Spring Snowmelt Signals Rafting Season Is "Just Around the Bend"

With snowpack here in Grand County at relatively high levels well into the spring and the warmer temperatures getting the big spring melt underway, rafters are gearing up for a fun and long floating season. Sunny, warm days have us all digging out the sandals and jumping across puddles that are filling up from a season of heavy snowfall - puddle-filled parking lots are the precursor to rising rivers. While long summer days might mean biking, hiking, and fishing for many, here at the headwaters of the Colorado River, spring signals the rafting world to celebrate the start of boating season. 

Whether you're a novice on the water or a seasoned rafter, Grand County's waters are ready for you this spring and summer! From gentle floats along the upper Colorado to more challenging routes down the Fraser River, our county's rivers can range from a day of family fun on a guided raft to an action-packed make-your-own-adventure down Class III, IV + V rapids. Just like most adventures here in Grand County, you get to pick your level of fun and expertise to best suit your style and needs. Rafting season typically runs May through August in our neck of the Rockies, but unpredictable snowmelt and weather conditions mean rafting windows vary each year.


Lovingly referred to as the "Upper C," the headwaters of the Colorado River makes it clear why we love living here: views for days coupled with outdoor adventure make life a sweet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city. Head over to Kremmling to hop on one of the popular Upper Colorado floats. The Trough Road just off Highway 9 leads you down to several different routes with varying difficulty and length. Pumphouse to Radium is a four-mile trip that's a great option for families and beginner to intermediate rafters as it passes through Little Gore Canyon and features Class I-III whitewater rapids that are gentle enough for a leisurely floating trip. Put in at the Pumphouse Recreation Site and take out at the Radium Recreation Site all in time to hit up Los Amigos Mexican restaurant in Kremmling on your way home. Or make the float three more hours and head another mile down to pass through the Red Gorge Canyon and take out at Rancho Del Rio. If you want to go big on the Upper C, hit the Gore Canyon that starts at the confluence of the Colorado River and the Blue River near Kremmling. Its Class IV and V rapids make up the majority of the 10-mile, 5 hour float. Definitely a route for experienced rafters, it's one of Grand County's rafting gems. Pro tip: If you're looking to make it an overnight, book campsites at Pumphouse and Radium on recreation.gov as early as you can! 


End or start your Upper Colorado float at the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park. The park consists of a man-made underwater structure that creates a series of waves stretching across the area. The whitewater park area offers a space for kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders and other whitewater enthusiasts to cycle through the waves repeatedly or to continue downstream. Created in 2015, Gore Canyon Whitewater Park has become a staple of fun when spending your day on the Upper C.


Looking for a the little less traveled path? The Blue River offers some of the best whitewater rafting in the area. The Green Mountain Reservoir to Spring Creek Road route features mild Class III whitewater rapids for beginner-intermediate level rafters in the Kremmling area. The first take out point is at Spring Creek Road (Road 10), or you can continue the trip to the end of the Blue River. Or put in at the Spring Creek Road to end at the confluence of the Blue River and the Colorado.


Running through through the picturesque Fraser Canyon, the 9.5 mile route along the Fraser River is typically run late May through early June. Those snowmelt waters are chilly, so be prepared. You'll thank yourself if you run it with a wet or drysuit and neoprene booties! The route is primarily Class III+ and IV rapids, making it an ideal spring run for experienced rafters. If you're a newbie, hop in with a friend who knows how to navigate the waters and soak in the beauty of the Fraser Canyon. Most people put in near Strawberry Creek/The Phases in Fraser and take out at the fire station in Granby


If you're in the Winter Park area, Clear Creek Canyon is just over the pass and provides some of the most continuous white water in Colorado. The river traverses past Ponderosa pine, Juniper, and Douglas fir tree forests, old gold mine shafts, and through the historic mining town of Idaho Springs. Sign on with a local outfitter for a beginner or intermediate trip. Or get on the water with your own raft. Some sections of Clear Creek have plenty of Class V action, but the “beginner” section that follows I-70 starting at the Highway 103 (Mt. Evans) exit is a challenging Class II-III run that’s perfect for intermediate kayakers and rafters in smallish boats. For paddlers looking for more action, the  intermediate section just above is Class III-IV.


If you want to get on the water but don't own your own raft, kayak, or paddle board, there are plenty of local outfitters ready to get you out there. Half day trips, day trips, and overnights are offered as guided trips. All you need to do is show up! Mad Adventures, Wilderness Aware Rafting, Adventures in Whitewater, and  AVA Rafting will all streamline your day or overnight on the river. 


Stay up to date with current flows through the USGS National Water Information System. Stop in the BLM Kremmling Field Office, a great source for rafting and kayaking information in the area. More information and permitting guidelines can be found through the American Whitewater Association. Our local Chamber of Commerces are full of great resources and info as well! 


Does hearing about all the high country rafting opportunities make Grand County all the more appealing? If you're looking for an investment property, a primary home, or land here at the headwaters of the Colorado River, we'd love to meet with you and start our individualized buying process! Or if you have a property here in the county and are ready to move on, we can help you get top-dollar to set you up for your next adventure. Reach out - we'd love to connect and be a part of your real estate journey here in Grand County! 

Posted by Leah Bishop on


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