Rivers in the Rocky Mountains offer a truly unique whitewater experience. Having carved their way through deep gorges of limestone, granite or sandstone, their currents are swift and wild. Besides views that are almost incomprehensibly beautiful, western rivers offer heart-pounding rapids formed by their iconic ‘rocky’ namesakes.
Whether you are a novice boater, or a widely experienced paddler, rivers like the Colorado, the Gunnison, the Arkansas, and the Roaring Fork will give you what you need be it mild or wild.
But before you set foot on a raft, there are a few ways to ensure that your day on the river is the highlight of your summer.
1. Prepare for weather. The mountain regions are well-known for cantankerous temperature swings and sudden storms of startling power. Looking ahead at the forecast (NOAA has excellent pinpoint forecasts and accurate radar) can help, but it is never a guarantee, so bring a rain jacket and extra layers, especially for little ones.
2. Sunshine is not always your friend. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. At higher altitudes where the atmosphere is thinner, you will not tan gently, but rather go straight to a crispy red without protection. Be sure to use a high spf if you plan on being in the sun for any significant amount of time.
3. Hydrate! The climate there is ‘semi-arid’ and moisture evaporates almost instantly. Your body will lose moisture faster than in the more humid coastal or mid-lands. Also, the altitude can adversely affect you if you do not keep up on your fluids. Plan on two full liters for a full day trip, and at least one for a half-day.
4. Safety first. Personal flotation devices, or pfds, are not optional in the swift and rocky currents of the West. Even if the water looks ‘flat,’ swimming can very dangerous, as the water is much more powerful than it looks. Just listen to your guide and take their advice seriously. They will let you know when to play and when to stay alert.
With just a little planning, you and your family will have a wonderful experience. Expert guides and amazing companies in this region allow their customers to safely experience the wonders of whitewater rafting, and you may be certain that a day you spend on the river is a day you will never forget.