A Class Unto Itself: Colorado's Whitewater

The prime asset of Colorado's ski resorts pays off double each spring—melting snow transforms the Arkansas, Colorado, Rio Grande, and their tributaries into a frothing mass of whitewater. Snake through plunging canyons covered in Anasazi Indian rock art, alongside 100-foot Douglas firs and fields of wildflowers, down 10-foot drops, and through the former stomping grounds of the docile brontosaurus and his contemporaries (1,600 bones on display tell the tale).
Below the vertiginous heights of Independence Pass lies the most popular of south-central Colorado's whitewater—the Arkansas River. First timers will find inviting currents along with the requisite adrenaline surge, while rapid addicts will get plenty of chances to dig the paddle in deep. Hardcore runners can push their skills on the Class IV-V+ Piedra River or along Gore Canyon, a six-mile chasm of blazing Class V rapids that'll leave you soaked and screaming for more. The family-conscious set can zip along the Class II-III Green and Yampa Rivers, curving through Dinosaur Nat'l Monument. Base yourself in Vail or Aspen for access to five of the state's best day-long rapids, or run the Class II-V+ Dolores River in its entirety over the course of 12 grand days.

Published: 14 Feb 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »