The past few years, Colorado’s rivers have experienced severe drought conditions, yet thankfully, this winter season brought above-average snow levels. Depending on the basin, snowpack levels have reached upwards of 100-130% of average for the year, and in March, the snowpack in the San Juan Mountains reached its highest ever season average at 181%. This significant snowpack will directly influence the summer water levels of our rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, as well as impact Colorado’s rafting season. Read more about how winter conditions affect summer rafting here.
Although these intense river conditions will help combat past drought induced damage, we must also consider their more dangerous implications. Due to predictions of high-water, some areas have already begun to prepare for potential flooding and reservoir releases this year, as warmer temperatures earlier in the year have already caused faster than average snow melt.
Last year’s difficult monsoon season also means that riverbed soil is less capable of absorbing deluges of water. With flooding and high waters, water levels can encroach upon land features, washing them out or submerging them, straightening sections and changing the rivers’ landscapes.
High Water and Rafting Season
Once the peaks begin to melt, this drainage will rush to fill Colorado’s rivers and basins, leading to higher river levels and more intense rapids across the state. Experts even predict that this summer season will be the best rafting season Colorado has seen in years, maybe even a decade. Get ready to experience the thrill of rushing through high waters and navigating steep drops, as we plunge into our 25th season and the best rafting in the Rockies!
This high water will increase thrills and the fun of your whitewater adventure, but it may also add risks for those wanting to paddle on the river. Safety is non-negotiable, and we want your group to have the experience of a lifetime in 2023, returning with stories of fun thrills and epic adventure.
Here are a few of our tips for rafting in a high water year:
Research the River
Higher water means higher responsibilities. Therefore, doing your research and planning will benefit your group greatly. Start by assessing the general area you would like to raft in. Colorado has many sought-after rivers and various waterways for white water rafting, including The Arkansas River, Clear Creek, Colorado River, and Blue River. Each river will have multiple options for rafting, ranging from family friendly trips to thrilling class V rapids.
Choose Your Adventure Level
Because rivers vary greatly and offer opportunities for many different types of rafting experiences, it is important to first determine your group’s desired thrill and adventure level. AVA offers group trips from intense, continuous rapids with drops, swells, and more technical sections to more scenic float trips, with opportunities for relaxing and sunbathing. All styles are still possible with high water!
Stay Informed on River Levels
Because of the changing water levels, it is important to monitor the flow regularly to understand the rivers’ conditions and stay informed on the classes of rapids, especially when determining your comfort level! Rivers are measured in Cubic Feet per Second (CFS) and are separated by intensity of a class ranking system. We publish a weekly Whitewater River Conditions blog to help you stay informed and up to date in order to best plan your trip.
You can also read more about the rivers, classes of rapids, and our rating system on our Rafting page. Our knowledgeable sales agents are also available to help you discuss the best trip options for your group and can be reached at 1-877-RAFTING. Depending on age, experience, and swim strength, they can help determine a good section of the river and the excellent time of the season for your group.
Raft with an Expert!
In this high water season, we also highly recommend rafting with a professional guide. Raft guides have been rigorously trained and are familiar with the river and its features. Choosing a professional company with experience is undoubtedly the safest way to get on the river during high water, especially for beginners. AVA ensures that guides surpass industry mandated training hours, as well as lead their first trip under the supervision of an experienced guide.
Our guides will go over all technique before you hit the water, ensure your equipment is fitted properly, and make sure you feel comfortable before heading out on the river. Check out this video and tips to see what safety means to AVA! We don’t doubt that you will be paddling alongside the most brilliant and skilled guides running the rivers.
Because we want you to experience all of the thrills of this high water season, give us a call at 1-877-RAFTING, and our knowledgeable staff will help you navigate the ins and outs of your rafting adventure, including how to stay safe on the water! Before your trip, stay up to date on water conditions and levels, determine the interests of your group, and we will help you pick the rafting trip that is best for you. We can’t wait to see you out on the (high) water this summer. Give us a call and get your adventure started!