Rafting in Steamboat When the Snow Melts

Melted snow turns to whitewater fun for the whole family on Northern Colorado rivers.

When the Colorado ski season comes to an end, the snowmelt brings forth new opportunity. Whitewater rafting and other adventures on the local waterways provide yet another way for friends and family to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Northern Rockies.

During our family trip to Steamboat Springs, we found a day trip on the Upper Colorado enabled the perfect blend of outdoor adventure and good-natured bonding. Floating down the river, you will cruise past ancient dinosaur tracks, old stagecoach trails, sandy beaches and colorful canyons. Bring your camera—in a waterproof bag!

Check with local outfitters to find the day or overnight trip that is right for you. Do the members of your party swim? Do they feel comfortable bouncing though the rapids with cold water splashing about? What might be an exhilarating experience for some could be frightening for those not at ease in fast-moving water.

A breezy half-day float is great fun for young kids. (Ask your guide for specific age recommendations.) Older children will perhaps enjoy a little more whitewater and a chance to study the stars from their campsite. Here are a few of the options:

The Upper Colorado
This is an ideal option for singles, groups or families of all skill levels. You can find easy float options and the chance to appreciate the geologic wonders of the region.

The Eagle River
Looking for wilder ride? The Eagle is one of the only non-dammed rivers in Colorado providing rushing rapids and a frothier experience. You’ll get the rollercoaster action you might be looking for from May until July as the winter’s bounty gives way into runoff.

The Yampa River
You’ll find more solitude on this less traveled waterway. Expect Class III to Class IV rapids as you float into Dinosaur National Park. Join a day trip or run more than 70 miles of the river in several days. www.adventureboundusa.com

Kayak or Canoe
Express your independence by foregoing the group rafting option and show your stuff in an alternate watercraft. Many of the guide services will provide canoes or “duckie” boats (inflatable kayaks that allow even beginners to test their skills). The guides will provide assistance and get everyone comfortable prior to taking on the whitewater. It’s fun to head out in an armada of inflatable devices for an adventurous day on the water. Instruction is also available for those who want to try a hard plastic kayak, but expect to spend at least a half-day learning the ropes. Ask your guide for options available for more serious paddlers.

Saddles and Paddles
Make the most of your day by signing up for this cowboy combination. Colorado River Guides pair up with High Lonesome Outfitters to offer a double dose of mountain adventure. Ride in the morning, stop for lunch, then change clothes for an afternoon on the river. This concept is for smaller groups so reserve early. $160/adults, $135/kids (tel. 800-938-7238, www.raftcolorado.com).

Planning Tips

For more information:

Colorado River Center—Rafting and kayaking outfitters. www.coloradorivercenter.com

Colorado River Guides—Rafting and kayaking outfitters. This company meets you on the river and thus their day rate is lower than other outfitters. www.raftcolorado.com

Colorado Whitewater—Programs on kayaking and rafting. www.coloradowhitewater.org

The National Rivers Web site, sponsored by the National Organization for Rivers (NORS). www.NationalRivers.org

Outdoor Adventure River Specialists (OARS)—Rafting, kayaking outfitters (Dinosaur National Park). www.oars.com

Destinations: Steamboat Springs

Themes: Family Travel, Outdoor Adventures

Activities: Rafting

User Comments

June and July are very good. Spring is, of course, the best as the snow is melting and the rivers cfs is way up. However, it's been such a cool spring this year that the snowpack is just not melting off that quickly. www.explorearizonatours.com/grandcanyon.php

Is this a commercial trip or a private one? The commercial trip will store and secure communal gear on the rafts in watertight bags. You will be offered watertight bags for your personal gear. Private trips will do the same except members will supply the bags. Find out what is suggested for gear and clothing. Commercial trips will supply PFDs and helmets. Private trips will require you to supply your own.