I am sitting on my porch watching the river go from a murky brown to a deep muddy red. It rises, not by centimeters, but by inches. This week the great exodus of snow has begun and water is rushing off the high peaks and barreling down into the Arkansas River taking our gentle mountain river and transforming it into a torrent of frothy whitewater. Sounds kinda epic. Maybe even a little intimidating. However for river lovers, adventurers, guides, and those all across the West this is the time we most want to be on the river. These are the days we have been waiting for, with baited breath, all through the winter as snow fell onto the Rockies. Some of the best and most memorable stories come from high water season. If you want to know why this is you had better come out and join us to see for yourself.
(High water typically lasts the month of June.)
What should you expect on the river.
You should expect a fast paced trip and physical exertion. Why? Because there is more water flowing down stream than normal due to the snow rapidly melting off the mountains and converting itself into raftable water. This also signifies that the water is a tad colder than usual, about 45º – a thick wet suit provided by yours truly takes care of that issue though… mostly. You can help yourself out by paddling vigorously through rapids, which not only generates warmth, but is also necessary when going through big powerful waves – which we are seeing quite a bit of right now.
We expect that people coming out for the big rapid sections (The Royal Gorge, The Numbers) are in good health, physically fit, and know how to swim. These sections are Class IV (see prior blog post on rapid ratings) and there is definitely a possibility that you may end up getting dunked in the cold water. Although we won’t make you go through a swimming test it is helpful if you can comfortably move yourself around in water in case of an unexpected expulsion from the raft. Naturally you will have on a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) but it is also nice to feel like you have some control vs. simply floating down stream in your perfectly executed whitewater swim position.
You can also, and should, expect your heart rate to increase a few beats and for rapids to typically be followed by whoops of exhilaration and excitement. After all, we are boating and it should be fun.
How to prepare for the river.
Although you will be going down the river with professional guides you can and should take some responsibility for your own well-being. It helps to be mentally and physically prepared for any situation on the river. Bring warm clothing like a fleece or polyester shirt to wear over your wet suit (no cotton!!). Wear good river shoes and sunscreen. Come fed and hydrated to your trip. Listen attentively to the instructions of your guide both before and on the river.
How to choose your adventure.
High water isn’t for the faint of heart. If you are a thrill seeker and ready for the challenge join us on any of our big rapid sections (The Royal Gorge, The Numbers). We love the thrill just as much as you and will be joining you in celebration at the end of each rapid. As guides we have been patiently waiting for the runoff since the day it ended last year – that was about 48 weeks ago. Now that its back we want to be out there taking you lovely folks down the river on the adventure of a lifetime.
High water doesn’t exclude everyone though from getting out and having a good time. Not ready for a big cold swim? Not sure you want to paddle your butt off over the next ten miles? That’s ok! We offer a variety of trips and have just as good of a time paddling through the rolling waves of mellower sections. Yet, still want a pumpy roller coaster ride of a trip that will get your heart going? Got kids along? Come get in a boat with us for Browns Canyon – which is the most popular section of white water in the US – or The Bighorn. Both of these sections are class III which means large waves, obstacles in the river, but little consequence should something unexpected happen.
My parents got me out on the river when I was just a little tyke and it made all the difference in my life. If you’ve got kids or are interested in a calmer section for yourself we can find the perfect trip for you. Nothing like a little splashy water on a hot summer day scanning the hillsides for wildlife to make your vacation perfect. Just give us a call and we will sort it out.