On June 19th, the AVA team joined up with OutThere Colorado to take on AVA’s Browns Canyon ½ day trip at the highest flows our guides have seen on the Arkansas River in over 10 years. Thanks to several late-season storms and higher snowpack levels, the Arkansas River has experienced unprecedented water levels these past couple of weeks, and we were excited to try it out for ourselves. 

group rafting browns canyon

High Water, High Adrenaline

At its peak this season, the Arkansas River reached 4,884 CFS (cubic feet per second) on June 13th.  Its flow was reduced to 2, 570 CFS the day we rafted, yet this Browns Canyon section was still adjusted to a class IV section. In most years, high water peaks at a flow of about 3,000 CFS, with a normal flow of around 1,500 CFS.  

At regular water levels, AVA’s Browns Canyon ½ day trip is a milder class III experience, perfect for all ages 7 and older. On our adventure, we experienced a theme park ride with larger class IV rapids that kept our adrenaline pumping the entire way. The minimum age for this Browns Canyon section also increased to 10 years due to these more intense conditions, yet the trip was still safe for everyone in reasonable physical fitness who met this age minimum. 

Browns Canyon rafting with OTC and AVA

We put in and paddled through calmer water for about 20 minutes before hitting the first rapids–just enough time to start appreciating the astounding scenery. The granite walls and rock formations began to rise around us, and as we entered splashier sections, we also made our way into Browns Canyon National Monument.  

Here, the few restaurants and homes along the bank gave way to awe-inspiring cliffs and lush greenery. Despite it being a cloudier day, we still appreciated this scenery and the Collegiate Peaks Mountain Range in the distance. 

We then began the ultimate adventure, as we headed into the major rapids, crashing through “canyon doors” and “zoom flume.” As we entered “the seven staircases,” we hit about 15 minutes of intense paddling, rocketing through and down the staircase like rapids.  We flew for about a half hour longer, eventually catching our breath as we neared the take out point. Check out OutThere Colorado’s video to learn more about our day out on the Arkansas River!


Safety… and then fun!

AVA’s focus on safety began at our initial check-in at the outpost. Whether guests fill out their safety waiver’s ahead of time or at the outpost, everyone is required to watch an initial safety video. After we geared up and before we hit the water, a guide gave our entire group a rundown on key safety measures and scenarios. Then, when we broke off to meet with our guide, Robby, he instructed us on paddling technique.

OTC and the AVA team

Through it all, we had a blast on the river under Robby’s expertise. Robby made sure we stayed safe while having fun navigating the high water. Because we paid attention to Robby’s commands and paddled together in unison, we were more excited than nervous, plunging through the larger rapids. We all agreed that this was an unforgettable rafting experience, and we felt safe the entire time down the river!

For those looking for even more time out on the water, we recommend the Browns Canyon Express ¾ day experience, the Browns Canyon Sizzler full day adventure, or our 24 hours in Browns trip. With multiple trip lengths, there’s an opportunity for everyone to experience the iconic Browns Canyon section of the Arkansas River. 

High Water Q and A

Learn more about high water and how AVA handles and prepares for these conditions. 

What do high water conditions mean?  

High water means splashier rapids and more intense rafting, making it ideal for groups looking for the ultimate adventure. With this extra excitement also comes the potential for more dangerous rafting conditions, and it is imperative to follow all safety guidelines and regulations.

Tour guide rafting with a group through Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River

How does AVA prepare for this high water? 

Safety is always our top priority at AVA, and we ensure our guides are trained to the highest standards and CPR/ First-Aid certified, as well as capable of leading trips in even adverse conditions. We understand, however, that rafting may prove dangerous no matter the skill level of your guide.  

With this in mind, we consistently monitor river flows and conditions, and we will close trips and increase age minimums during this period of high water to keep your group safe. We follow strict cut-offs based on current river flows (measured in CFS), and these can change hourly or more. 

Should I be nervous to raft? 

Although rafting in high water can be more intense, we only run river sections that are safe. Your guides are trained to navigate these conditions to help your group have a fun, splashy adventure. If a river section is not safe to raft, we will not run our trips, making sure everyone can experience an alternative adventure. 

We are dedicated to your adventure experience, including keeping you up to date on river conditions and any trip changes! Read more about current river conditions, including open trips and age minimums on our River Conditions page. Learn more about all rafting trips, and book your adventure experience today.

Written by Rosa Canales, Copywriting Marketing Specialist