Highly accessible, mostly mellow float water



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swallows overview

The Arkansas River below Canon City offers mild rapids and calm flatwater sections, making it suitable for all. While the upper portion of this stretch, near Canon City is visited frequently due to its proximity to the city and its accessibility, the lower section provides a great opportunity to escape the crowds and relax among the Cottonwood-lined banks and wildlife of Swallows Canyon.

Recommended For: Self-guided float trips; families with young children.

Recommended Rafting Trips on Swallows – Arkansas River:
At this time we do not have information on outfitters that offer Swallows as a commercial whitewater rafting trip.

Wilderness Aware Rafting does not operate trips on the Swallows section of the Arkansas. Information regarding this section on this website is strictly informational. We raft just upstream! Please click here for a complete list of trips that we offer, or use the search filter to the left. Thanks!

swallows sections

Swallows White Water Rafting Details:

Difficulty: Class I-II (What does this mean?)
Elevation: 5321′ to 4823′
Average Gradient: 14.7′ per mile

Access to Access

River Station to Raynolds: 2.3 miles
Raynolds to Pathfinder Park: 1.5 miles
Pathfinder Park to Florence River Park: 7.5 miles
Florence River Park to Blue Heron: 0.5 miles
Blue Heron to Pueblo SWA: 13.5 miles
Pueblo SWA to Lake Pueblo State Park: 7.5 miles
Total Mileage: 32.8 miles

Notes: Multiple access points allow for self-guided boaters to customize their trip length.
There are multiple damns and diversions through this section. PLEASE contact the river manager for specific details on these dams and the best way to run the river through this section.

Click Here for Current River Flow



What people are saying

  • Lydia filled us with confidence. She was skilled and knowledgeable and explained each set of rapids so we knew what to expect. She was great company and we had the best experience. She was brilliant.

    Dwight W. Rafter
  • I cannot wait to come back! Also loved how funny all the guides were. It was the most I’ve seen my sister laugh in a long time! Thank you so much for this amazing experience.

    Lexi R. Rafter
  • I spent several days researching various rafting options and after speaking w/your team was sold. We were not disappointed-the trip is spectacular and our guide Sean was informative, lively professional and entertaining.

    Lauren C. Rafter


Information for Arkansas River Self-Guided Boaters:

The Arkansas River is in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) and is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

  • Boating Permit Required: NO
  • Permit Details: On the off chance you do not use a developed AHRA Recreation Site, no fee of any kind is required to float the river.

Arkansas River – Swallows Access Details:

River Station & Blue Heron Access

Arkansas River – River Station & Blue Heron Access Details:

  • Sites: River Station & Blue Heron Recreation Sites
  • Instructions: Follow signage at recreation site.
  • Fee: Annual or daily permits are required to use these sites. Those without passes will be ticketed.
  • Where to Buy: Annual Permits can be purchased through AHRA in Salida or Colorado Parks and Wildlife Offices in Denver, but most people use the self-serve daily pay stations at AHRA managed access points.
  • Contact: Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA)
    307 W Sackett Street, Salida, CO 81201
    719-539-7289 ~ www.parks.state.co.us/parks/arkansasheadwaters
Raynolds & Pathfinder Park Access

Arkansas River – Raynolds & Pathfinder Park Access Details:

  • Sites: Raynolds & Pathfinder Park Access
  • Instructions: Follow signage at site.
  • Fee: No
  • Contact: Cañon City Area Recreation & Park District
    575 Ash Street, Cañon City, CO 81212
    719.275.1578 ~ www.ccrec.org
Florence River Park Access Access

Arkansas River – Florence River Park Access Details:

  • Sites: Florence River Park
  • Instructions: Follow signage at site.
  • Fee: No
  • Contact: City of Florence
    600 W Third Street, Florence, CO 81226
    719.784.4848 ~ www.florenceco.govoffice2.com
Pueblo State Wildlife Area (SWA) Access

Arkansas River – Pueblo State Wildlife Area (SWA) Access Details:

  • Sites: Pueblo State Wildlife Area (SWA)
  • Instructions: Follow signage at site.
  • Fee: No
  • Contact: Colorado Division of Wildlife
Lake Pueblo State Park Access

Arkansas River – Lake Pueblo State Park Access Details:

  • Boating Permit Required: NO
  • Instructions: As the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area ends west of Pueblo, you float into Lake Pueblo State Park. As with AHRA, you’ll follow signage at specific recreation sites.
  • Fee: Yes. All vehicles entering the park are required to display a current Colorado State Parks Pass.
  • Where to Buy: Daily Passes are available at recreations sites. If you purchased a pass while in AHRA, it is also valid in Lake Pueblo State Park.
  • Contact: Lake Pueblo State Park
    640 Pueblo Reservoir Road, Pueblo, CO 81005
    719.561.9320 ~ www.parks.state.co.us/parks/lakepueblo

At this time we do not have information on any entity that offers shuttles on this section. We recommend traveling with at least two vehicles in order to run your own shuttle.

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