Arkansas River Outfitters Association
Arkansas River Outfitters Association
Colorado's Best Whitewater | The Arkansas River

The Arkansas River

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Colorado’s Best Whitewater | Arkansas River
The Arkansas River starts high in the Rocky Mountains near Leadville, Colorado where snow piles up each winter to be released by the warm sun in late spring. More than 100 miles of Colorado’s best whitewater can be found nearby – from Granite to Cañon City – all within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA), managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management.

Colorado Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking | Arkansas River
The Arkansas River is the most popular whitewater rafting river in the United States. Every year commercial river outfitters guide more than 175,000 guests down the upper sections of the river, offering everything from scenic float trips to class V rafting adventures. The Upper Arkansas River is also a huge draw for kayakers and private rafters from around the world.

The most popular whitewater sections on the Arkansas River are near the rafting and kayaking towns of Buena Vista, Salida and Cañon City. Listed upstream to downstream these are Pine Creek (class V), the Numbers (class IV-V), the Narrows (class III-IV), Browns Canyon (class III-IV), Bighorn Sheep Canyon (class II, III-IV) and the Royal Gorge (class IV-V). Several scenic calm-water sections are also available.

Ask a member of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association to help you find the best whitewater adventure on the Arkansas River for you and your group.

The whitewater rafting and kayaking season on the Arkansas River is generally April through September. Peak water flows on the Arkansas River are typically in June and peak tourist season is usually mid-June through mid-August. The Royal Gorge section of the Arkansas River is considered runnable year round – weather permitting – but is rarely run commercially during late fall and winter months.

Colorado Outdoor Recreation | Arkansas River
The Upper Arkansas River valley offers endless Colorado outdoor fun and recreation. After your whitewater rafting or kayaking trip enjoy excellent fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, zip lining, camping, backpacking and much more.

The AHRA is one of the most popular locations for whitewater rafting and kayaking in the United States. With an elevation drop of 4,650 feet along its 152 miles, the AHRA is located within Lake, Chaffee, Fremont and Pueblo counties in south central Colorado. In addition to whitewater rafting, the AHRA offers unforgettable opportunities for camping, fishing, picnicking, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking and Off Highway Vehicle trails. The AHRA is accessible along US Highways 24/285 from Leadville to Salida, then from Salida to Pueblo along US Highway 50.

More Fish, More Fun | Arkansas River

Central Colorado’s Arkansas River and the AHRA offers more than 152 miles of river rafting adventure and many other outdoor activities, and most recently, 102 miles of Gold Medal Trout fishing. On Jan. 10, 2014, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission announced the addition of the longest stretch of Gold Medal Trout Waters in Colorado, the Arkansas River. With this addition, total Gold Medal stream miles in Colorado increased by 50 percent to 322 total miles of Colorado’s 9,000 miles of streams and lakes.

To receive a Gold Medal designation, a body of water must consistently support a minimum trout standing stock of 60 pounds per acre, as well as consistently support a minimum of 12 quality trout (trout larger than 14 inches) per acre. The Arkansas River has met these standards since 1999, and exceeded the requirements in 2012 with an average of 170.3 pounds per acre, and 75 trout larger than 14 inches per acre.

Colorado History, Culture and Lodging | Arkansas River
Cultural hubs along the Upper Arkansas River can be found in and around the Colorado mountain towns of Buena Vista, Salida and Cañon City, where you can enjoy restaurants, museums, shops, galleries, spas, festivals, ghost towns, hot springs and other unique attractions; plus a wide selection of hotels, bed and breakfasts, condos and cabin rentals. The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park near Cañon City is Colorado’s most popular tourist attraction and a great way to round out a Royal Gorge rafting trip.

Browns Canyon – National Monument | Arkansas River

On Feb.19, 2015, President Obama designated 21,586 acres of pristine canyons, rivers and backcountry forest in Colorado as the Browns Canyon National Monument. The President designated the monument using the Antiquities Act of 1906, which grants the President authority to designate national monuments in order to protect “objects of historic or scientific interest.”

Browns Canyon includes 11,836 acres of the San Isabel National Forest and 9,750 acres of Bureau of Land Management land. The monument will be jointly managed by the Forest Service and BLM. Browns Canyon National Monument is the 9th monument managed by the Forest Service and the 21st managed by the BLM. The two agencies also co-manage the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

Browns Canyon stretches between the communities of Buena Vista and Salida in Chaffee County, Colorado, elevation ranges from 7,300 feet to 10,000 feet, offering a backdrop for and stunning views of the Arkansas Valley and the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. The range, formed more than 70 million years ago, is home to some of the highest peaks in the region, towering above 14,000 feet in elevation.

The natural resources star on the monument is the Arkansas River, which provides recreational activity on the river and along the shoreline. The monument area is a recreationist’s dream with plenty of opportunity to raft, kayak, bike, horseback ride, hike, nature watch, photography and stargazing. The Arkansas has long been considered the most popular whitewater rafting destination in America.