Photo: The Adventure Company
By Mark Hammer
Today, with the overwhelming popularity of whitewater rafting in Colorado, most people are aware of its tremendous appeal. Being surrounded by the natural beauty of the Colorado Rockies, the thrill and excitement of running whitewater and the chance to share such experiences with friends and family are cherished by many. However, while most people are curious about overnight rafting trips, many people remain tentative to try these amazing experiences because they may be uncertain about comfort, safety, food or trip details. Modern equipment and techniques combined, with a focus on customer service, allows for outstanding experiences and memories to last a lifetime. The following nine tips should help remove the mystery.
DIFFICULTY OF YOUR OVERNIGHT RAFTING TRIP
As with all Colorado whitewater rafting trips, the first question should relate to safety. Carefully consider what difficulty level will be appropriate for everyone in your group. Think about minimum age, swimming ability and fitness levels to arrive at the most appropriate whitewater difficulty level.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO ON A MULTI-DAY RAFT ADVENTURE?
The next consideration should be when you want to go. In Colorado, the water levels fluctuate throughout the summer months in response to the weather and snow melt. These changing water levels may have an impact on the difficulty or even the feasibility of certain trips. Plan on the highest water in early to mid June, with the lowest flows in late August. The highest and lowest flows may limit the options, but medium flows tend to be the best.
Photo: The Adventure Company
WHERE TO RAFT?
Multi-day raft trips in Colorado are typically reserved for our biggest rivers. These rivers can offer the best ability to float for several days due to their length, camping options, and reliable water flows. While there are many choices for two-day raft trips with one night on the river, longer trips are typically reserved for the Arkansas River and the Colorado River.
WHAT LENGTH OF MULTI-DAY TRIP SHOULD I CHOOSE?
In Colorado, there are good options for multi-day raft trips from 2–6 days. We find that many guests underestimate how comfortable it is and how much fun it is to camp for days at a time, while enjoying the rhythm of life on the river. It may take some people several days to fully unwind and enjoy overnight trips to their fullest while others feel satisfied after just one night.
ACTION OR GENTLE?Slightly different from difficulty level, is the question of how much action are you looking for? Some beginner trips have a lot of beginner whitewater and others just simply offer gentle, soothing currents. The Arkansas River boasts some of the most whitewater per mile of any river in the U.S. while the Colorado River has longer periods of calm currents between rapids.
CAMPING OR LODGING?
There are three types of Multi-day raft trips. The most common is to camp as you go so that your group pulls over every 15–20 miles to camp on the side of the river, choosing the most scenic and remote campsites. This is called "self-supported" or "wilderness style," requiring the most from an outfitter because of its need for the right equipment and knowhow. Today's equipment allows for extremely comfortable camping – this is not roughing it! This also tends to be the most satisfying because of its continuity and sense of accomplishment.
The next option is to stay at different riverside lodging facilities as you move downstream. Sometimes this can be achieved with the same continuity as "wilderness style." Lastly, the third option is to have a base and choose individual, successive and full days of rafting. This choice gives you the most flexibility to choose which sections of river you raft and in what order. This may even enable you to move up the scale of difficulty within just a few days. This can be combined with primitive camping, campground camping or staying at a comfortable lodge or hotel.
COST OF AN OVERNIGHT RAFTING TRIP
Surprisingly, overnight raft trips can be quite affordable. While costs vary from each outfitter and is often related to trip quality, even the best outfitters offer a good value. Since most overnight trip options include rafting expenses, food and accommodations, there is not much more to spend, except for travel to and from the outfitter. Expect to pay rates between $150–$300 per day, depending on choice of accommodations.
WHAT TO BRING ON A MULTI-DAY COLORADO OUTDOORS GETAWAY?
Most good outfitters have options to provide everything that you may need. Some include everything in their packages, and some may charge small rental fees for optional items like camping gear. Typically all of the food, rafting gear and group camping equipment are included.
CHOICE OF OUTFITTER
Assuming that you will be using an outfitter to plan, guide and outfit your trip, there are some things to look for. Often the satisfaction level of these detailed trips can be related to an outfitter's equipment, experience and knowhow. Look for an outfitter that has a long history of providing Colorado multi-day raft trips. They will best be able to ensure comfort and safety. Read online reviews to find out what others say about each outfitter. Contact outfitters to find out what they offer since there are many options, including extra perks like bringing inflatable kayaks for easier sections of the river and fishing from camp. The food can also range from simple fare to fresh, gourmet options.
Photo: The Adventure CompanyYour choice of which outfitter to hire is often the most important decision related to trip quality and satisfaction. Good overnight outfitters will help you with the entire decision making process while considering the choices mentioned above.
Hopefully this article has helped you find the perfect Colorado overnight rafting trip for you and your group. It is pretty hard to beat a rafting vacation that includes the excitement of whitewater, the feeling of being close to nature, the ability to camp comfortably, great food, being taken care of by expert guides, amenities like portable toilets and hot showers, enjoying bonfires, stargazing and sleeping to the soothing sound of the river--all while sharing it right along with your friends and family! Give a Colorado overnight raft trip a try and you will be rewarded with incredible lifelong memories.
Feel free to contact The Adventure Company for premium quality multi-day rafting in Colorado at TheAdventureCompany.com.
Photo: The Adventure Company
About the author Mark Hammer
As the owner of The Adventure Company, Mark was a rafting guide for 16 years before purchasing the business in 2003, giving him 30 years of experience on the river. The Adventure Company was founded in Breckenridge and is the only rafting outfitter in Colorado that exclusively hires guides with at least 4 years of professional river guiding experience to help ensure safety and fun!
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