Just to the west of Denver is a quaint little town called Golden. This town is the site of the well-known Coors Brewery and also the prestigious School of Mines. Aside from the lovely town stretch and beautiful tabletop mesas surrounding Golden, Clear Creek runs right through the heart of it heading east. This river is a great spot for whitewater activities of almost any kind. In this blog, we are going to focus on kayaking in its many forms, starting in town, and working our way out for some great options on your next kayaking adventure.
1. The Golden Town Run
Whether you are an experienced kayaker looking to improve your skills or a newbie just trying to stay in your boat, the Clear Creek Whitewater Park is a great place to be. Situated right in the middle of Golden, this run is a short Class II-III with not much chance of getting in too far over your head. You start by parking in the main lot, then walking as far up the side of the river as you want to. If you are an experienced kayaker looking to just improve your skills, you can put in right at the main play wave and get to work! This is also an awesome spot to tube over the summer. Be sure you’re taking the extra safety steps of wearing a PDF and even a helmet at higher water. Afterwards, there are plenty of great spots to get some food or a nice beer within a few blocks of your take-out location.
2. Clear Creek
While the Golden Town Run is actually a part of Clear Creek, there are many more miles of river to explore just west of the town and into the foothills and canyon. There are over 40 more miles of runnable whitewater from Golden all the way until almost the Loveland Ski Area. Rapids along this river range from small waves (class II) to the most difficult possible and only for professionals (class V+). Whatever you’re looking for, Clear Creek has it.
Class II Rapids
You’ll be happiest if you stick around the Clear Creek Whitewater Park and the town of Golden.
Class III Rapids
Take your ventures up to the town of Idaho Springs, Colorado and explore the town stretch there. The Gold Rush section is very family friendly and perfect for kayakers looking to take the next step after learning the basics.
Class IV Rapids
Upstream from the town of Idaho Springs, 8 miles of continuous Class IV rapids will get your heart pumping and keep you paddling for a great day in intermediately rated waters.
Class V Rapids
Take it to the Lower Canyon, just east of the town of Idaho Springs within Clear Creek Canyon before you reach Golden, Colorado. The Class V rapids drop at approximately 150 feet per mile on this 10 mile run. Another great spot to check out as an experienced boater is Coors Falls west of Empire, Colorado. Be sure you know you’re stuff, have a crew and safety gear with you, and scout rapids when venturing out on these Class V stretches.
3. Platte River
The Platte runs lazily through the middle of the Denver metro area. But before it does that, it runs for many miles through the Rocky Mountains just west of Denver. When it comes to kayaking, it has everything you could want. You can go on a chill cruise through the Deckers (Class II) area, or you can start stepping up your game with the Foxton and Waterton sections (Class III-IV). If you are thinking of going even bigger, an AVA guide favorite of the Colorado River is the Class IV-V section of Bailey.
4. Boulder Creek
Located just to the north of Golden, this nice creek runs right through the middle of Boulder. Colorado. It also features a neat little whitewater park for improving your kayak skills, and has some pretty intense rapids just up the way from the park. This is a great spot to hang out and enjoy the scenery after you get done kayaking, too.
5. Poudre River
Now we are starting to spread out a bit further from Golden. The Poudre River is located a bit to the north, just outside of Fort Collins. This river has many different sections of river to run, once again ranging from a chill float, all the way up to a crazy Class V rush. Be sure to check out the Mishawaka Amphitheatre while you’re up there and make a camping trip out of it!
5. Arkansas River
Even though this doesn’t really count as all that close to Golden, you just can’t leave the Arkansas River out of this list. It is one of the single best places to learn to kayak or to get better at kayaking, and it is one of the few in Colorado to have water deep enough that you aren’t hitting your head on the bottom every time you roll over too! Pack up the rig with your toys and buddies and head on down to one of the many great stretches of the Arkansas River near Buena Vista, Colorado.
6. Colorado River
Last but not least – the Colorado River. This river is a great time if you just are looking for a fairly chill float trip that only has a few rapids to worry about. Conversely, it also had some of the most exciting rapids on this river, on a stretch known as Gore Canyon (Class IV-V). Head to Colorado River for options for all skill levels.