Whitewater Rafting Adventures on the Colorado River

group of people kayaking on body of water

Rafting has come a long way since the days of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Rafting trips can involve the calm, slow moving water of the central plains, or they might include the heart-pounding thrills of boiling white water found in mountainous terrain.

Rafting can be a relaxing way to move from one place to another while enjoying the surroundings, or it can be a group of people with their lives in their hands, dodging submerged boulders while the world speeds by in a blur.

The Colorado River is famous for offering a challenging rafting adventure combined with scenery that is often spectacular. The states of Utah and Arizona are where rafters get the Colorado’s best shot.

American River Rafting Adventures

The International Scale of River Difficulty rates rivers using Roman numerals l through Vl. Here is a brief explanation for each of these ratings:

  • l – Easy rafting with no guide needed. Perfect for beginners.
  • ll – Rapids of low difficulty. No experience needed, but consider using a guide.
  • lll – Numerous waves, rocks and eddies, rafters need the ability to steer around obstacles.
  • lV – Difficult. Boiling eddies and big rocks. Rafters should have experience and use a guide.
  • V – Long, violent rapids. Big drops and obstructions with violent current. Rafters need Class lV or better experience and must have an experienced guide.
  • Vl – Don’t go there.

In Utah and in Arizona, the Colorado River is rated from Class lll to Class V.

Colorado River Rafting in Utah

Several different outfitters in Utah offer guided rafting trips on the Colorado River. These trips last anywhere from one to six days in length, and different trips will involve different parts of the river. Moab, Utah is a popular place to make arrangements with the outfitter of choice. Some rafting trips in this section of Utah will also include the Green River, which merges with the Colorado inside Canyonlands National Park.

Rafting the Colorado River in Arizona

At one time, it was possible to enjoy rafting trips on the Colorado River that would stretch from Utah to the Gulf of California. A couple obstacles prevent that from happening today. The Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona created Lake Powell, and Hoover Dam, located on the Arizona/Nevada border, provides an obstacle that no raft could possibly challenge. However, many people enjoy whitewater rafting trips in the Arizona section of the river every year.

Outfitters offer trips ranging from three to seven days, and most include passage into the spectacular Grand Canyon. Some of these trips involve air flight from Las Vegas to a predetermined put in point. The town of Marble Canyon, Arizona is where some of the longer trips originate from.

American River Rafting is Wet and Wild Fun

Throughout the nation, rafting is gaining in popularity. It allows people to test their skills against the raw power of nature. Some can’t get enough of the heart pounding excitement of a whitewater river, such as the Colorado. Others would rather relax and enjoy themselves on a meandering stream that wouldn’t hurt a fly. As long as the rafters know their limits and don’t bite off more river than they can chew, good times can be had by all.

And, who knows, Tom and Huck might be around the next bend.  

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