White water rafting through a magical Desert Canyon on Colorado’s Dolores River
The Dolores is a classic western river, unspoiled, with a majestic desert backdrop. In May and early June we take advantage of the warm temperatures and early season runoff to raft this exceptional wilderness river. Enormous Ponderosa pines grow in stark contrast with a landscape of red and orange sandstone cliffs. This results in a striking kaleidoscope of color unique to the Dolores River as the scenery changes through five major western life zones, from the alpine life zone at its headwaters to Upper Sonoran desert terrain along much of its lower reaches.
“This past weekend, eight friends and I had the pleasure of running the Dolores River with guides Thomas, Koni, and Sarge. The trip was an exceptional experience. Those 3 gentlemen were highly professional, well organized, entertaining, and most importantly very safe. They were also good cooks. I think I gained weight. I was impressed by their attention to detail, their knowledge of the local terrain, plants, and wildlife. They could not have done a better job, and I thought it appropriate to let you know. I hope that you commend them on a job well done. Thanks you for running a first class organization. I can’t say that I can pull this group together next year to run another Colorado River, but if I do, you can be certain that I will request that they be our guides. Thanks again for the wonderful trip.”
“I am writing to rave about the 6-day rafting trip that I participated in through your company. The trip was run on the Dolores River and was absolutely amazing. The scenery itself was breathtaking, however the guides Mark Rob and Eric made the trip into much much more. The guides were continually bending over backwards to make the trip everything the guests wanted it to be. Some of my favorite parts of the trip were from the unplanned side hikes, where we were able to explore some of the side canyons that did not run directly along the river. The rafting was amazing—I had only been rafting once before in my life—the food was extraordinary (I didn’t know that you could make lasagna in the middle of the wilderness). I especially liked the tent side coffee service! The guides were extremely laid back and funny, however I had 100% confidence that they would be able to handle an emergency, if one were to arise (me falling into the river for example-they had me safely out of the river in a few seconds). The guides were continually trying to educate the guests (those who were interested that is) about the river and how to guide the boats through the whitewater. You could tell the guides were having a good time—it was extremely contagious. Thanks again for a great trip—I will definitely be back next year (hopefully for the 10-dqy trip) I’m also going to rave about your company to anyone who will listen. It was a fantastic trip. Thanks again.”
“Just wanted to take a minute and thank you for the outstanding 3-day trip we took on the Dolores River a few weeks ago. It was exciting to be on the river when the water was high. Your menu selection was far and above anything we were expecting- we had in mind hot dogs and potato salad and you provided smoked oysters, lasagna, burritos, fresh fruit, etc. We had a great time and would like to try again in the near future. We will also pass along our highest recommendations to anyone who asks. Thanks again for providing a great time.”
“I recently took a 3-day rafting trip down the Dolores River and am writing a brief note of thanks to you, Thomas, Sarge, Koni, and the entire Wilderness Aware organization. I had a tremendous time and immensely enjoyed the Dolores River and the beautiful country through which we traveled. Every facet of the trip was well planned, organized, and executed. Further, I was impressed with the seriousness and professionalism exhibited by all 3 guides while the party rafted down the river. The attitude exhibited made it readily apparent that safety is a priority with Wilderness Aware. At camp, all three of the guides busted their humps to make sure we were well fed and comfortable. I must admit that at times I felt a bit of a prima donna. I cannot wait till next summer. I will be back.”
“I want to give you a little more feedback on our 6-day trip down the Dolores Canyon than I could on the forms we filled out on the van. This trip is one that all of us will remember (and talk about) for years to come. The Dolores Canyon has to be one of Colorado’s treasures that very few people know about. I feel very fortunate that we were able to run it, especially in view of the low volumes of water released each year. Of equal importance in making this a trip to remember was the crew! All of the guys, Dude, Nate , Hollywood) were terrific. They were mature beyond their years, yet still had their youthful enthusiasm that was so contagious. Their first concern was always our safety, comfort, and enjoyment. Each guide had their own unique personality, but hey worked extremely well together as a team. Thank you for accommodating our requests for OJ, half and half, and all the fresh fruits and vegetables. These little extras added to the overall excellent quality of the meals. The lunches, which could have been rather dull, were especially appreciated. Again, thank you all for a most memorable trip! I think several of us are interested in running he Gunnison River with you—maybe next year.”
“Everything was fantastic!!! The hikes were a real surprise and were absolutely delightful. It was my first time rafting and I loved every minute of it. Food was unbelievable! Better than what I fix at home! …Congratulations to all of you! PS.Have the boatmen bring a pair of binoculars for the hikes.”
“Now that we have returned home to the Philadelphia area and have settled in again, I wanted to write a review concerning our raft trip earlier this month. The Colorado beauty has to be experienced to be appreciated. Living in the midst of it 24 hours a day is the only way to take it all in. Your itinerary provided a great opportunity to do so. As impressed as we were with Colorado, your crew really made an impression on us. I think they had the ability to make a raft trip through the Sahara Desert a memorable experience. They did an unbelievable job. Even during the toughest periods of the trip they remained spirited and enthusiastic. It was obvious they enjoyed their work and the nature around them. Each of the three had their own special talent and didn’t hesitate to share it with us. The food was unbelievably great. We still marvel at how they prepared gourmet feasts under such primitive conditions. With 3 kids, we were quite concerned as to how they would deal with the trip. Cindy, our 10 year old is ready to do it again. The guides did a splendid job on the last day keeping them occupied and enthusiastic, even when some adults were getting a little tired. We have traveled extensively and it is a rare instance that we are privileged to experience the professionalism exhibited by your guides.”
Maps Dolores River, McPhee Reservoir to the Colorado River Confluence – Whitewater Rafting!
This map gives an overview of the trip from the McPhee Reservoir to the confluence of the Colorado River in Utah. The traverse of the Dolores takes one through an area as interesting for its history as for its rare natural beauty. It is not known who named the Rio de Nuestra Senora de las Dolores (River of our Lady of Sorrows) and when they did so, but the Spaniards knew it by that name when Dominquez and Escalante joined it near the present day town of Dolores, Colorado on August 11, 1776. Click on an outlined section to see details including rapid names. Printer friendly souvenir-quality low-resolution or high-resolution versions of this map are great to bring along when visiting us.
USGS waterflow reporting for the Dolores. Blue line is last seven days and yellow triangles are historical medians. Measured near Slick Rock, Colorado
Photos of the Dolores River as well as the other river we raft, area wildlife, our staff and many more.
The traverse of the Dolores takes one through an area as interesting for its history as for its rare natural beauty. It is not known who named the Rio de Nuestra Senora de las Dolores (River of our Lady of Sorrows) and when they did so, but the Spaniards knew it by that name when Dominquez and Escalante joined it near the present day town of Dolores, Colorado on August 11, 1776. They were searching for a northern route to the California missions. The unspoiled character encountered by Dominquez and Escalante remains today.
The Dolores River is located about 30 miles northwest of Cortez Colorado, home of Mesa Verde National Park. It is west of Telluride and Durango and within easy driving distance.