Rafting spectrum offered in Summit County
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Summit County, Colorado
Sure, Colorado may be best known for its skiing, but the same snow-covered peaks that give us our world-class slopes also provide another unique recreational asset – rivers, as in rafting.
“Colorado is the Mecca,” veteran river guide Duke Bradford said regarding the quality of the area’s whitewater. “The fact we have these huge mountains with incredible grading, it’s remarkable. The water, coming down that grading, makes for amazing rivers.”
And the areas in and surrounding Summit County are great examples of that.
In close proximity, Bradford said, there’s a stretch of water for “anyone,” regardless of ability or fitness level.
“Right in our own backyard, we have some unique circumstances,” said Bradford, who’s the director of Breckenridge-based Arkansas Valley Adventures. “The Continental Divide provides both the Eastern and Western slopes with great whitewater, and we have access to it all.”
The Blue, Arkansas and Colorado rivers, along with Clear Creek, all provide world-class rafting, and Bradford said the seasons for each look very promising.
The same couldn’t have been said just a few months ago.
Along with the rest of the state’s whitewater enthusiasts, Bradford was a bit concerned about what the summer would hold – or rather, if the rivers would be holding much at all.
The snowpack was low, and the outlook for whitewater was even lower around March. But a late cold snap in April and May vaulted the moisture levels back near average numbers, and, as Bradford put it, “more snow means more whitewater.”
“The water’s looking great,” Bradford said. “It’s up, but not to the point you have to be worried about it being dangerous in stretches.”
A true sign of the season, Bradford said, is that there’s a season at all on the Blue River. Some years, the river’s flows (below the Dillon Reservoir) are far too low to raft at all.
That’s not a problem this year.
Bradford said the Blue is currently running well. And, as the river may hit its peak in the coming weeks – possibly even days – now’s the time to go down it.
“It’s anyone’s guess how long it’ll last, but we should have at least a couple weeks,” he added about the Blue.
The Arkansas, however, is looking to have a long season, possibly past the end of August, due to high amounts of winter precipitation on Hoosier Pass. Bradford said the “Ark” is commonly consistent for boaters, as it has controlled releases from the reservoir.
Clear Creek, in the stretches near Idaho Springs, is already running well and should continue to do so until early August.
“That’s the closest, most consistent whitewater we have,” Bradford said.
And in each of the rivers, Bradford said a boater of every ability can find the stretch that’s right for them.
For instance, the Colorado River has arguably the best stretch of class IV and V rapids anywhere in the country in Gore Canyon near Kremmling. There’s a waterfall, long runs, and Bradford said the stretch is strictly for the “active and aggressive” boaters with a whole lot of experience. (Swimming tests – including recovery from under the raft – are required to paddle down the area.)
On the other hand, the Colorado also offers some pretty leisurely paced float trips.
“It’s all about finding the section that’s right for you,” Bradford said. “There are so many options, you just don’t want to be over your head.”
Bradford said any of the county’s many outfitters would easily steer a boater in the right direction.
After all, finding the right run, Bradford said, can lead to one of the best experiences Colorado offers.
“Being out on the river – It’s just a big, majestic place,” he said. “The environment a river takes you to is off the beaten path, it’s not something you see doing anything else. To experience something like that is certainly unique to Colorado.”
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