Whitewater rafting on the
The Arkansas River

The Arkansas River in Colorado has become the most popular whitewater river for rafting in the United States for commercial rafting and private boating. There are several reasons for this but one of the biggest is the wide variety of sections on the Arkansas River that can accommodate many different ability levels. There are sections suitable for families with children, intermediate level trips, as well as some of the most exciting and advanced trips in the country.

Most of what we do at the very advanced level happens earlier in our season when the river is at high water or “peak” flows. The Royal Gorge, one of our most popular trips, is mostly an intermediate level trip during the majority of our rafting season, but it can be quite advanced at high flows. Other trips, such as Bighorn Canyon, are moderate at most flows, although they can be very exciting at high water in late May and most of June typically.

Another reason for the popularity of this awesome resource is accessibility. On the Arkansas River, unlike many other popular rivers, getting to and from the access points is amazingly easy. Some of our shuttles are only 5 or 10 minutes long. Plus, you can drive a vehicle literally right to the riverbank and back a trailer up to the water’s edge. The fact that there is much competition here for your rafting dollar also makes the Arkansas River one of the most affordable places to raft with your group or family.

arkansas river

The Arkansas River in Colorado offers rafting trips in Bighorn Canyon and the Royal Gorge. Float fishing trips are increasingly popular as well, and there are many great places to fish along the shore or for wade fishing. This is one of the most recognized fisheries in the State for excellent opportunities to catch Brown trout or Rainbow trout. The Arkansas River in Colorado is a natural breeding ground for Brown trout, which is a very unique attribute for any fishery in Colorado.

This river is operated and managed as a State Park, known as the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA). The AHRA is the “Crown Jewel” of the Colorado State Parks system and encompasses over 140 miles of river, managed for a very diverse group of users. Some sections of the river are managed primarily for fishing and the fishery. Other sections are managed as a haven for “private boaters” or those that own their own rafts, kayaks, and equipment and want an advanced experience away from the daily crowds. Still, other sections are managed for commercial rafting, which is what we do at WAO.

The rafting season on the Arkansas River is comparatively long, with some companies operating from April to September and even into October some years. At WAO, we typically begin our season mid-April and operate through Labor day, though sometimes longer depending on flows and if the river is still at a level that offers a reasonably fun experience.

The best time to go rafting depends on what it is you’re looking for in your rafting experience. Many of those seeking the most thrill possible come in early June when flows are typically at the highest level of the year. July and August offer the best weather, with daily high temperatures in our area, which is quite arid and desert-like, reaching 90 or even 100 degrees. This is also the busiest time of the season on the river. We like to tell people the best time to go rafting is when you are here! Different flows offer different challenges, and it’s always fun to be on the river.

arkansas river

arkansas river

WAO is open and operating from mid-May to Labor Day. However, we are available year-round to take reservations, answer questions, and help you plan your next vacation or weekend getaway! During the season, our reservationists are at your service seven days a week, but rafting operations are closed on Wednesdays. When you reach out to WAO, anticipate speaking with a live and exceedingly helpful individual every time. Your satisfaction is our top priority.

Our location, 8 miles west of Canon City, Colorado on US Hwy 50, is very conveniently located relative to all these activities, particularly, of course, the best rafting in Colorado and the most popular place for whitewater boating on the planet.