Best Time to Raft the Arkansas River

While yes, any day on the river is technically a good day, that doesn’t mean some days aren’t better than others. The Arkansas River, located in Buena Vista, CO, is one of the most famed rivers in the US and hosts some of the best whitewater in the nation! The Arkansas River has rapids ranging from class I to class V, making it a great river for all levels.

NIKON D80 - 0013comp Like many of the rivers in Colorado, they are all natural and very seldom affected by dams. As they are all natural the snowmelt from the surrounding high peaks feeds the rivers throughout the season. When the snow starts to melt in May the water levels start to rise drastically and causes some raging whitewater. This typically marks the beginning of the rafting season. In some cases, the snow melts so rapidly that the water levels rise too high to where we cannot commercially raft down certain sections. Brown’s Canyon, typically a class III whitewater section, is particularly awesome during high water! However, when Brown’s is running too high you may have to portage around some low hanging bridges.

Once the water levels drop down, generally around mid to late June, the up river trips are the place to be! The more advanced rafting trips at normal levels are a blast! However, at low water, towards later in the season around mid-August, the more advanced whitewater trips get a bit more technical, as more rock features become exposed.

_MG_0654 compressWhen determining when the best time to go rafting is, it all really comes down to water flows and what one is looking to get out of their rafting experience. When rivers are running low they can become unrunnable, or can make the rapids more technical. During high water the rapids become stronger, and while they may or may not become more technical they require much more strength to paddle through. So in actuality it is always a good time to raft the Arkansas River, just depends on what kind of paddling you would like to do!