Rafting the Gunnison River is a beloved past time for Coloradoans (and Coloradoans at heart)! It’s a prime river to traverse in the summer, offering rapids ranging that cover almost the entire spectrum of difficulty that you’d normally find. The river begins near Almont, CO where much of the land is still untouched. It’s a little slice of paradise, quietly sitting within the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
And it’s the perfect place to get in touch with nature without having to interact with the bustle surrounding even the smallest towns in North America. Let’s take a closer look at what the river has to offer, and what you can expect to see on your journey!
The River Route
The Gunnison River flows through several exquisite parts of the terrain. Depending on how long you stay out on the water, you’ll follow the flow high up in the mountains, through gorges and canyons. Eventually, the river flows towards the Colorado River in Grand Junction where there are several places you can make your exit.
The Gunnison Gorge, which is the national conservation area surrounding the river, stretches on for miles in all directions which provide for fantastic photo ops along the way. The river, on its own, is a 14-mile journey that has been nominated for “Wild and Scenic River” designation. And it’s not hard to see why.
The gorgeous clear green water looks like stained glass, especially when the sun is out in full force. The waters slip between spectacular towering black granite cliffs, dropping first into picturesque pools and then plunging into foaming rapids. There have been several occasions in which people have described the scenery as something similar to the Grand Canyon, sans the canyon itself.
You’re in for a thrilling adventure no matter the length of time you spend on the river. Or where you start your journey. It’s a river where seclusion is taken up a step further due to the limited amount of rafts allowed on the Gunnison every day. Many companies like Wilderness Aware Rafting are limited to five launches per summer with a maximum of 10 guests per trip. The idea is that it helps reduce the possibility of bottlenecking or run-ins with other groups that are also waiting to raft the river.
Imagine yourself on this ultimate outdoor adventure with a small group of people the entire time! For those who want to maximize their wilderness experience that might just be the golden ticket for them.
Preparing For Your Trip
You can start your trip from several places along the river. Places like Grand Junction, Montrose, and Gunnison in Colorado are some of the most popular starting points. But you can also ride the river from Crested Butte, though you’ll start floating on the East River until it merges into the Gunnison. Crested Butte makes a great basecamp for a getaway that includes rafting on the Gunnison River!
Also, consider how long you want your trip to last. For day-trippers, whitewater rafting adventures might only be something to do for 3 hours before continuing your travel through the mountains. However, for those who are looking for single or multi-day outdoor journeys then arrangements will look completely different.
Depending on which outfitter you select, there will be some hiking required to actually get to the river. Many overnight trips will also include hiking opportunities in Colorado’s backcountry. Several locations will not have easy access to the river, or will not start off near the shore. Again, companies like Wilderness Aware Rafting who offer extended excursions want you to have the full immersive experience. Those who do hike will be rewarded with dramatic canyon scenery and picturesque views, balancing everything out.
As always, bring all of your essentials for the outdoors while leaving expensive or non-replaceable items at home. The last thing you need is to ruin that nice pair of shoes or lose the camera your great Aunt Edith gave you for your birthday in the river.
The Gunnison River is a unique and riveting whitewater rafting experience that sets itself apart. If the sights don’t inspire you then the comradery and rushing sounds of the rapids might. Today is the perfect time for you to challenge yourself so what are you waiting for? You’ve got what it takes and the river is ready for your arrival!