Frequently Asked Questions

Class I

Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. There are few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.

Class II

Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class II+”.

Class III

Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Injuries while swimming are possible; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims. Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class III-” or “Class III+” respectively.

Class IV

Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must make” moves above dangerous hazards. Risk of injury to swimmers can be moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential and requires teamwork. Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class IV-” or “Class IV+” respectively.

Class V

Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but may be difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts. Proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential.

Class VI

This classification is generally reserved for rapids that are considered un-runnable.

Our Royal Gorge office is located on West US Highway 50 approximately 10 miles west of Cañon City.

Our office is a brown building on the south side of the highway approximately ¼ mile east of the turn off to the Royal Gorge Bridge. We are located between mile markers 270 and 271 next door to the Rock Shop. Watch for the blue and yellow sign out front that says “Raft Now.” Parking is to the left.

From Denver Take I-25 south to exit 140 in Colorado Springs. Proceed to the second stoplight and turn right onto Hwy 115 South. Stay on Highway 115 South approximately 35 miles to Highway 50. Turn right to head west on Highway 50 through Canon City to our office 10 miles past town on the left. We are next to the Gold Mine Rock Shop on the south side of the road.

44650 West U.S. 50
Cañon City, CO 81212

Our office is open for inquiries year-round and reservations can be made through our website 24/7. WAO is open and running trips seasonally from mid-May through Labor Day. The "peak" runoff period, or high water typically occurs in June. The more snow in the mountains, the later the peak.

The river is the busiest from late June to mid-August. Therefore, the best time to raft is earlier in the season. (less crowds). July and August promise the warmest weather. If planning a half-day trip, mornings are generally less crowded and the sun is most likely to be shining. Afternoon trips, while usually warmer, are more likely to see a bit of rain or even a thunderstorm.

Please note, we do NOT cancel trips due to the weather.

All of our guides are extensively trained in river rescue, first aid, and CPR. Many have advanced certifications such as Swift Water Rescue Technician, Wilderness First Responder, and EMT. Engaging in rafting and related activities involves inherent risks that cannot necessarily be predicted or controlled and can lead to injury and property damage. Please review our waiver for more information. We ask that you choose a trip within the ability levels of all participants in your group.

A change of clothes and towel that can be stored in our community lockers for after your trip. We provide complimentary digital photos of your group rafting however you are welcome to bring your waterproof camera if you choose. You should also bring along any prescribed medication you may require such as epi-pens or asthma inhalers. Anything you bring on the raft will get wet and could be lost, so we recommend leaving all valuables such as jewelry, cellphones, and other electronics at home or in your car. You may leave your car keys at our front desk prior to trip departure. Please leave pets at home, as our parking area does not have adequate shade to keep your canine friends cool in the hot summer sun.

All guests are outfitted with and required to wear a Coast Guard approved Type V life jacket that is specifically designed for whitewater rafting. All rafters must be willing and able to participate in their own rescue and need to be able to get to the boat or shore by themselves. Participants who can swim are more comfortable in the water and it makes it much easier to get out of the river should you find yourself out of the boat.

Yes, a professional photography company captures photos of all our boats on every trip. These photos are provided complimentary after your trip.

At WAO, unlike many other companies, our guides are experts at both full participation (paddle boats) and oarboats. A paddleboat is where everyone is a participant and are reliant mostly upon themselves to get down the river. There is a guide aboard with you, but they act as instructors more than navigators. Paddleboats are for people who can effectively paddle as part of a team. Teamwork is key with this popular method of rafting. Paddling is an all-or-nothing option, if you have someone in your group who is not a willing and/or capable paddler the better option is an oarboat. Kids younger than 14 aren't often effective as paddlers. Our general rule is kids must be as big as a paddle. Paddles are 5' tall.

An oarboat is where the guide rows the boat and your primary responsibility is to hang on and enjoy. Oarboats often have two paddlers in the front helping at critical times, so it can be arranged where some participate and others don't. The actual boat itself is the same as a paddleboat, just rigged, or equipped, differently. The guide is in as complete control as is possible with this method. This is the preferred, and usually required, option for families with young children. It is also very popular with the "nervous novice." Either method can be requested in advance, but your guide makes the final call. These options are discussed at check-in time in our office to make sure there isn't a misunderstanding and that you are on the most appropriate type of trip. At extremely high water on a difficult section, oarboats may become mandatory.

All participants (and a Parent or Legal Guardian, if the participant is a minor) are required to sign an Acknowledgement and Assumption of Risks and Release and Indemnity Agreement before participating, and understand that they assume responsibility and liability in the event of an injury or other loss. We recommend obtaining medical insurance through your personal insurance company. Click here to download a copy of our waiver. Any medical or mental condition or physical disability should be disclosed to your guide/trip leader prior to your trip. Rafting is not recommended for persons with serious medical conditions or pregnant women.

You can book an Arkansas River rafting trip online 24/7/365 or call 719-275-4500 to speak with our friendly staff. We are glad to answer questions and help you choose the perfect rafting adventure. Please add a 5.9% ($3 minimum per person) AHRA use fee for all Arkansas River trips. Full payment is due at the time of reservation.

We run all trips rain or shine, regardless of the weather. Please be on time. If you are late, we may not be able to accommodate you and your trip will be forfeited. Cancellations and changes cannot be made online or by email and must be confirmed by a company representative. We reserve the right to cancel or alter any trip.

Standard Cancellation Policy:
Once payment has been submitted, it is full price per spot booked so if you fail to show up or show up with fewer than the number of people booked, you will still be charged for each spot reserved.

Worry-Free Cancellation Option:
At the time of making a reservation and for an additional fee of 8%, guests may opt into the Worry-Free Cancellation. With this added, cancellations made by 11:00 AM MST the day prior to trip departure receive a full refund less 8% of the reservation total. For cancellations made after 11:00 AM MST, it is full price per spot booked so if you fail to show up or show up with fewer than the number of people booked, you will still be charged for each spot reserved. Guests who opt out of the Worry-Free Cancellation are subject to the Standard Cancellation Policy.

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