination, hosting nearly a quarter of a million visitors last season and attracting kayakers and private rafters from around the world. The river hosts more than 40 percent of the state’s commercial rafting market, in part due to the longer season, but also because its 100-plus miles of whitewater rapids offer something for nearly everyone.

Technical boating, mild family float trips, multi-day camping and inn-to-inn rafting, plus standup paddle boarding and kayaking, are popular trips among families and friends of all ages.

With the mountain towns of Salida, Buena Vista and CaƱon City nearby, visitors lengthen their stays and plan additional outdoor fun like horseback riding, ATV tours and hiking the area’s concentration of 14,000-foot peaks.

More than 100 miles of the Arkansas River was designated Gold Medal in 2014, meaning anglers can expect trophy trout fishing on a long, contiguous river segment that constitutes nearly a third of the state’s Gold Medal miles.