Travel: Raft the Arkansas River

March 21 2013, 9:00 AM

It's that time of year: Not quite spring, but enough warm days are peppered between intermittent snow storms to make a gal daydream of summer. Next week, spring break will have tourists flocking to Colorado to get in the last of their winter ski runs, but locals can start making the transition to warmer weather activities now.

Saturday marked the official beginning of Colorado's whitewater rafting season. During March and April, warmer water and air temperatures mean that rafting conditions are perfect at lower elevations of the Arkansas River. These spring trips wind through sections of the Royal Gorge and Bighorn Sheep Canyon near Parkdale and Cañon City—some of the best rapids on the river. 

And there are perks to hitting the rapids this time of year. "We tend to see more wildlife in the early season and typically our guests have the river to themselves, providing a very exclusive feel," says Andy Neinas, owner of Echo Canyon River Expeditions. Last year Raft Masters saw about 200 rafters from March 15 through May 28. Compare that to 10,000 people from the mid-June through mid-August peak time.

If you've still got one foot in your ski boots, here's another option: Raft Masters offers a Raft and Snowmobile package that consists of a half day of rafting through the Royal Gorge followed by a 2-hour guided snowmobile tour the next day. So there: you can have your snow and raft it, too. 

—Image courtesy of Raft Masters 

Follow digital assistant editor Davina van Buren on Twitter at @davinavanburen or on Pinterest