Colorado River

Colorado RiverWith a water­shed run­ning through 11 nation­al parks over sev­en U.S. states, and boast­ing 1,450 miles of riverbed from its birth­place in the south­ern Rocky Moun­tains to its nat­ur­al ter­mi­nus in the Sea of Cortez, the Col­orado Riv­er is a mas­sive dia­mond in the rough whose sto­ried geo­log­ic his­to­ry includes carv­ing the Grand Canyon itself. If you’re ready to join the flotil­la of kayak­ers, rafters and canoeists who ply her waters, here are some tips to get you started.

Lots of Miles to Travel
The Col­orado Riv­er fea­tures near­ly 700 riv­er miles in the U.S. alone, which means you have your pick of how long you’d like to be on the water. Depend­ing on your put-in and take-out points, and the water lev­el, two days of pad­dling plus one overnight on a riv­er island may be just as doable as three weeks of pad­dling and overnights. Con­sid­er whether you’d like to build in time to explore oth­er parts of the riv­er, includ­ing trib­u­taries and side canyons, and fac­tor that into your sched­ule. Keep in mind that the longer you’re afloat, the more work you’ll put in to plan­ning your trip, and the more weight you’ll have in gear and provisions.

Adven­ture for All Skill Levels
While the Col­orado does offer plen­ty of stretch­es of love­ly, drift­ing flat­wa­ter, an unde­ni­able part of its appeal are the white­wa­ter rapids. If you’re still wet behind the ears when it comes to riv­er camp­ing, check out easy kayak trails like the Wilbarg­er Pad­dling Trail, which can be done as a day trip or a slow-paced overnight; or the fam­i­ly friend­ly, 25-mile Ruby-Horsethief Canyons run and score a gor­geous prim­i­tive site through the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment. On the oth­er hand, if you’ve got the skills and expe­ri­ence, noth­ing beats the thrill of big water. Near Radi­um, CO, Cataract Canyon offers rapids from class II-IV, and Gore Canyon in Bond, CO, is home to the apt­ly named Gore Fest for its infa­mous down­riv­er race through wild Class V Gore Canyon. And then there’s the Grand Canyon, which offers an end­less buf­fet of fea­tures. No white­wa­ter enthu­si­ast needs to be told about leg­endary rapids Crys­tal or Lava Falls, but begin­ners beware: these are best left to pro­fes­sion­als and the extreme­ly experienced.

Colorado RiverPaper­work
Once you’ve deter­mined the length of your trip and iden­ti­fied the sec­tion of the riv­er you’d like to run, the next step is to secure any nec­es­sary per­mits with local gov­ern­ing agen­cies in order to law­ful­ly com­plete your run. While skirt­ing author­i­ty to pull out­ra­geous stunts may be “ille­gal, wrong-headed…and glo­ri­ous,” no amount of per­son­al glo­ry is like­ly to off­set the headache of fines and heart­break of a trip cut short for want of prop­er paper­work. Know before you go, and pay care­ful atten­tion to sec­tions of the riv­er that may require mul­ti­ple sign-offs from dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ing bod­ies, such as launch­es from Dia­mond Creek in the Grand Canyon which require both a per­mit from Grand Canyon Nation­al Park and paid access fees to the Huala­pai Tribe.

Life jack­ets save lives, so wear them. Addi­tion­al­ly, be sure to check the flow rate of the sec­tion of riv­er you intend to run, as both high flows and low flows can intro­duce new dan­ger­ous con­di­tions and haz­ards, which may put the trip fur­ther from your com­fort zone. Fif­teen dams along the main stem of the Col­orado pro­vide reg­u­la­tion of flow rate and flood con­trol, so the riv­er does run less wild than it has in the past, but there are still sec­tions where the flow rate can deter­mine whether a par­tic­u­lar rock gar­den is sub­merged or exposed, or where the best line through a haz­ard may lay. Self-res­cue is always your most reli­able bet on the riv­er, so if the con­di­tions appear over­whelm­ing, bet­ter to be safe than sorry.

In addi­tion to your water­craft of choice—be it a wood­en dory, a canoe, inflat­able raft, or a kayak—and all assort­ed oars and pad­dles, you’ll need to pack enough pro­vi­sions for the length of your trip. That includes water! You’ll have plen­ty of it below you, but depend­ing on the river’s con­di­tions, it’s like­ly to be too silty for even the stur­di­est fil­ters. Water­proof dry bags are impor­tant for keep­ing your per­ish­ables fresh and your sleep­ing sys­tem from becom­ing sog­gy; and portable riv­er toi­lets are a must for pro­tect­ing the san­i­ta­tion of a riv­er bot­tom that sees mil­lions of vis­i­tors a year.

Whether you pre­fer the pad­dle strokes from a white­wa­ter kayak, a raft, or you stand-up instead, the dif­fer­ent white­wa­ter cours­es around the U.S. can pro­vide many avenues for enjoy­ment. Whether it’s your first-time front surf­ing or you’re an expe­ri­enced pad­dler, all the best white­wa­ter parks across the coun­try also inhab­it adven­ture-rich sur­round­ings, lend­ing fun on both land and water.

U.S Nation­al White­wa­ter Cen­ter, Char­lotte, North Carolina
Home to the world’s largest man-made, recir­cu­lat­ing white­wa­ter riv­er, the U.S. Nation­al White­wa­ter Cen­ter (USNWC) pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for every type of pad­dler. Kayaks, canoes and guid­ed rafts can enjoy the class II-IV rapids and chan­nels at the USNWC, and flat water is eas­i­ly accessed from the adja­cent Cataw­ba Riv­er. Out­side of the water, the USNWC also offers plen­ty of land activ­i­ties includ­ing a deep water solo climb­ing wall, a high-ropes course and plen­ty of trails to explore by foot or bike. Throw in all the annu­al cel­e­bra­tions that hap­pen through­out the sea­son at the USNWC, and this adven­ture endowed facil­i­ty isn’t just a mec­ca for white­wa­ter rapids, it’s a bea­con for all the adven­ture sports found in the region.

Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing Cen­ter, Potomac Riv­er, Maryland
For recre­ation­al wave users, the Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing Cen­ter pro­vides two oppor­tu­ni­ties to hone your skills. The Potomac River’s Feed­ers Canal has been help­ing Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing ath­letes train since the ear­ly 1970s, and these class I‑II nat­ur­al rapids are still a great place to prac­tice your slalom tech­nique. The Potomac White­wa­ter Rac­ing Cen­ter also lends to the unique NRG Dick­er­son White­wa­ter Course, which fea­tures a straight, 900-foot chan­nel cre­at­ed by NRG Ener­gy as an out­put for cool­ing water from the Dick­er­son Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion. The white­wa­ter course was installed in 1992 as an Olympic train­ing grounds, and pad­dlers must have a PWRC mem­ber­ship to ride the Dick­er­son White­wa­ter Course, and as a bonus, the water is always heat­ed when it’s time to ride.

Bend White­wa­ter Park, Deschutes Riv­er, Oregon
The Bend White­wa­ter Park of Ore­gon offers three dis­tinct chan­nels on the Deschutes Riv­er, two of which are designed for riv­er rid­ers, with the third exclu­sive­ly des­ig­nat­ed for wildlife trav­el. The two chan­nels designed for humans vary between a pas­sage­way chan­nel that adds a lit­tle froth to anyone’s float, and the white­wa­ter chan­nel specif­i­cal­ly designed for white­wa­ter kayak­ing, surf­ing, and stand-up pad­dle board­ing. The white­wa­ter chan­nel at the Bend White­wa­ter Park fea­tures four waves of vary­ing dif­fi­cul­ty, all cre­at­ed by under­wa­ter pneu­mat­ic blad­ders and nat­ur­al riv­er fea­tures, and caters towards all skill lev­els of white­wa­ter athletes.

Kelly’s White­wa­ter Park, Cas­cade, Idaho
Locat­ed an hour and a half from Boise, Kelly’s White­wa­ter Park is a nation­al­ly rec­og­nized play space for kayak­ers and riv­er enthu­si­ast of all kinds. Home to The Payette Riv­er Games, Kelly’s White­wa­ter Park brings ath­letes and the com­mu­ni­ty to the river­bank through­out the sea­son and caters towards all lev­els of rid­ers with the vari­ety of waves, fea­tures and sep­a­rate chan­nels to nav­i­gate. Even for those not real com­fort­able in the water, the charm­ing back­drop of Cas­cade Ida­ho is worth the vis­it, and the adja­cent 2,600 square foot wel­come cen­ter can add a real extra lay­er to the white­wa­ter experience.


River­sport Rapids, Okla­homa Riv­er, Oklahoma
Serv­ing as the num­ber one adven­ture des­ti­na­tion in Okla­homa City, River­sport Rapids offers great white­wa­ter oppor­tu­ni­ty and so much more. Rafters, kayak­ers, tubers, stand-up pad­dle board­ers and even Drag­on Boat pad­dlers can find some fun in the recir­cu­lat­ing water of River­sport Rapids, and for those only inter­est­ed in the waves, River­sport Rapids offers clin­ics, class­es and pass­es for expe­ri­enced rid­ers to ride on their own. Between tack­ling the class II-IV rapids that define the facil­i­ty, adven­ture options for the whole fam­i­ly are abound, includ­ing high-speed slides, height-defy­ing obsta­cle cours­es, and a bicy­cle pump track.

Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park, Gold­en, Colorado
Per­haps some of the most fun to be had in the adven­ture-endowed region of Gold­en can be found at the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park locat­ed in the heart of the munic­i­pal­i­ty. Fea­tur­ing a quar­ter-mile run, the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Course is split into a top, bot­tom and mid­dle sec­tion, with each area offer­ing its own unique waves and drop-offs. Admis­sion and park­ing is always free to the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park, and it can be a pop­u­lar place to pad­dle dur­ing the warmer months of the year. Serv­ing as a great place for begin­ner and long-time pad­dling enthu­si­asts, the Clear Creek White­wa­ter Park is also a great com­mu­ni­ty gath­er­ing place for out­door enthu­si­asts of Gold­en and beyond.

Truc­k­ee Riv­er White­wa­ter Park, Reno, Nevada
The Truc­k­ee Riv­er White­wa­ter Park of Reno is an aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing engi­neered space full of adren­a­line-pump­ing adven­ture. Com­pris­ing of a half-mile of fea­tures, includ­ing 11 drop pools, a vari­ety of class II-III rapids and a con­stant 50–70⁰ tem­per­a­ture, the Truc­k­ee Riv­er has some­thing for all pad­dling enthu­si­asts to enjoy. Sur­round­ing the water is a beau­ti­ful­ly man­i­cured space that’s a com­mon place for pedes­tri­ans to spend the day, and whether you hop in the water to prac­tice your pad­dle strokes, or sim­ply stand by and watch some­one nav­i­gate the waves, the Truc­k­ee Riv­er White­wa­ter Park is sim­ply an excit­ing place to be.

What do you get when you com­bine death met­al, home­made boats, a gnarly riv­er in Kyr­gyzs­tan, and a team of devot­ed Russ­ian rafters from Moscow who either have a death wish or a lot of vod­ka in them?

This video. That’s what. It’s also known as The Most Hard­core Cataraft­ing Video Ever.

Check it out. 

In 1971 five men from Port­land, Ore­gon head­ed out to the Deschutes Riv­er in cen­tral Ore­gon for what they called “a cheatin’ death affair.”

They planned to descend the Deschutes River’s most for­mi­da­ble obsta­cle; a 14-foot water­fall called Sher­ars Falls, in a raft of tied togeth­er inner tubes.

Sher­ars Falls is not just anoth­er rapid on the riv­er known for its class III and IV thrills. It’s a manda­to­ry portage where the entire­ty of the mus­cu­lar riv­er plunges head­long over a cliff.  Native Amer­i­cans have erect­ed wood­en gang­planks over the churn­ing pool of water to dip net for salmon. And many res­i­dents in the town of Maupin, which lines the Deschutes’ banks, have heard the sto­ries of hap­less adven­tur­ers who have tempt­ed fate along the riv­er only to nev­er be seen again.

Drop­ping the falls in a kayak might be pos­si­ble, but on a flotil­la of inner tubes?

Watch this vin­tage video that cap­tures the essence of fool­hardy adventurers.

With ris­ing tem­per­a­tures comes melt­ing snow­pack and for some, that means big water and rush­ing moun­tain streams. Check out these sev­en des­ti­na­tions for wild spring whitewater.

Salmon River, Idaho










The Mid­dle Fork of the Salmon Riv­er, Idaho

The leg­endary Mid­dle Fork of the Salmon Riv­er drops 3,000 feet over 105 miles through the wild Riv­er of No Return Wilder­ness. The free-flow­ing Mid­dle Fork cours­es through spec­tac­u­lar scenery and rugged land­scape free from roads or human con­struc­tion. This riv­er is pro­tect­ed as one of the first Wild and Scenic Rivers in the Unit­ed States.

The Ani­mas Riv­er, Colorado

The Ani­mas Riv­er near Duran­go pro­vides ample oppor­tu­ni­ties for fam­i­lies and expe­ri­enced adven­ture seek­ers alike. The low­er Ani­mas Riv­er offers some mod­est spring­time thrills as the melt­ing snow­pack fills the rapids with rush­ing water. Want to up the anti? Head with an out­fit­ter to the Upper Ani­mas, where seri­ous class IV and V rapids test expe­ri­enced thrill seek­ers to the lim­it. Check out the 28-mile Ani­mas Gorge, which will get your pulse racing.

Gauley Riv­er, West Virginia

The sec­tion of white­wa­ter below the Som­merville Dam swells in the spring and sum­mer with reg­u­lar dis­charges from the reser­voir. Along this most famous East­ern set of rapids, the Gauley drops 668 feet over 27 miles cre­at­ing more than 100 rapids, 53 of which are rat­ed class III or above.











Rogue Riv­er, Oregon

The Rogue Riv­er is divid­ed into two gen­er­al areas, the 34-mile Wild and Scenic stretch from Grave Creek to Fos­ter Bar. To pro­tect this sec­tion of con­sis­tent class III rapids, a max­i­mum of 120 users per day are allowed to run this sec­tion. A hik­ing trail along the riv­er offers access to hid­den swim­ming pools and side creeks among the lush Ore­gon forest.

Col­orado Riv­er, Utah and Arizona

Quite pos­si­bly the crown jew­el of North Amer­i­can white­wa­ter raft­ing adven­tures, the Col­orado Riv­er through the Grand Canyon is a fix­ture on the buck­et list of many adven­tur­ous souls.

There are a lot of options for a Grand Canyon raft trip and they all require per­mit­ting from the Nation­al Park Ser­vice. For a quick sight­see­ing tour, one-day com­mer­cial trips are avail­able reg­u­lar­ly on smooth water. Two to five day non­com­mer­cial (pri­vate) trips that launch from Dia­mond Creek are avail­able on a first come first serve basis.

Longer trips from Lee’s Fer­ry to Dia­mond Creek are per­mit­ted for three to 18 days for com­mer­cial­ly guid­ed adven­tures. For pri­vate trips from 12 to 25 days, hope­ful rafters must enter a lot­tery, which is weight­ed to give advan­tage to those who have wait­ed years for this once-in-a-lifetime.

Snake Riv­er, Oregon

The Snake Riv­er winds through Hells Canyon, the deep­est riv­er gorge in North Amer­i­ca at 7,993 feet. The riv­er winds through a scenic, 10-mile wide canyon and trips are high­light­ed with vis­its to Native Amer­i­can pet­ro­glyphs and beau­ti­ful hikes through the wild land­scape. Just three roads reach the riv­er in Hells Canyon and none cross it. Enjoy the wilder­ness of the Sev­en Dev­ils Moun­tain Range if you dare.

Green Riv­er, Utah

Want to check out a riv­er and some amaz­ing canyon lands such as Arch­es Nation­al Park in a sin­gle trip? Head to Utah and float the Green Riv­er, which runs from Flam­ing Gorge Nation­al Recre­ation Area to Dinosaur Nation­al Mon­u­ment. From there it cross­es the rugged south­west land­scape before meet­ing up with the Col­orado Riv­er at Canyon­lands Nation­al Park. Many sec­tions of the riv­er of vary­ing dif­fi­cul­ty and length to pro­vide a wide range of options for vis­i­tors look­ing for water-based adventure.

Green River, Utah

Raft­ing over a 125-foot water­fall seems impos­si­ble, but in this cam­era phone video, Dan McCain, proves the impos­si­ble is only a fig­ment of our imag­i­na­tion by drop­ping over the spill­way of the Con­dit Dam on the White Salmon Riv­er in Washington.

For more exten­sive cov­er­age, check out Kraig Beck­er’s post on The Adven­ture Blog.

It’s more than ille­gal and impres­sive; how­ev­er, it is now actu­al­ly impossible.

On Octo­ber 28, 2011, Paci­fi­Corp explod­ed their 100-year old dam. Andy Maser cap­tured a beau­ti­ful time-lapse video sequence of the explo­sion. Lis­ten for the detonator’s yell, “Fire in the hole!”

And if you’re a pad­dler, or a con­ser­va­tion­ist, give a yell of your own. That dark tor­rent burst­ing from the breached dam’s base is the first time the White Salmon Riv­er has flowed in over a century.

It’s tak­en over a year to remove all the debris, but this stretch is now offi­cial­ly open for rafting.

Adven­ture Technology


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Teen in Trou­ble: Did you know? Today in 2010, an emer­gency res­cue on the high seas meant the end to a Cal­i­for­nia teen’s dream of becom­ing the youngest per­son to sail around the world. Strand­ed at sea after her 40-foot sloop, Wild Eyes, suf­fered severe dam­age includ­ing a bro­ken mast from rogue waves in a remote stretch of the Indi­an Ocean, six­teen-year-old mariner Abby Sun­der­land was forced to trig­ger her emer­gency bea­con. Air­borne res­cuers spot­ted her ves­sel 2,350 miles out at sea just as the plane was reach­ing the lim­its of its search zone, forc­ing it to turn back. Sun­der­land was ulti­mate­ly res­cued by the near­est ship—a fish­ing ves­sel over 24-hours away.