exciting adventure for everyone of every age and skill level
[SW Colorado] Whitewater rafting—it’s an exciting adventure for everyone, of every age, every experience, every ability. Whether you like it teeth-clenching tough or mild and scenic, you can find the perfect raft ride in SW Colorado. The majestic San Juan Mountains and mesas fill the back drop as you float through state wildlife areas, historic ranchlands, and the unique Uncompahgre River Canyon or paddle your way through Class III and IV rapids in deep gorges and canyons.
Some river trips provide for on-land as well as in-water adventures. Native American rock-art, and spectacular desert flora and fauna can be found on numerous side-hikes making for a rich experience on the edge of canyon country. Some are geared for family fun and offer gentle, picture-taking opporunities, many going into places accessible only by water. In some areas, cottonwood stands along the river provide nesting habitat for herons and songbirds, while deer, desert bighorn sheep, and large game can be seen along the banks. Overnight trips are also available
The Uncompahgre River from the town of Ridgway to the Ridgway Reservoir,
(Class II to III+ rapids) is a great introductory rafting section with wonderful wildlife and scenery opportunities. The majestic San Juan Mountains fill the back drop for the entire run! Float through prime wildlife habitat for an up-close look at songbirds, deer, and birds of prey! Narrow canyon sections of the Uncompahgre River provide a unique and remote experience for paddlers and a rare opportunity to get off the beaten path. A fantastic run on over 15 miles of remote access on the lower Uncompahgre River is also available with excellent water flows maintained throughout the summer. Access on this mostly private section of river is extremely limited, with no defined take-out location.
Lower Gunnison River
Named for the Spanish Jesuits that first explored the area in 1777, Dominguez and Escalante Canyons are rich in history, wildlife, and scenery. The class II Gunnison River gently carves its way through Dominguez Canyon creating a wilderness feeling. Cottonwood stands along the river provide nesting habitat for herons and songbirds, while deer, desert bighorn sheep, and large game can be seen along the banks.
Native American rock-art, and spectacular desert flora and fauna can be found on numerous side-hikes making for a rich experience on the edge of canyon country. The ideal way to see the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon – from the inside! A true wilderness experience, this 14 mile river section combines incredible wildlife and scenery with class III-IV whitewater through one of the most spectacular canyons in Colorado.
Gunnison River Gorge
The Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is located nine miles northeast of Montrose and offers a wild and pristine backcountry experience. A unique double canyon system of black granite layered with red sandstones, the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is located within the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area just downstream from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is only the second BLM managed wilderness area in Colorado; it is managed to preserve and protect its wilderness, scenic and recreational values
The Gunnison Gorge is famous for its world-class fishing, geology, and wildlife but sees moderate use because of its remote location, and challenging access.
San Miguel River
The San Miguel drops over 7000′ from an alpine ecosystem to the desert. The San Miguel offers the whitewater boater a variety of runs all within the class II+–III range. The river’s consistent gradient and continuous character provides the boater with an abundance of whitewater, none of which is overly difficult.
The San Miguel riparian corridor is lush and contains many globally rare riparian plant communities. Due to spring flooding, the river contains numerous strainers and downed wood which change periodically, though most are easily spotted. Use caution.
The San Miguel should be easily negotiated by the Intermediate whitewater boater. However, The San Miguel’s class II-III rating can be deceptive. This river is continuous, shallow, and contains a fair amount of downed wood–the consequences can be more significant than the rating would suggest.
Photography, Courtesy RIGS
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