River rafting is a seasonal activity, but the season is significantly longer than people often believe. Most people take the vast majority of their rafting trips during the summer months, but it is also enjoyable to head out on the water during the spring and the earliest parts of the autumn. The trick to having a good trip is realizing that the conditions on the river will vary depending on the season, so each part of the year offers its own set of advantages.
The spring rafting season will usually begin in March or April, depending on how the weather has been earlier in the year. It will still be a little bit chilly at this point during most years, so rafters will want to wear wet suits to provide an extra layer of protection against the cold. It can also be wise to wear layers and bring a chance of clothes for after the trip. The importance of doing so will depend on conditions at the river, so it can be a good idea to inquire with a local guide to see what sort of gear is necessary to safely head out on the river.
Spring rafting often offers an intense experience compared to heading out during the summer. Most of the best rafting rivers are fed by streams that come down from the mountains. The snow on those mountains will start to melt during the early spring, which causes those streams and the rivers that they feed to swell. The water level will be higher, and the river will be flowing much faster than during the summer.
In general, spring rafting trips are great for experienced rafters who want a challenge or a thrill. People who are new to rafting or want a more sedate experience will want to stick to the smaller and calmer rivers in their area, or wait until the summer.
The summer is the height of the rafting season, with July and August offering relatively calm rivers compared to the spring. The higher temperatures mean that it isn’t quite as necessary to take precautions against the cold in most areas, although it can still be wise to bring a chance of clothing. As always, conditions will vary from one river to the next, so a little bit of research will go a long way towards encouraging a comfortable trip.
Summer is the best time to novices to get started in the vast majority of areas. The calmer conditions offer a greater margin of error, which is vital for people who might make mistakes. The warmer weather also makes the adventure more comfortable, which will improve the experience for people who are not used to dealing with the cold. Of course, the summer is also popular with experienced rafters who can use the favorable conditions to have simple, relaxing trips, or to take on rivers that would be too challenging during the wilder spring rafting season.
Most rivers remain fairly calm during the early fall, but the cooler weather means that rafters need to take care and stay warm. Some areas can stretch their rafting season to November, but many of them will start to get too cold for rafting around Labor Day.
Fall conditions vary significantly by location, so this is the season for people who are willing to do their research or get an experienced guide. It’s still possible to have a great time, but it is important to choose rafting routes with care late in the season.
This article, Colorado’s top vacation destinations this summer, was written by Ryan Thomas for Rocky Mountain Whitewater Rafting. Rocky Mountain Whitewater Rafting has guided thousands of whitewater rafting trips on Clear Creek and throughout Colorado.