Each summer Colorado’s more than 150 rivers swell with snowmelt runoff and create some of the country’s best whitewater waves. Whether you are a novice paddler or well-practiced rafter, chances are you will be tempted to put-in at least once this season. Rapid intensity varies–even along the same river–so to keep angling for the best current instead of heading for shore, check the class descriptions and latest water updates before launching. To help narrow your choices, we searched out three different rides, based on class, to get you on your way.
Class I-II, aka beginner: Lower Eagle River
The trip starts with free-flow and easy ripples before heading to moderate waters, with just a smidge of class III rapids so it doesn’t seem like a float. Commercial trips are a great family-friendly option.
Class III-IV, intermediate: Upper Clear Creek River
You will start with some short stretches of class II water to warm up your muscles before forging through Class III and IV rapids on your way back to Idaho Springs. Clear Creek is popular, so plan to embark in the wee hours or book an organized trip well in advance.
Class IV-V, aka advanced: The Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River
Royal Gorge is the quintessential, classic rapid of the Arkansas River. Paddlers will drop down through picturesque rock formations, before running the narrow canyon of class IV and V rapids.
Put-in: Parkdale on U.S. 50
Length: Half-day or full-day, depending on where you get out.