Updated: March 24, 2006

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Rafting the Arkansas River in Colorado

The Arkansas River is located in Central Colorado in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The Arkansas River drops a whopping 5,000 ft in the first 125 miles as it courses through Granite Gorge, The Numbers, Narrows/Frog Rock, Browns Canyon, The Royal Gorge, and the whitewater parks of Buena Vista and Salida. From its source below Mount Elbert (14,431 ft), the highest peak in Colorado, the Arkansas River runs through the quaint towns of Leadville, Buena Vista, and Salida Colorado and creates an epic playground for whitewater rafting and kayaking. The Arkansas River stretches across America for 1460 miles from the Continental Divide near Leadville, Colorado to the mouth of the Mississippi River at the Mississippi-Arkansas state line. That makes the Arkansas River the 6th longest river in the United States.

Granite Gorge - Class IV & V, 5.5 miles long
This section is the highest whitewater rafting run on the Arkansas River. It starts in the town of Granite Colorado and runs quickly through several exciting rapids. Granite Gorge culminates at Pine Creek Rapid, a class V rapid that is long and powerful. Pine Creek is usually portaged at medium to high flows. Generally Granite Gorge is combined with The Numbers for a full day trip. Learn more about the Granite Gorge.

The Numbers - Class IV, 5.5 miles long
The Numbers consist of six Class IV rapids separated by more Class III and IV whitewater. The rapids are appropriately named number 1 to number 6. This is an action packed section of whitewater. At high water, a raft can do the entire trip in less than 1 hour. Because of the high elevation, both of these trips are generally cold and the water is very cold. Make sure you dress appropriately. Learn more about The Numbers.

Browns Canyon - Class III & IV, 16.2 miles long
Browns Canyon is the most popular raft trip in the country due to the beautiful scenery, excellent whitewater, and easy access to the river. Outfitters offer both 1/2 and full day trips. On a Browns Canyon Raft Trip you'll drop through rapids such as Zoom Flume, Big Drop, Widowmaker, and Raft Ripper. This is a classic western run and should not be missed. Learn more about Browns Canyon.

The Royal Gorge - Class IV, 10.5 miles long
The Royal Gorge is a 1053 foot deep chasm cut by the Arkansas River. This beautiful canyon boasts the worlds highest suspension bridge in the world. You will float under the bridge and experience exhilarating rapids like Sunshine Falls, Sledgehammer, Wall Slammer and Boateater. This run is over 100 miles downstream of Granite Gorge and so the weather here is usually hot and sunny. The water is also much warmer. Learn more about The Royal Gorge.

In addition to the fantastic whitewater rafting, the Arkansas River valley has the highest concentration of fourteen thousand foot peaks in the entire state of Colorado. This beautiful valley boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year, many hot springs resorts, awesome mountain biking, and great backpacking.

The Arkansas River is fed by melting snow and it is usually at the highest levels in early summer. Thus the most exciting trips are usually found in May and June. The warmest weather is in July and August. Consider your preferred time of year when planning your trip, although any summer day is a great time for an Arkansas River Rafting trip.

-by Brad Goettemoeller, AllAboutRivers.com

Outfitters

A Whitewater Encounter

Acquired Tastes Whitewater Rafting

Adventure Unlimited

American Adventure Expeditions

Arkansas River Tours

Arkansas Valley Adventure

Bill Dvorak Kayak and Rafting Expeditions

Buffalo Joe's Whitewater Rafting

Canyon Marine Whitewater Expeditions

ECHO Canyon River Expeditions

Clear Creek Rafting Co.

Independent Whitewater

Kodi Rafting

Lakota River Guides

Performance Tours

Raven Adventure Trips, Inc.

River Runners

Rock-N-Row

Rocky Mountain Adventures, inc.

Timberline Tours

Vessels for Honor Rafting Co.

Whitewater Adventure Outfitters

Wilderness Aware Rafting

Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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