The rivers are calling and I must go

Meg Soyars
Explore Grand
Guests are guaranteed to get splashed on the whitewater rafting trips.
AVA Rafting/Courtesy Photo

The headwaters of the Colorado River start in Rocky Mountain National Park, gathering speed on their way to Kremmling. The town is a hub for some of the best rafting in the country. Nine miles from Kremmling, along the beautiful scenic byway Trough Road, rafters arrive at Pumphouse Recreation Site. 

From Pumphouse’s boat launch, rafters set out on easy floats allowing them to soak in nature’s beauty, or get their hearts racing on intense rapids. Classes of rapids are rated from calming Class I, to rip-roaring Class V. Classes II-III are a perfect medium for those who want a little thrill in their trip, plus mellower opportunities to soak in views of granite canyons and green forests. 

Several Kremmling-based outfitters offer rafting, fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking and camping. With so many ways to explore the water, everyone can find an adventure that calls to them. 

AVA Rafting 

Guests fearlessly raft together as a team through the rapids.
AVA Rafting/Courtesy photo

AVA Sales Manager Katie Schneider is excited for the 2023 season, thanks to plenty of snowmelt feeding the rivers. The extra snowy winter means extra rapids. 

“We’re going to see high water for the first time in a few years,” Schneider said.   

Guests raft to Radium for half a day, or Rancho Del Rio for the full day. Although the Colorado is a mighty watershed, the stretch of river on the half-day trip is mellow. The full day includes lunch, giving guests time to enjoy the scenery. They might even spot wildlife — elk and deer grazing during their own lunch. 

AVA provides wetsuits and splash jackets at no cost. Guests are guaranteed to get splashed, or maybe even completely soaked if they hit more intense rapids. Even falling into the river can be a fun escapade — guides lend a helping hand back into the raft. 

“For someone wanting more excitement, we have inflatable kayaks and stand-up paddle boards,” Schneider said. “It definitely amps up the rapids.”  

If someone decides to branch out with a kayak or paddle board, they can go with the guided tour, but have more independence. 

Overnight rafting trips offer a wilderness retreat. Guests fall asleep to the sounds of the rushing river, then wake up to a cooked breakfast. Guides set up and tear down camp, plus provide rousing stories of the history and nature surrounding them. 

“We provide pretty much everything guests need, between camping gear and toiletries,” Schneider said. “We have a full kitchen we bring out to cook the meals. It creates a great experience and adventure, without the planning and logistics behind an overnight trip.” 

AVA offers fly fishing excursions in Kremmling as well. Guests can choose between boat fishing or walk-in wading, experiencing the thrill of reeling in a rainbow or brown trout. Ziplining is another popular activity — guests can purchase rafting/zipline combo packages to make a full day of adventure.

Looking for off-river adventure? Take to the air at AVA’s zip-lining course.
AVA Rafting/Courtesy photo (1)

“We offer lots of family-friendly adventures,” Schneider said. “Whether you’re bringing grandpa and grandma, or younger kids, we have something for everyone.” 

Downstream Adventures 

Sometimes the best views are off the riverbank.
Downstream Adventures/Courtesy photo

Downstream Adventures opened their Kremmling outpost in 2022. Their most popular Kremmling trip is the half day, running from Pumphouse to Radium. They also offer camping trips at secluded spots along the river. Guides take care of camp logistics and meals.   

“They do all the work so guests can enjoy themselves,” co-owner Jonathan Snodgrass said. “It’s nice to get away from the parking lot and lots of people; (guests can) have a wilderness experience.” 

Downstream Adventures offers inflatable kayaks for guests to test their ability navigating rapids on their own. Kayakers can go out on a guided tour or be added to a raft trip.                                                                                           

“If you jump in a kayak, you can make an easy section more challenging and fun,” Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass explained that the Colorado River has much to offer skilled and beginner rafters. The Upper Colorado’s Class V stretch is one of the most difficult in the country, with mellow Class II and III sections below it.

“II and III are scenic, great for families,” Snodgrass said. “You can take a wide variety of ages down those stretches.”

For more experienced, thrill-seeking rafters, Downstream Adventures offers Class V trips. 

“We have really skilled guide staff to handle these bigger rapids,” Snodgrass said. The guides are serious about safety, but equally “serious” about the guests having fun. 

Mad Adventures 

Rafting is a family-friendly activity. Youngsters can enjoy mellow, scenic floats.
Mad Adventures/Courtesy photo

Mad Adventures is a Winter Park-based company; their sister company Grand Adventures offers snowmobile tours. Their summer activities include rafting and side-by-side ATV tours. 

At Mad Adventures’ Kremmling outpost, half-day tours run from Pumphouse to Radium, and full day tours travel to Rancho Del Rio.  

Owner Ryan Barwick said Mad Adventures’ day trips “are our bread-and-butter,” but the company offers camping by special request. Those rafting down to Catamount Bridge will pitch tents for a night under the stars. They can explore secluded stretches to get off the “mainstream.” Since the rapids are easygoing, kids can make the trip.  

The Winter Park side-by-side tours explore the same epic trails that Grand Adventures’ snowmobiles take during wintertime. 

The side-by-sides explore up to the top of Rollins Pass. At the summit, guests enjoy expansive views of the Continental Divide, Fraser Valley and winding Colorado River. Guests can drive the ATVs themselves, lending an air of excitement to the trips. Whether people are searching for a lazy river float with their families, or want to test their bravery on extreme rapids, there are a plethora of companies offering excursions from Kremmling. Grand County is the “headwaters” for many amazing rafting adventures.

This story first appeared in Explore Grand.

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