Whitewater in Grand County
June is high water season for many rivers in Colorado. With the great whitewater recreation this water brings there are some reminders to staying safe: don’t get in over your head (literally), and know where to look for information. The U.S. Geology Survey (USGS) Water Data and mountainbuzz.com are both great sources to research the flows of particular stretches of water. There are charts available to determine whether it is a good time to run certain rivers and creeks. These sites will often tell you if the river is above recommended, runnable, below recommended, etc.
Many hazards exist, seen or unseen, such as strainers (fallen objects such as trees) that lay across the riverbeds. Rising waters pull these trees from shore and they can create a very dangerous situation to someone in the water. Quick tip for those who do not know: swim aggressively away from any strainer; if you can’t swim away, do not ever try to go underneath. If no other option exists, push yourself up on top of the obstruction. June is a great month to know your limits of whitewater. Many are humbled by Colorado’s high water season so stay safe out there.
Colorado is a whitewater rafting mecca and Grand County is home to a variety of different adventures to partake in. There are ample guide services throughout the county willing to take you on almost any adventure you can imagine. The Colorado River has a wide spectrum of whitewater: from relaxing to borderline terrifying.
A float trip down the Colorado is a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Defined as a “beginner” trip by most companies this excursion is great for the whole family. You can also rent a ducky (inflatable kayak) and experience navigating rapids steering your own craft. This is a great introduction to reading whitewater if you are an aspiring kayaker.
If you are looking for a long adventure try an overnight or multi day trip. Most outfitters provide the gear necessary to survive in the remote wilderness of Grand County. Meals will also be included and are often prepared by the same people that are guiding you down the river. On an overnight raft trip you will experience camping like you never have before. Many people say their rafting trip changed their life when they were able to slow things down and experience a whole new way of living.
Looking for something more intense? Try Gore Canyon. Run nine miles through some of the toughest whitewater in Colorado, and one of the most intense commercially rafted stretches in the United States. You will drop nearly 400 feet in five miles of rapids Gore Canyon consists of several class IV rapids, four Class IV+, and three class V rapids. To do this run participants must be in top physical shape and many guide services have requirements that participants must meet. It is recommended that you have rafted class III-IV in the past and are confident in your swimming abilities. Many require you swim a class III rapid before continuing on to the more intense water. You may also be required to attempt to pull yourself back into the boat in case you find yourself in the water and must self-rescue. This stretch is best run between the months of July-October when water is highest (water levels dependent on dam releases on Colorado River). If you are looking for the adventure of a lifetime, this stretch of water is for you.
If you have never been rafting before, Grand County has the trips to give you the full experience. It’s not just about sitting in a big rubber boat: part of the experience is meeting the people and outfitters that do this for a living. Rafting is arguably one of the most fun jobs in the world, but it is nothing to take likely. The person steering your boat is a whitewater professional who has received extensive training to keep you and your family safe. They may joke around, but most take their job seriously. Some of the companies in Grand County are among the top rated outfitters in the state. The whole day is part of your experience from the minute you are handed a wetsuit to the end of trip speech on the ride home. These companies are dedicated to showing customers the adventure of a lifetime and many come back year after year.
This year’s GoreFest will be held on Friday, August 26 at Rancho Del Rio Resort in Bond, and presented by American Whitewater. Activities include a “freestyle rodeo” at the new whitewater park, a family-float through Little Gore Canyon, and SUP and kayak races.
There will be a movie showing on Friday night. Last year’s movie was the documentary DamNation. There will be live music, food, drinks, and shuttles running for those who want to kayak, raft, or SUP. If you happen to be in town during the festival it is well worth checking out. More information can be found at https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Article/view/articleid/32564/
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Due to current public health guidance, there will not be an in-person wilderness campsite lottery for Rocky Mountain National Park this year.