The annual life cycle of mountain snow turning into river flows is happening. Despite this year's below average snowpack, full reservoirs and import water from Colorado's West Slope will keep flows on the Arkansas River at ideal conditions for whitewater rafting from now through August 15, 2018.
Rafting season runs from early May into September. High water occurs from mid-May into June with the snowmelt rush. After that, water management programs ensure ideal flows through at least mid-August.
"We have some of the best whitewater in the country," says Bob Hamel, executive director of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association (AROA). The section of the Arkansas River running from Leadvillethrough the Royal Gorge boasts rapids ranging from Class I to Class V.
"The beauty of the Arkansas is that at any level of whitewater there are trips for all skill levels. We have so many itinerary options. It is all a great experience," Hamel adds.
So this summer, just 'go with the flow.'
Different Flows for Different Folks
While different levels do affect the experience, there is no "good" or "bad" flow.
With dramatic waves and big splashes, the excitement of high water is ideal for thrill-seekers. They're not disappointed in low water, though. Lower levels reveal access to the river's steeper advanced sections requiring the intense challenge of precise paddling.
High water is not ideal for younger kids or non-swimmers, however, says Travis Hochard, general manager at River Runners. "Lower levels are great for young families to enjoy intermediate sections. Overall it is safer to go at lower levels."
Lower water levels allow more time to savor the awe-inspiring scenery and possible wildlife sightings, too.
"The river is always fun," says Brandon Slate, AROA president. "As guides, we provide incredible experiences and the actual flow has little to do with that outcome."