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5 Colorado River Adventures to Experience this Summer

By Lisa Blake

Colorado summers are meant for playing on the river. Whether that time is spent yee-hawing through whitewater waves, tranquilly paddleboarding or reeling in gold medal river trout from the shore, you’re making quality soul-quenching Colorado memories.

Here are five river adventures to get you going.

Adventure: Whitewater rafting
River: The Arkansas River

For the quintessential remember-it-always Colorado whitewater experience, call on rafting outfitters on the Arkansas River near Buena Vista. This is where you go big and go with the pros. Choose from trips that span continuous whitewater waves in Browns Canyon and the scenic Royal Gorge run or sign on for a more mellow family-friendly stretch through Bighorn Sheep Canyon.

Adventure: Stand-up paddleboarding or laid-back floating
River: The Upper Colorado River

The upper section of this grand river is great for getting out on stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) or enjoying a chilled-out raft float with younger kids. New to SUP-ing? There are companies to hook you up with gear, training and guided tours down the remote river canyon on two- to three-hour SUP excursions. There are also family rafting-SUP combo trips.
Stand-up Paddleboard

Adventure: Fly fishing
River: Frying Pan River

Colorado’s gold medal waters draw fly fishing enthusiasts from all over. Unspoiled mountain streams, rivers and lakes are loaded with rainbow, brown, cutthroat and brook trout and expert anglers are on-tap to help you access these bounties. Book a fishing trip or take lessons with master casters on the world-class Frying Pan River near Aspen. Customize your trip to include access to private waters, backcountry overnight horse trips, rafting float trips and more. Don’t forget your valid Colorado Fishing License.

Adventure: Riverside camping
River: Dolores River

Head to the San Juan National Forest in Colorado’s southwest corner and set up camp at the West Dolores Campground. Choose from 18 campsites spanning RV to tent spots on 10 acres near the river. Hike, bike and play along the river during the day. Build a fire, count shooting stars and let the river lull you to sleep at night. The campgrounds rest at 7,800 feet among shady spruce and ponderosa pine, ensuring a comfortable summer respite.
Dolores River

Adventure: Tubing
River: Yampa River

Floating on an inner tube down the Yampa River is a summer tradition in Steamboat Springs. The family-friendly, refreshingly cool river flows June through September and small rapids, standing waves and rock features add a Colorado splash to the float. Tubing outfitters line the Yampa River as it flows through town, offering rental tubes, life jackets, dry bags, river shoes and shuttle services. Put in at the 5th Street Bridge and take out at the James Brown Bridge, making pit stops at parks, restaurants and bars along the way.