Cover Story / Culture

COVER: Outfitters offer raft trips from mild to wild


Rafting through historic Idaho Springs. Photo by Jeffrey V. Smith

Colorado is one of the best places in America to experience a white water rafting adventure. More major rivers start here than in any other, and the most popular white water river in the country is in the state. Most begin their runs in astoundingly scenic locations, cutting through alpine forests and carving stunning canyons. With an abundance of professional companies and numerous expert guides offering a wide range of river rafting trips ranging from challenging, adrenaline-pumping white water to more relaxing family-friendly floats, Colorado has it all.

The Front Range region of Colorado offers two major whitewater rafting rivers, both unique in their own ways and easy to reach, with companies offering trips lasting a few hours or all day.

Located in a historic, mining valley along Interstate 70 about a half-hour west of Denver, Clear Creek is a steep, narrow, technical river that is both challenging and fun. It attracts boaters visiting the Front Range, and those traveling through on their way to the high country. Once on the water, the interstate goes unnoticed as paddlers drop through the steep and narrow bed.

Numerous companies provide professionally guided trips on the creek. Excursions offer Class I-V rapids from May to July and sometimes into August. “Clear Creek is the steepest commercially rafted river in Colorado, translating to more rapids per mile and more fun and excitement,” Suzen Raymond, co-owner of Mile-Hi Rafting, said. She points out the river is not only close to most Front Range locations, “raft trips on Clear Creek continue to be affordable.”

The Cache La Poudre River is northwest of Fort Collins and within 90 minutes of Denver and Estes Park. Named by French fur trappers, it has everything from mild to wild including deep canyons and clear waters. Not only does the Cache La Poudre offer great runs, but rafting here is unique since it is Colorado’s first and only federally designated National Wild and Scenic River. Rafters can observe world-class scenery and bighorn sheep, deer, eagles and other wild-life while enjoying Class II- IV stretches of whitewater. Several whitewater raft companies operate out of Estes Park, although river access is out of the area.


Photo courtesy Mile Hi Rafting

In both Clear Creek County and along the Poudre, rafting is an easy activity to build an entire vacation around or add to a larger itinerary. Many outfitters offer packages combining rafting with other activities including historic train rides, zip lines, mine tours, ATV adventures, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, hiking and mountain biking.

The best part of white water rafting is almost anyone can do it. While accidents can happen, the sport is considered safe and fun for people of nearly all ages and abilities. It is important to know a river trip’s intensity changes by time of year. A trip later in the season could be a leisurely ride through mild waters or, if in May or June, a thrilling adventure through the rapids.

Once the decision is made on when to go, choosing a qualified, licensed outfitter offering trips that suit the appropriate skill level is the next step. State-certified companies have all the expertise needed to lead their guest safely down the river and are accustomed to guiding trips for seasoned rafters and those who have never been on the water before. Most outfitters offer a variety of trips—from more family-friendly options that make wonderful experiences for children and first-timers to more extreme adventures for the seasoned veteran—which can be selected based on your experience level, fitness and desires for the trip.

Even though winter snows didn’t stack up as in some years, spring snow and precipitation should create perfect white water conditions. “We are planning on a good to excellent season for rafting on Clear Creek,” Raymond said.


The Adventure Company
203 N. Main St., Breckenridge, CO • 800-497-RAFT

Adventures in Whitewater
1041 C.R. 308, Dumont, CO • 970-724-1122

AVA Idaho Springs
431 Chicago Creek Road, Idaho Springs, CO • 800-370-0581

Browns Canyon Rafting
33295 U.S. 6, Idaho Springs, CO • 719-275-2890

Clear Creek Rafting Co
350 Whitewater Road, Idaho Springs, CO • 303-567-1000

Colorado Adventure Center
2697 Stanley Road, Idaho Springs, CO • 877-947-7238

Downstream Adventures
409 E. Park Ave., Empire, CO • 303-848-4595

GeoTours Whitewater Raft Trips
229 Hwy. 8, Morrison, CO • 800-660-7238

KODI Rafting
999 C.R. 308, Dumont, CO • 970-668-1548

Liquid Descent
1896 Stanley Road, Idaho Springs, CO • 970-372.2870

Mad Adventures
20 W. Dumont Road, Dumont, CO • 800-451-4844

Mile-Hi Rafting
3627 Alvarado Road, Dumont, CO • 303-416-5997

Performance Tours, Inc.
115 Gregg Dr., 81211 Buena Vista, CO • 800-328-7238

Raft Masters
2804 Colorado Blvd., Idaho Springs, CO • 719-275-6645

Rocky Mountain Adventures
1117 N. Hwy 287, Fort Collins, CO • 800-858-6808

Rocky Mountain Whitewater Rafting
1313 Idaho St., Idaho Springs, CO • 303-900-4802

Timberline Tours
1432 Chambers Ave., Eagle, CO • 800-831-1414


A1 Wildwater
2801 N. Shields St., Fort Collins, CO • 970-224-3379

A Wanderlust Adventure
4120 W County Road 54 G, Laporte, CO • 800-745-7238

Rapid Transit Rafting
161 Virginia Dr., Estes Park, CO • 800-367-8523

Mountain Whitewater Descents
1329 U.S. 287, Fort Collins, CO • 888-855-8874

Rocky Mountain Adventures
1117 N. Hwy 287, Fort Collins, CO • 800-858-6808

© Originally published in the May 2018 issue of the MMAC Monthly

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