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Meeting Place: Wilderness Aware Rafting Headquarters, in Johnson Village near Buena Vista, CO.

Trip: Full Day
Show Up Time: 8:45 am – 9:00 am
Trip Departs: 9:30 am
Trip Returns: 4:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Our trips start on time, so be sure to allow enough travel time to accommodate mountain driving and road construction!

Rapid Classification: III-IV

Trip Length: 18 miles

Meals Provided: Delicious deli-style sandwich lunch. 

Getting Here:  The closest major airports include Colorado Springs (COS) – 2 hours, and Denver (DIA) – 3 hours. You will rent a car to get to Buena Vista as our public transportation is limited. Greyhound bus service arrives daily.

Season: May – Labor Day

Introduction: A full-day trip in the scenic Browns Canyon National Monument is our most popular river adventure.  The pool-drop rapids, (a big well defined rapid, followed by a recovery pool) of Browns Canyon make this an adventure that is suitable for all skill levels. It is challenging for the experienced rafter yet not too much for the beginner. We have a minimum age of 7 years and 50 pounds. Minimum ages increase with high water levels, which typically happen in June. Buena Vista is a high mountain desert, sitting at 7,954’ in elevation, with warm days and cool nights. We recommend arriving a day early to acclimate and be sure to drink a lot of water.

Preparation: Arrive at our riverside facility just two miles south of Buena Vista, Colorado by 9:00 am. You will be greeted by our friendly and knowledgeable office staff who will give you a quick orientation on recommended attire for your day on the river based on the weather and water conditions as well as what you can bring on your trip. Once your paperwork is signed and verified, and you have decided on cool weather and cold-water rentals, you will be directed to our clean and spacious changing rooms to get changed into your river gear. Once you are dressed and organized, you can lock your dry clothing and valuables in your car and drop your keys in our secure key can. Don’t forget to grab your water bottle and sunscreen! Your guide who will outfit you in a Coast Guard approved PFD (personal flotation device) and provide a helmet and paddle.

Departure: At 9:30 am your trip leader will present you with a comprehensive safety orientation with plenty of time for questions. He/she will inform you of possible issues that could happen on the river, giving you the confidence needed to handle any challenges that could arise during the trip. We will transport you to the river in our vehicle where you can help unload your boat and trip gear. The guide will rig your raft and teach you how to paddle. Now you are ready to hit the water and start your whitewater adventure.

The River: Your adventure begins immediately in the Buena Vista Whitewater Play Park, a Mecca for kayaking enthusiasts. You will go through a series of exciting drops, topped with the exhilarating class IV Beaver Falls rapid. Shortly afterward you will go through the Silver Bullet, a man-made rapid that is a three stage, 7-foot drop followed by a mile of continuous whitewater that will give your system a quick shot of adrenaline and prepare you for lots more action in the afternoon. There is a calm stretch of water before lunch giving you an opportunity to catch your breath, chat with old and new friends, and catch glimpses of the breathtaking views of the Collegiate Peaks mountain range of the Continental Divide. We pull over for a delicious all you can eat deli-style lunch, complete with tasty hors d’oeuvres, make your own sandwiches with all the fixings and cookies for dessert! Your strength will be built back up and you will be ready to engage the many challenging rapids of Browns Canyon with names like Widow-maker, Zoom Flume, Pinball, Raft Ripper and the Staircase. Your trip continues downstream beyond our half day take out where you will encounter the famous Seidel’s Suck-hole and Twin Falls rapids before taking out.  

Scenery: Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River is America’s most popular whitewater rafting destination – for good reason.  The canyon is made up of granite rock scattered with pinon pine trees and set off against the clear blue Colorado sky. It is fun to pick out unique granite rock formations, such as Winnie The Pooh with his honey pot, the Pink Panther or a giant hippo relaxing in the river. With this kind of scenery, it is no wonder that Browns canyon has been designated one of Colorado’s newest National Monuments. If you are lucky, you may just catch a glimpse of a deer, bighorn sheep or see a brown trout shooting out of the water after a quick snack.  

When Should I Go? Wilderness Aware opens for rafting May 1, when the river can be low while it waits for the weather to warm and runoff to begin. June is our high-water season when the river is swollen with snowmelt. Prepare for a wet and wild ride with towering waves and powerful currents – a wetsuit is a must for rafting during this time of year.  July is the most popular month for rafting the on the Arkansas River, offering moderate water levels and warmer weather. As the river warms, wetsuits disappear and are replaced by swimsuits, providing opportunities to splash fight with new friends or even swim a rapid! In late August the water levels drop, and the river becomes a more technically challenging ride, requiring maneuvers around rocks and drops through narrow chutes.  You will be rewarded with the exceptional beauty of the canyon and fewer people.

Exit: A 30-minute bus ride will return you to our office where you will get changed into your dry clothes. You may view and purchase professionally taken photos of your trip. Shop our well stocked retail store for a remembrance of your trip with a T-shirt, hat or other small souvenir. If your experience met or exceeded your expectations, we make it easy to tip your guide. Please take some time when you return home to review us on Trip Advisor, Google and Yelp.

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