All About Browns Canyon National Monument

 In Adventures & Travel, Colorado Rafting, Nature & Wildlife

With an area of over 21,500 acres, Browns Canyon National Monument’s gorgeous granite cliffs and breathtaking views of the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains are best admired in a raft! Before your trip, let’s take a moment to learn more about the special qualities that make Browns Canyon National Monument so unique.

Browns Canyon National Monument features a 3,000 foot range in elevation allowing it to support a wide variety of life. The granite cliffs provide sanctuary to many protected species including bighorn sheep, golden eagles, elk, falcons, black bears, and bobcats. Birdwatchers, take note, the area also serves as an essential migration corridor for migratory birds. During our spring and summer rafting season, the riparian habitat along the river comes alive with vibrant wildflowers blooming right along the Arkansas River. This river is home to world class fishing. In 2014, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission designated the Arkansas River as Gold Medal Trout Water (learn more about this in our post “Arkansas River: Come for the Rafting, Stay for the Trout!”).

While you are enjoying your Arkansas River rafting adventure through Browns Canyon National Monument, you will notice railroad tracks hugging the river bank. These are from the mining days of the Upper Arkansas Valley dating back to the 1880’s. From 1880-1910 three railroads served the area transporting goods to support the mining, ranching, and farming industries. In the 1800’s, Leadville established itself as the most productive silver mining district in the state of Colorado. There also proved to be an abundance of gold, lead, copper and zinc in the area. Unfortunately the heavy mining caused a significant amount of pollution impacting the Arkansas River since its headwaters are located in Leadville. Thankfully today, the hard work of environmentalists and Chaffee County locals such as ourselves has lead to the clean up of Arkansas River. It is with great pride that we can now enjoy our whitewater rafting trips on beautiful clear waters.

Rainbow Rock near the entrance to Browns Canyon National Monument.

Glacial runoffs are responsible for the unique formations and windy path of the Arkansas River. Over 70 million years ago while the glaciers melted, their initial runoffs caused a blockage of trees and stones preventing the water from flowing down the naturally occurring fall line. The water persevered and forced itself to carve through the granite creating Browns Canyon and feeding into the Arkansas River. When you are rafting through the Numbers you can see the distinct markings from the glaciers in the cliffs. The cliffs themselves are a mostly comprised of granite however, there are patches of igneous rock along the Browns Canyon (keep an eye out when you hit widow maker!).

Whitewater Rafting + Other Fun
With over 21,500 acres Browns Canyon National Monument boasts a lot of potential for all sorts of outdoor recreational activities. Our favorite is whitewater rafting – navigating along the Arkansas River through the granite canyon carved out eons ago presents such a unique perspective of the National Monument. We aren’t the only ones who feel this way – the Arkansas River is the most commercially rafted river in the entire United States. We offer white water rafting trips for all levels so first timers and diehard whitewater junkies alike will find something to smile about. If you want to extend your experience in Browns Canyon National Monument beyond whitewater rafting, Wilderness Aware conveniently serves as the Visitors Center meaning we have a variety of maps and other literature on the best ways to explore Browns Canyon National Monument.

Check out Browns Canyon National Monument for yourself this summer by reserving your Colorado white water rafting trip online or giving us a call at 1-800-IN-A-RAFT!

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