Breck Rafting 101: Whitewater paddle talk

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If you’ve never been whitewater rafting in Colorado, you’ve got to get out there. It’s a bucket-lister, and this season’s water flows have been fantastic. If you’ve been before, you know how exhilarating it is.

Nothing beats a bluebird summer day, a great crew of family and friends, and a funny (and safety-first) raft guide to take you down one of Colorado’s amazingly scenic rivers.

Here’s how to make it happen when visiting Breckenridge.

Book your perfect trip:

Half-day, full-day, multi-day. Mellow or advanced. The Arkansas River, Colorado River, Clear Creek, the Eagle or way down southwest. There are a handful of choices to make and several Breckenridge-based expert outfitters on tap to help.

The Adventure Companycloseupsmile offers whitewater rafting trips packed with premium features. As Colorado’s original outfitter that does not hire first-year guides, they recognize that an experienced raft guide is critical to a safe and fun trip. In fact, their least experienced guides are fourth-year guides – unheard of in today’s rafting industry! By having the most experienced raft guides, you’ll find a level of professionalism that is unmatched.

AVA Rafting offers whitewater rafting trips for ages six and up – from mild to wild trips, scenic floats, overnights or zipline tours, rock climbing and horseback riding combo adventures.

Rafting_Horizontal_VCD11061_SmallRunning 30 years strong, KODI Rafting is a great local family company serving up more than 30 raft trips on six Colorado rivers for all abilities, along with stand-up paddleboarding adventures.

For beginning rafters and families with younger kids, a trip on the winding, flat-water Upper Colorado River is a great fit. Those seeking thrills and big waves in beautiful canyons will love the Arkansas River, America’s most popular rafting destination.

Colorado rafting essentials:

What’s the difference between Class II and Class IV water? Check out these official River Ratings from the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

What to wear? Non-cotton, quick-dry clothing over swimwear with water shoes is your best bet. If you’re concerned about being cold, outfitters have wetsuits, booties and splash jackets for rent. Bring sunscreen to block strong high-altitude rays and don’t wear anything that can’t get wet. Leave watches, iPhones, and cameras in the car. Bring a towel and a dry change of clothes for afterward.

Paddle like a pro:

  • Pay attention during the pre-rafting safety talk. Your guide will give a quick lesson on what to do if the boat high-sides, if you fall out of the raft, and other possible scenarios.
  • Use your entire body to paddle, not just your arms. Put the full blade of your paddle in the water and move with your entire upper body, using your hips as power.
  • Listen to your guide. The professional guide knows the river, its quirks and obstacles and will instruct you as a team on how to best maneuver.
  • Paddle together as a team. Your simultaneous paddle strokes are what propel the raft through big waves and over swirling holes.

The Colorado River Outfitters Association is a great resource to hit up for more info. Enjoy the ride!

– Lisa Pogue