FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
- General Trip Questions
- Our Office
- River & Rafting Questions
- What to Wear/Equipment
- Food & Drink
- About WA
We are open seven days a week from May 1st through Labor Day, typically from 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM MST. Early and late season we close between 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM. From Labor Day to May 1st we are in the office Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM MST. We are not open on Saturday and Sunday during this time.
Reservations should be made as soon as you know your plans, although seats are sometimes available up to the last minute. Late registration is on a space available basis. We can make a tentative/unconfirmed reservation if you need us to hold a date while you gather a group together. Please note that if you cannot confirm your tentative reservation with payment before an agreed upon date, we reserve the right to cancel your group to make room for other reservations.
Your name and contact information is all that is required to make a reservation. We will hold tentative/unconfirmed reservations for up to two weeks after you make your reservation. If you are scheduling your trip within two weeks of departure, we will hold tentative/unconfirmed reservations for 48 hours after you make your reservation. When you are ready to confirm your reservation with payment, we require a 50% deposit with the remaining balance due 30 days before your trip. If you are confirming within 30 days of your trip, we require 100% payment. We accept all major credit cards over the phone or you may mail a personal check to our office. You will receive an email confirmation upon making your payment.
You can cancel up to 72 hours prior to departure date and time on half and full day rafting trips and receive a full refund, no fees. You can cancel up to 10 days prior to departure date and time on multi-day rafting trips and receive a full refund, no fees. All discounted trips are non-refundable. For more detail regarding our cancellation policies, including policies for horse and zip trips, please visit our complete policy page.
Yes, you can purchase cancellation coverage on multi-day rafting reservations only.
At the time of confirmation, you can purchase cancellation coverage for $50/person. Coverage allows you to cancel up to 72 hours prior to departure and receive a full refund. Cancellation coverage is non-refundable, non-transferable and does not cover no-shows.
There is a 9% Land and Water Access Fee in addition to every trip that we offer – this fee covers private put-in, take-out, camping fees, and access to the river. Each river is different in the way that fees are distributed. Access to the river can include transportation which is similar to a fuel surcharge. On all Salt River trips there is also a $25/person Apache Permit Fee in addition to all Half, Full, Sprint, Campout and Expedition trips and a $50/person Apache Permit Fee in addition to all 3 Day, 4 Day and 5 Day trips. On all rafting trips in Colorado, cool weather rental equipment is available to rent for an additional fee. Guide gratuity is not included in our prices.
Please arrive 30-45 minutes prior to your trip departure time on ½ and full day trips.
On multi-day trips, please arrive one hour prior to departure. If you are departing from our office in Buena Vista, you may check in by 7 PM the day before your multi-day trip, and pick up your waterproof storage bag and rental items so that you can pack at your leisure in your motel room or campsite. This avoids having to pack your bag at our office.
There is a minimum age requirement on every trip that we offer. We have raft trips suitable for all skill levels, including kids ages 4 and older. There is not maximum age requirement, but we would recommend that each guest that chooses to whitewater raft be in good physical condition.
Transportation is included in the price of our trips. There are designated meeting points for each trip that we offer. We will transport you to the river for the start of your trip and return you to your vehicle at the end of your trip. For more information on meeting points for each trip, visit our Packing List page.
Your guide is a paid professional. Tips are appropriate and accepted only if we exceeded your expectations. Whether you tip and how much you tip should depend on your satisfaction with the trip, your feelings about tipping, and your financial means. If you believe your guide deserves a tip, a suggested range is from $10-$15/guest/day on single day trips. For multi-day trips a suggested range is from 10-20% of your trip cost. If you had the time of your life, then the sky is the limit! We also appreciate your comments. We use your feedback to recognize extraordinary customer service and to discover areas where we can make improvements. Our goal is to exceed your expectations!
In Colorado, we rarely have an entire day of bad weather. It is sunny in the morning almost every day. Afternoon thunderstorms are fairly common in July and August, and are typically mild and short-lived. In Arizona, it can still get chilly in March, and during that time we typically suggest you wear a wetsuit, etc. In April and early May in Arizona, it is typically very warm or hot.
We raft rain or shine. We will not cancel or cut short trips due to rain and/or thunderstorm conditions (including lighting).
Our office is located near Buena Vista, CO on the Arkansas River. We meet at other locations for other rivers and for lower Arkansas River trips such as the Royal Gorge. See our Map to our Buena Vista, CO Office or select your specific trip on our Packing List page.
We have a mobile/satellite office for our operation on the Salt River in Arizona during March, April and early May. This location does not have a physical address; it is simply located on Hwy 60 at the base of the Salt River Canyon between Globe and Show Low, AZ. See our Map to our Salt River Canyon Office for detailed directions.
Our office in Buena Vista, CO is a new and well kept facility complete with large, clean restrooms and changing rooms. In Arizona, we have a large trailer with two separate rooms that serves as a changing room. Portable restroom facilities are also available to us at this location.
We offer sunglasses, retaining straps, hats, sunscreen, drinks and snacks in our retail store. T-shirts, souvenirs and photos of your group are also available.
At our Buena Vista, CO location we have a lockable 10’x10’ kennel on our property that you may use free of charge if you raft with us. Please note that you need to provide adequate food for your dog. We can provide water.
**Please note that our dog kennels are not appropriate for small dogs or dogs that are exceptionally skilled at escaping enclosed areas.
Every Wilderness Aware camping/rafting multi-day trip is assigned a special gear boat to carry the group’s camping equipment down the river. This gives us the flexibility to stop at secluded campsites in the canyons, offering unparallel views of the river and mountains. Many companies in Colorado do not offer this wilderness-style trip.
Our first time guests are thrilled by the quantity and quality of the food served on our trips. Hearty meals from our extensive menu are prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients. A meal with us is an event to remember. When you raft with us, you will enjoy comforts that are not normally associated with backcountry camping. After a great day on the river, image yourself enjoying a cold drink by the campfire while your guides prepare a delicious multi-course meal. Guides will even deliver hot drinks to your tent in the morning! Backcountry camping in a remote setting can only be this comfortable on a Wilderness Aware Rafting trip!
A guide captains every boat. Our guides represent the most qualified professionals in the industry. Guides must attend a 5-day interview trip prior to being hired. They are thoroughly experienced in the techniques of river running and are first-aid and CPR certified. Before guiding their first commercial trip, our guides receive river training that far exceeds the state requirement. What sets our guides apart is the personal attention they give our participants. Our crew of fun loving professionals is dedicated to making each and every trip the finest possible.
We regularly conduct interpretive workshops to provide our guides with additional information on the natural, cultural and political history of the rivers we run. We are proud of our staff and we know you will enjoy this fine group of people.
Up to seven guests plus the guide can paddle in a raft. We can take eight people if someone is willing to ride in the middle of the raft as a passenger. Groups larger than eight people must split between multiple rafts. We reserve the right to split groups as necessary and may adjust maximum boat loads based on water levels.
Before every trip we conduct an in-depth participant safety orientation and paddling instruction. We regularly take first time rafters on our most popular trips.
You may elect to ride in an oar boat where the guide has complete control of the raft. This gives you the freedom to admire the scenery and use both hands for holding on. This is a nice option if you have young children or senior citizens in your group. One or two non-paddling passengers may also ride on a paddle raft.
Class I: Very Mild. No significant waves. No obstacles.
Class II: Easy. Rapids with regular waves, clear passages and wide channels.
Class III: Moderate. Irregular waves, often narrow channels, maneuvering to avoid obstacles required.
Class IV: Difficult. Complex channels with many significant obstacles to be avoided. Precise maneuvering is required.
Class V: Extremely difficult. Long violent rapids, often following each other almost without interruption.
Class VI: Generally considered un-runnable. Possibility of injury or death likely.
The mountains of Colorado and Arizona can often times receive above or below average snow fall during the winter months – which leads to either higher or lower than average river flows once run off begins.
Wilderness Aware reserves the right to move your group to a more appropriate section of river due to extreme high or low water conditions. We will give you as much notice as possible of conditions that may affect your scheduled trip. Note that if an alternate section of river is available to your group no refunds or credits are given.
We use top-of-the-line self-bailing rafts. These seven-chambered, self-bailing, inflatable rafts are virtually indestructible. All rafts are equipped with grab lines and foot stirrups for your safety.
On some Class I, II and III sections during multi-day trips, you may try our one- and two-man self-bailing inflatable kayaks. These “duckies” are actually long, skinny rafts controlled with kayak paddles. With an inflatable kayak, you are free to challenge the rapids and explore the river on your own.
Arkansas Valley Digital Imaging professional photographers shoot photos on most sections of the Arkansas River. These quality photos will be available to view and purchase when you return to our office immediately after your trip.
Facilities are not available at some launch points and lunch spots. In this case, you will commune with nature in the purest form. In our camps on the river you will enjoy the convenience of our portable chemical toilet called a “groover”.
If you would like to fish on your trip, we recommend you do a multi-day trip. This will allow you to fish in the late afternoon, evening and early morning from camp. You must have a valid state fishing license.
Wildlife is abundant in Colorado, especially in the mountains. Bighorn sheep, deer, beaver and coyotes can often be seen during your river trips. Sometimes you may even catch sight of a bald eagle or moose.
A highly trained professional guide captains every boat. We provide all rafting equipment including Coast Guard approved lifejackets. Each boat carries, rain ponchos, wool sweaters and waterproof storage for personal items. You can rent wetsuits, booties and paddle jackets from us if weather or water conditions warrant their use. Also included in your trip is transportation to and from the river in reliable 2-way radio-equipped vehicles. A fantastic deli-style smorgasbord lunch is served on full day trips. Please arrive early enough to enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast.
Bring only your quick dry clothing to wear on the river and extra sunscreen. We recommend shorts and a swimming suit. Sunglasses and sunscreen are important since at high altitude you are closer to the sun than you may think. Please bring your own water bottle (you can refill from the water jug at lunch if necessary). We have complete packing lists for each trip we offer.
A complimentary continental breakfast is available at our Buena Vista Office upon your arrival. We prepare fresh hearty meals from lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day. Vegetarian and special diets are happily accommodated upon request. Lemonade and water are included with every meal. In addition to items listed under “what is provided on full day trips”, we make every effort to make you comfortable by supplying a kitchen shelter, camp chairs and a portable chemical toilet.
Bring everything mentioned above plus a change of clothes for camp, toiletries, and personal drinks if you do not wish to drink only water or lemonade, and entertainment (Frisbee, fishing gear, books, etc.). If you have a sleeping bag and tent, you may bring them or rent from us.
Many people come with only their normal vacation attire. We can outfit you with anything you need that is special for rafting or camping. See our Packing List page for a detailed list of items we have available to rent.
We wash our wetsuits, splash jackets, wetsuit booties, helmets and life jackets after EVERY SINGLE USE. In Colorado, we use a three step cleaning system with soap and disinfectant. Your health and safety is our top priority.
Wetsuit, splash jacket and wetshoe rentals are appropriate when the water is higher and/or if rain showers or chillier than normal weather is expected. Wetshoes are a good idea anytime if you do not have appropriate shoes to wear or do not wish to get your shoes wet.
We will issue you a rubberized duffel bag big enough for your personal clothing and sleeping bag. It is approximately 3.8 cubic feet in size (about the size of a medium/large ice chest). We use a custom built cargo net system to secure camping equipment and have never lost a bag, even in the roughest rapids.
Rivers and individual rapids are rated on a scale of I to VI as a way of comparing their relative difficulty. Class I is fast moving water and class VI is not rafted commercially. Our most popular trips are class III-IV. Most trips do not require previous experience.
Safety in any activity, including rafting, can never be guaranteed. Wilderness Aware can assume no responsibility for personal injury or for equipment lost or damaged in any way. We are, however, very proud of our outstanding 35+ year safety record. Your safety is always our primary focus.
We carry 2-way radios on all Arkansas River trips and shuttle vehicles. These radios are capable of calling our office where changes in logistics or response to emergencies are quickly handled by our full time staff. Guides also carry cell phones on the Arkansas River, and are able to get service in a few locations. On trips that do not base out of our Buena Vista, CO office, we carry a satellite phone for emergencies only.
All guides and drivers are required to pass a pre-employment drug test as well as random tests throughout the summer season.
Non-swimmers do quite well floating and maneuvering in a lifejacket. Swimmers have more confidence and are less prone to panic in the event you fall out of the raft, though many of our participants cannot swim. We provide Coast Guard approved life preservers designed to float you face-up in whitewater. Everyone will wear a life jacket at all times while we are on the river.
Although we spare no effort to ensure a safe trip – a river trip, bus ride or canyon hike carries some risk. We cannot assume responsibility for injury to participants or damage to personal belongings or for time or expense incurred. We are equipped to handle emergency first aid in case of illness or accident. We will provide aid and arrange evacuation when a trip leader deems necessary or desirable. Costs of specialized means of evacuation, such as helicopters, and medical care beyond first aid are the financial responsibility the ill or injured person.
Our rivers are located between 5,000 and 8,000 feet. Altitude causes shortness of breath, headaches and dehydration. Most people do not have serious problems here, but try to arrive a day or more early to acclimatize yourself if you can, and drink plenty of fluids while you are here. A headache often means you are dehydrated.
Women who are pregnant cannot go rafting. This policy is for your own safety and that of your unborn child.
You will be required to sign a release of liability prior to trip departure. All youth under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian co-sign on their release. Liability releases can be downloaded from our website ahead of time from our Liability Release page.
A delicious deli-style sandwich lunch is provided on full day trips in Colorado and a hot fajita lunch is served on all full day trips in Arizona. Multi-day trips include fresh, hearty meals from lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day.
On all full day trips in Colorado, our deli-style sandwich lunch includes a choice of sandwich (special diets are accommodated upon request), chips, cookies and water and/or lemonade. In Arizona, our lunch location includes a permanent structure that allows us to offer a hot chicken, steak and veggie fajita lunch. Our goal on multi-day trip lunches is to provide a wide variety of fresh, quick, healthy and tasty choices including wraps, pitas and bagels. Dinners are prepared from scratch and include a main dish such a lasagna, steak, chicken, fajitas, stir-fry or seafood. Included is a salad, vegetable and drink. We carry Dutch ovens* and prepare freshly baked cake or pie for dessert. Breakfast dishes may include French toast, eggs or pancakes. Sides include a meat, fruit, juice, coffee, tea or cocoa.
*We cannot take a Dutch oven if the area is under fire restrictions or does not allow open flame.
We offer coffee, tea and hot chocolate at our office in Buena Vista, all day long. Full day trips include cold lemonade and water at lunch. Multi-day trips include hot drinks in the morning and evening (cocoa, tea and coffee), and juice at breakfast. You are welcome to bring alcoholic drinks, soda or any beverage of your choice for the evening on multi-day trips (no glass containers).
We hold a restaurant certification for our food handling facilities as required by the State of Colorado.
Alcohol and rivers do not mix. We do not provide alcohol and alcohol is not permitted while on the river. For multi-day trips, you may bring alcohol for consumption in camp, but it must be in plastic or metal containers, no glass. If you bring beer, it must be purchased in aluminum cans. DO NOT DRINK BEFORE RIVER TRIPS – guests who have been drinking will not go on the river and will not receive a refund.
It is not safe to drink from any stream in Colorado or Arizona. We provide safe drinking water for you on full day and multi-day trips.
We survey over 5,000 guests each year to find out what made their experience with us exceptional and what we could do to make it even better. Using that input, here are a few examples of the efforts we have made that set us apart as a leader in the outdoor industry:
• 1/2 to 10 day adventures on six Colorado and Arizona rivers
• Outstanding safety record
• Elite handpicked guides – some of the most highly trained professionals on the river
• Helpful, knowledgeable and friendly office staff
• First class amenities – clean restrooms, retail store, and licensed food preparation facilities
• Top of the line equipment – cleaned and upgraded regularly
• 2-way radios for better safety
• Custom tailored trips to provide you with the best possible experience
• Free use of our dog kennel
Wilderness Aware hold Colorado River Outfitter License #4, Outfitters Registration License #863. We are members of Colorado River Outfitters Association, America Outdoors Professional River Outfitters, Arizona River Outfitters Association, Arkansas River Outfitters Association and Rafting America. All or part of our operation is conducted on public lands under special use permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (Kremmling, Royal Gorge, Uncompahgre, Moab and Dolores Public Lands Field Offices), Colorado Parks and Wildlife and USDA Forest Service (San Isabel-San Carlos Ranger District, Routt, Medicine Bow, Tonto and San Juan National Forests).
Wilderness Aware is an equal opportunity service provider and employer.