Don’t let the weather report kill your stoke. There is still whitewater, and Colorado rafting is good well into September in Colorado’s high country—if you’re willing to pack an extra layer and float a little slower. (With enough food and drink onboard, we think you’ll hardly notice.) Below, our five favorite late-season river stretches, because in Colorado, we can keep our oars in the water ’til the snowflakes start to fall.

Arkansas River: Bighorn Sheep Canyon

A decrepit train next to dark flatwater on the Big Horn Sheep Canyon section of the Arkansas River, beneath gray skies.
Echo-o-o-o-o-o-o! Find perfect solitude on the Bighorn Sheep Canyon section of the Arkansas River when you wait for late summer. Photo by Josette Deschambeault

If spunky waves sprinkled with a few technical rapids are just your speed, the Big Horn Sheep Canyon run brings the magic even after the summer crowds thin out. This stretch features two solid rapids with great scouting points—3 Rocks and Spikebuck. Take advantage of them, since the carnage can be YouTube gold. Passengers can spend their time searching for this run’s namesake rams, which tiptoe along rocky ledges above the water year-round. The rest of the trip features sporty read-and-run water that will make you appreciate your post-paddle pint more than usual.

Upper Colorado River: Shoshone Power Plant

Two happy paddlers sit on the edge of a blue boat on the Shoshone Power Plant section of the Upper Colorado River.
Two happy paddlers on the Shoshone Power Plant section of the Upper Colorado River. Photo by Josette Deschambeault

The Shoshone run is one of the few truly year-round stretches of raftable river in Colorado, and it’s just as enjoyable in September as it is in July—with fewer pushy waves. If you want a short, sassy trip to stay warm in cooler weather, this three-rapid stretch is just the ticket. Wave to the I-70 leaf-peepers as you float, negotiating Maneater, Tombstone, and All Day Wave. Want to extend your river time? Float down about six more miles of Class II water and take out at Two Rivers Park in Glenwood Springs instead.

Colorado River: Ruby Canyon to Horsethief Canyon

A tiny raft floats down the Colorado River on the famous Ruby-Horsethief section, set between stark orange sandstone walls.
I Spy: a tiny raft floating the Colorado River on the Ruby-Horsethief section. Photo by Josette Deschambeault

If you missed out on a permit for the Big Ditch, take a flyer on the “Little Grand Canyon” this fall. This 25-mile, Class I/II float showcases lookalike orange sandstone, plus Vishnu schist—the same stuff that’s exposed in the Grand Canyon. Turn this Colorado rafting classic into an easy overnight for first-time rowers or a laidback three-day weekend by overnighting at any of the 33 campsites along the banks. (Build time into your itinerary for side hikes and exploration.) Reservation permits are required, and make sure you check in with a friendly neighborhood river ranger at the Loma launch.

Upper Colorado River: Cottonwood Island to Dotsero

Yellow aspens dot the mountainsides along the dark flatwater on the Upper Colorado River between Cottonwood Island and Dotsero.
Yellow underbrush peppers the banks and golden aspens dot the mountainsides along the Upper Colorado River between Cottonwood Island and Dotsero. Photo by Josette Deschambeault

Don’t let the easy classification of this float fool you into mistaking it for a snoozer. With A-plus fly-fishing, plenty of livestock poking around the riverbank, and a driftwood lean-to that’s bigger than some houses, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Perfect for newer rowers, this shorter section serves up pretty reliable water, too. (You can make it a longer run by starting about 20 miles farther upriver at the Burns put-in.) Take advantage of sandy beaches for picnicking or a chance to stretch your legs, and drink in the first notes of Colorado’s high-country autumn color show.

Upper Colorado River: Pumphouse to State Bridge

Radium Hot Springs in the foreground of a photograph of the Upper Colorado River coursing through a canyon shrouded in evergreens.
Warm up in Radium Hot Springs along the route from Pumphouse to State Bridge on the Upper Colorado River. Photo by Josette Deschambeault

Variety reigns supreme between the Pumphouse and State Bridge rec areas on this ribbon of water. A bazillion easy-access put-ins mean you can plan the perfect trip for your time and pace (or easily work with varying water levels). If you can swing it, run the whole 15 miles to catch rapids like Eye of the Needle and Yarmony, plus Radium Hot Springs, a bubbler big enough for the whole crew on river left. (Hot water mixes with the river to create a pleasant 80-degree soak.) If you can’t raft the entire length, take out at Rancho Del Rio or Yarmony Bridge and revel in the fact that you, my friend, still got in a great day on the water.