Promising Conditions for Upper Arkansas Rafting Season
April 2018, – The recent snowfall in the Colorado high country is giving us plenty of reason to celebrate, and we’re not just talking about spring skiing. Soon the snow will be melting, and the rivers will begin to trickle into action around Colorado. As spring is reborn in the Rockies, our attention shifts from snow reports to river conditions.
The 2018 whitewater rafting season is beginning to take shape, and experts in Colorado are looking to snow pack reports to gauge what kind of river season to expect this summer. This past winter, most of Colorado experienced a sub-average snow year. As always, there was plenty of fun to be had on the mountain, and the same goes for the upcoming rafting season.
Upper Arkansas & Browns Canyon Conditions
The Upper Arkansas River Basin is one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in North America. Based on snowpack reports from the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.), stretches of the Upper Arkansas River that flow through Chaffee County will likely have some of the best rafting in the Colorado. Specifically, Browns Canyon National Monument (class III), Numbers (class IV) and the Mild & Scenic (class II) sections of the river are excellent choices for those looking to experience the best of Colorado rafting this summer.
The source for Arkansas River lays at over 11,000 ft above sea level on the east side of Freemont Pass. The Ark flows about 50 miles south from its source to reach Buena Vista, CO, where thousands of guests flock to the shores of the Arkansas River each year to launch rafting and kayaking adventures. As of April 10, 2018, the Upper Arkansas River Basin is at 97% of the average snowpack.
“Last season was an exceptional water year for Colorado rivers,” says Kevin Foley, owner of Performance Tours Rafting, operating since 1986, “but this year holds promise too. The Upper Arkansas River basin has one of the strongest snowpacks in the state, meaning great river conditions for Chaffee County.”
Peak water, when the river experiences the biggest flows of the year, will likely be late May and early June – the most exciting time to raft in Browns Canyon National Monument and Numbers. In Browns Canyon, a family-friendly trip with exciting class 3+ rapids, guests can look forward to a memorable trip regardless of the time of year or conditions.
“Browns Canyon is a different experience each time you run it,” says Steve Ulrich, a veteran raft guide who has boated in Browns Canyon for ten years, “It all depends on river conditions, time of the season, weather, and the folks you’re paddling with. No matter what, you are going to have a great time on the river. That’s what it’s all about.”
Thanks to the voluntary flow program in the Upper Arkansas Basin, raft-able flows are expected through mid-August for Chaffee County. The goal of the flow program is to provide fun recreational flows to the valley and encourage whitewater enthusiasts to paddle and play on the Arkansas River.
Lower Arkansas & Royal Gorge Conditions
Cañon City, CO is approximately 100 miles downstream from the source of the Arkansas River. The Lower Arkansas River Basin, which includes the Royal Gorge (class IV-V) and Bighorn Sheep Canyon (class III+) will experience a similar season. Flows will be most exciting in June, with the family friendly sections of the river consistently fun throughout the season.
“The Royal Gorge area should hit its peak flow for the season in early June,” says Kevin Foley, who operates a whitewater rafting outpost in Cañon City, “Which will be the most exciting time to experience the legendary whitewater rapids of the Royal Gorge.”
Whitewater rafting is a quintessential summer activity. Guests experience the quiet beauty of Colorado scenery with an occasional wildlife sighting along the river banks, while paddling through rapids with a professional guide. Performance Tours Rafting offers trips for all ages and abilities, including mellow family float tours for children 4 years+, moderate family-friendly rapids touring through Browns Canyon National Monument, and technical class 4+ rapids that will challenge even seasoned paddlers.
“We’re in a good place for the 2018 rafting season,” says Foley, who has rafting locations in Breckenridge, Frisco, Buena Vista, and Cañon City, “We don’t expect it to be a big water year for Colorado rivers, but we do anticipate a fun, family-friendly season with plenty of splash all summer long.”