Kayaking & Rafting

Nothing beats the heady rush of racing down a swiftly flowing river in a trusty rubber raft or kayak. And there's no better place to experience the powerful thrill of Colorado Whitewater than in Grand County –the birthplace of the mighty Colorado River. Whether you are an experienced rafter or first-time adventurer, you won't want to miss this exciting ride! From the burly Class IV and V rapids of Gore Canyon Whitewater Park to the mellow eddies near Kremmling, the Colorado River is whitewater central for river rats and weekend thrill-seekers alike! For more information, check out our favorite places to kayak and raft the Colorado River near Denver. Looking for something more laid-back? Try sightseeing from the water! In Grand County, we have multiple contenders for the title of "Best Views in Colorado." Check out our top 10 scenic view in Grand County to see how many you can find from the water. We bet you'll agree that these vistas are as good as it gets.

For complete information on rafting and kayaking in each of the four main towns of Grand County as well as a list of vendors providing rafting/kayaking rentals, repairs and tours, please contact the Chambers directly. Also, the BLM Kremmling Field Office is another great source for rafting and kayaking information in the area. Another great source of information for permits and is the American Whitewater Association 

Whenever you're considering a new extreme hobby, it's alway best to be informed and know what to expect. In this section, we'll cover what regulations you might encounter, what gear you'll need, how to categorize river rapids by difficulty, as well as other useful tidbits like what to do in an emergency situation. 

When & Where to Go

Generally, April through September are the best times to have a whitewater adventure. However, the weather and level of snow-melt greatly impact which rivers you should raft and kayak during the season. Typical best times to visit Grand County Rivers follows, but be sure to check your current river conditions days before you head out. 

  • Blue River— from the east side of the Gore Range to Kremmling waters are best explored during June.

  • Colorado River— can be enjoyed throughout the season, May through September. The upper Colorado is known for calmer waters, while the lower offers faster moving rapids.

  • Clear Creek— is also open to rafting the whole season, May through September. The upper portion is best for more advanced rafters, while the lower is less demanding.

  • Arkansas River— this river is unique in that it begins near the Continental Divide and offers Classes I-IV from May through September.

International Scale of River Difficulty

The American Whitewater Association standard of river classification is used internationally because of their evaluation of rivers all over the world. Their site contains a full list of rivers in Colorado, their associated levels of difficulty, and other important facts. River classification scales start at beginner and graduate to expert. 

  • Class I is considered easy with relatively few obstructions like rocks or tunnels and slow-moving rapids.

  • Class II is also good for beginners, although the water will move fast and you may have to maneuver through small obstacles.

  • Class III is considered intermediate and should not be attempted without a guide or previous experience. Large, irregular waves should be expected. 

  • Class IV requires an advanced level of skill to avoid dangerous hazard. Self-rescue expertise are a must for this classification and above.

  • Class V puts you in turbulent waters for long stints and requires expert-level abilities.

  • Class VI and above also requires expert-level knowledge because of this classes extreme rapids and exploratory nature.

Favorite Places to Raft and Kayak

Beginner

  • Upper Colorado River near Kremmling (Class I-III)

  • Upper Colorado River from Pumphouse (Class I-III)

Intermediate 

  • Clear Creek River (Class II-VI)

  • Pumphouse Whitewater Park near Kremmling (Class II-III)

Expert 

  • Meat line and tunnels at Gore Canyon (Class V)

  • Colorado River south of Kremmling Class (IV-V)

Rafting & Kayaking Safety

  • Choose an experienced guide or outfitter or know your limitations

  • Always wear a personal floatation device and safety gear like your helmet

  • Wear a wet suit or bathing suit, splash jacket, close-toe shoes, and sun protection

  • Stay on-board and keep your eyes forward

  • Make sure on-board can swim

  • Listen to your guide and follow proper techniques

  • Be able to scout particular rapids for their difficulty class

  • Learn what to do in a dangerous situation

  • Learn  essential skills like how to identify whitewater difficulty 

  • Check current streamflow conditions

Guided Tours & Recreation Areas

If the rush of river rapids is intimidating for your first time out, try a local guide or outfitter to simplify the you excursion. Raft and kayak rentals, wet suits, helmets, and all other necessary gear can be provided from professionals. Try Mountain Paddlers of Grand Lake or Adventures in Whitewater near Kremmling to get some experience on calm waters. Or get some whitewater rafting practice with a guided tour from Red Tail Rafting or AVA Rafting & ZiplineMad Adventures and KODI Rafting allow you to combine your love for camping with your new found hobby by planning overnight rafting trips. The National Sports Center for the Disabled also offers beginner to Class III level rafting trips on the Colorado or South Platte Rivers. 

Depending on how long you'd like to stay on the water and whether you are guided, raft and kayak rates can vary. Typically, single kayak rentals are reasonable, ranging from $30 for a couple hours to a half-day, to around $100 a day. Raft rentals also differ from just under $200 per day to over $500, so it's best to do you research. For guided tours and overnight trips, which are recommended for those new to the sports, the prices are a little steeper, but the expert information and training is well worth it.