The Best Kept Secrets of Breckenridge Rafting
Breckenridge is known for superior skiing, but did you know that the area is also famous for world class whitewater rafting? Each summer, roughly 250,000 people grab a paddle, buckle their PFDs – A.K.A. personal flotation device or a life jacket – and splash their way down the mighty Arkansas River. Many local outfitters have been rafting commercially in Breckenridge for more than 30 years, and are eager to share fun facts and secrets of Breckenridge rafting.
Secret #1. The Arkansas River is one of the most popular rafting destination in America.
The Arkansas River begins its journey not far from Breckenridge, in the Sawatch Mountain Range near Leadville, CO. It is 1,469 miles long and stretches east to Arkansas, traveling through Kansas and Oklahoma. The best whitewater rafting on the Ark (that’s what locals call it!) is found closest to its source, and spans a 152-mile section of the river, passing through river towns like Buena Vista, Salida, and Canon City, Colorado. From Breckenridge, the best way to access the Arkansas is from Buena Vista – a scenic 1+ hr. drive south. Browns Canyon National Monument is the closest, most popular whitewater rafting trip, and is home to exciting, moderate class 3 rapids.
Secret #2. Rafting isn’t just for thrill seekers… there are family friendly options!
From mild to wild, there are lots of river trip options for guests of all ages and abilities. Don’t know how to swim? Not a problem! Opt for a mellow or moderate trip, let your guide know, and pay attention to the pre-river safety talk.
Mellow & Mild: Families with children as young as 4 years old can enjoy small splashes and breathtaking scenery on the Mild and Scenic trip. Guests can relax and enjoy calm stretches of flat water and leave the paddling to the professionals.
Moderate: There’s a reason Browns Canyon National Monument is so popular. It’s probably the moderate class 3 rapids paired with stunning canyon scenery and frequent wildlife sightings. Seriously, this trip is amazing for first-timers and river-rats alike. We recommend doing this more than once, as it’s a completely different experience at varying water levels. It’s the perfect multi-generational trip for families with children 7 years and up.
Wet & Wild: The Numbers run will excite and satisfy the most daring thrill seeker! This trip requires rigorous paddling through technical and continuous class 4+ rapids, and is for guests 16 years+ – though at lower water levels, some rafting companies will take adults as young as 14.
Secret #3. Weather is different on the river.
You know what they say about Colorado… “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes!” Well, the same is true for different areas in the mountains. At 60 miles south and 1,600 feet lower in elevation, the weather in Buena Vista can be very different from Breckenridge. Though it’s always a good idea to check the forecast, guests can usually count on it being 10° warmer, and most of the time – sunny! With that said, the water in the river does come from snowmelt, so it can be colder in early season (May, June). If you’re concerned about temperature, many rafting guests opt for a wet suit, and are comfortable their entire trip.
Secret #4. Water levels are guaranteed through mid-August.
Arkansas River flows generally follow the same rules as most snow fed, mountain rivers – higher flows in early summer when temperatures climb. Thanks to the Arkansas River Voluntary Flow Management Program, there are guaranteed flows for whitewater rafting well into August. In fact, most companies will raft through Labor Day weekend, after the river returns to its native flow, but it’s a good idea to call and check river conditions. Don’t listen to your wild friend that says rafting is only fun during the spring run-off – most rafting in Colorado takes place during the months of July and August, when the rivers are experiencing average flows.
This article originally appears on the GoBreck blog. For the best tips and tricks about Breckenridge, CO, visit their website or the Breckenridge Welcome Center.