How Water Levels Affect Raft Trips

Whitewater Rapids

Now that the winter season is around the corner, and the weather is getting cooler and cooler, and this will result in changing water conditions while out rafting this fall season. In a typical rafting season, the waters begin to unfreeze and flow right around the early May – late April time of year and the season really ramps up once the spring runoff begins. Spring runoff is when the snow caps around the Rocky Mountains begin to melt and fill our rivers with frigid snow melt. This is good news for whitewater rafters as this is typically the highest water mark for the year. Water levels will definitely fluctuate throughout the season but here’s how trips change during high water vs low water.

Browns 0714cHigh water season usually kicks off at the start of June and typically gives whitewater enthusiasts the highest flows for their favorite stretch of water. This can be good as well as bad as the higher the water gets the risk for each trip increases as well. Once low water begins right around August the river will be at 1/3 of highest water mark, but that does not change the difficulty of the section you are rafting, just the rapids themselves. At high water rock will disappear, creating new rapids or making rapids disappear altogether and changing the “typical” river routes. While at low water, the rapids can become bigger or disappear altogether. The high water season is similar, as water conditions will change the river almost in its entirety for about every 100 cfs change.

The most important bit of information to remember is the fact that the river conditions are constantly changing. Different flows create an endless number of routes down the river. Regardless of water level make sure select the correct river difficulty as they will remain the same.