So, you are thinking of going rafting in Colorado this summer? Colorado boasts some of the best rafting– including Brown’s Canyon Monument, which Is the most rafted section of river in the country! Many different factors play into our ever-changing river levels. Our largest contributor is snow melt from small creeks such as the Chalk Creek, which flows opaque water from the Chalk Cliffs on iconic Mt. Princeton into the Milk Run section of the Arkansas River. By mid-summer, the snowpack has all but melted and run its course through the canyon. As the water levels drop, the Twin Lakes and Turquoise Reservoir supplement the water flows. The amounts are determined by the percentage of water held in those bodies of water after the melt. Waters in the Browns section range from 500cfs early and late in the rafting season to 2000cfs around mid-June when the flow is at its peak. The Pine Creek section is above Chalk Creek, and the average flows there are 500-700cfs, peaking above 1000cfs. The Numbers section just below Pine Creek runs 600-1100cfs, peaking at around 1400cfs on a good water year, providing a splashy wild ride.
Creeks usually feed into rivers, but that is not the case in the winding Idaho Springs stretch of the Clear Creek, which is fed by the Fall River and many smaller tributaries west of Idaho Springs. Clear Creek levels range vastly, from 200-1500cfs, peaking in June, and changing rapidly without having the dam supplements that the Arkansas River receives.
The upper Colorado River, even though most parts are more docile and scenic, usually has more water flowing through it. Water driving from various tributaries and the Williams Fork Reservoir have the upper section of the Colorado pushing 900-5800cfs! Departing from Kremmling, you take a scenic float through gorgeous canyons where Radium Hot Spring sits upon the edge of the river across from a popular jump rock, in case you dare to take the plunge!
This year looks like it will be pretty good on the Arkansas, with the snowpack above Twin Lakes Reservoir being about 90% full and Turquoise Lakes at 130%. Clear Creek will depend on how fast the snow melts at higher altitudes. The snowpack above Clear Creek is at 120% and still expecting one or two more snowstorms before spring and summer are in full force. The Colorado river basin is about 95% of the average snowpack and is shaping up to be a pretty good rafting season, so get ready to put those skis away, and break out the sunscreen and Chaco’s. Let’s get boatin’!!!
About the Author
Brandon is a long time AVA Raft Guide
and experienced shredder of frozen and
salty waves. He enjoys a tasty beer,
tastier CFS, and his van Halen.