The Blue River provides excellent rafting opportunities for people of all skill levels and a wide variety of ages. Its proximity to Breckenridge, Silverthorne, and Frisco makes it ideal for tourists and locals alike who are looking for a rafting option close to home. The Blue is also the only river that is commercially rafted in the notorious Summit County of Colorado. With epic views of the Gore Range, unrivaled remoteness, beauty, and opportunities to see wildlife, rafting the Blue River is a unique and memorable experience. So, why do so few people have the opportunity to raft it? Two words: Water levels.
Snowmelt is Key for the Blue River
Colorado’s rivers, streams, lakes, creeks, and babbling brooks are all fed primarily by snowmelt. Therefore, a weak or strong winter can make or break a rafting season. A weak snow season does not necessarily mean the end of rafting for many of our rivers since they receive water from reservoirs, controlled by the state and federal governments of the United States.
Many Colorado Rivers are Regulated
The Blue River is unique because it is fed by Green Mountain Reservoir, which only releases water for a short amount of time in comparison to other reservoirs around Colorado. For example, the Arkansas River is fed by both Twin Lakes and the Clear Creek Reservoir, which allows it to stay consistently raft-able until mid-August. The short release season of the Blue River means that we often rely on rain in order to keep it open, particularly once the snow melt window has closed. In the beginning of the season we are often waiting on snow to melt so that the water is high enough for us to raft the blue, shortening the season on the Blue from that end as well. Henceforth, the snowmelt and water release factors essentially have the candle burning at both ends for the Blue River, making for a short season.
The section of Blue River that Breckenridge Whitewater rafts every year is upstream from Green Mountain Reservoir, so just cross our fingers for good snow over the winter so we can get a decent length of season on the Blue the following summer.
What can you do about such a short season on the Blue River?
Firstly, the prime time to come visit and raft the Blue River is from the end of May through June, and this season can be significantly shorter or longer (by about 2 weeks or so). It never hurts to check out snow totals from the surrounding ski areas of Breckenridge, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin, which will provide good guidance on the water levels of the Blue for the summer. A below average snow year will assuredly mean a low water summer, so know when the Blue River will be ready and book your trip early with Breckenridge Whitewater Rafting for next year.