Settled into the middle row of the lime green boat, I heard the captain call, “Be sure you’re holding on!”
I grasped the handrail in front of me, bracing my feet as an uncontrollable grin spread across my face. We raced down the Colorado river, wind catching my hair as the boat suddenly whirled into a spin, a fan of water arcing over the back of the boat, spraying us with a fine mist. I couldn’t help it—I laughed and asked if we could do it again.
I was a passenger on board the Wild Mustang, a New Zealand-style jet boat that’s the baby of Jet Boat Colorado, the only jet boat tour operator in Colorado. The company, which offered its first ride in summer 2016, operates out of De Beque, located just 25 miles east of Grand Junction. Described as “a boat tour like no other, part rafting, part rodeo, and part race car,” Jet Boat Colorado takes guests up and down a section of the Colorado river that you’re not likely to see in another craft: It’s the only tour operator on this stretch of water.
“I think one of the coolest things is how much river you get to see in such a short time,” says Joe Keys, manager of Jet Boat Colorado. “In an hour, we cover what it would take a full day to cover in a raft or canoe.”
The scenic aspect of the ride is part of the appeal. From the water, passengers get a unique perspective of the Book Cliffs, Battlement, and Grand Mesa while the captain shares bits of history and local lore. The wildlife viewing is spectacular, too: We saw a herd of deer eating lunch on an island in the middle of the river, we watched wild turkeys gobble from the shore, and we got an up-close view of a female bald eagle minding her nest—one of three bald eagles we saw on our tour.
But gorgeous scenery aside, the real appeal of this excursion is the adrenaline rush. Though the company offers a scenic tour, which takes a more meandering pace (and leaves passengers dryer), the adventure tour is the most popular ride by far.
The boat itself is a work of art: Sleek and shallow, it gets its power from a 6.2-liter, fuel-injected engine that creates 420 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque. And, because the boat uses a jet unit instead of a traditional, exposed propeller, the Wild Mustang can run in water as shallow as four inches, letting Keys run through places that other boats can’t go.
“Colorado has a speed limit of 40 miles per hour,” Keys says. “The boat will way exceed the speed limit—but it’s more about maneuverability than it is about speed. It doesn’t take much to feel like you’re going fast on the river.”
It’s that feeling of speed and the fishtails, power slides, speed runs, and the famous “Cowboy Spin” that makes this cruise memorable.
“It’s the spin factor [that sets us apart]. There’s nothing else out there that does that. If you do that in anything else,” Keys says with a laugh, “You’re not doing it right—something went wrong.”
If you go: Jet Boat Colorado: Adventure Tours are $59 for adults, $49 for children 13 years old and younger, adults over 70, and the military; Scenic Tours are $15 more. Tours depart daily through Sept. 3 for the summer 2018 season. Find more at jetboatcolorado.com or 970-644-1121.