With the world-famous Arkansas River cutting a path from the Continental Divide down approximately 5,000 feet in elevation to Canon City, basically anywhere you go in Southern Colorado is sure to have some top-notch river activities. While there is good reason to associate white water rapids with Colorado, there is plenty more fun to be found on the river—even if you want to stay (mostly) dry.
Just 12 miles south of the Arkansas River near Cotopaxi and Texas Creek, sits the town of Hillside which makes a perfect launching point for a variety of river activities. Here are a few of the best ways to take advantage of the Arkansas River during your next stay in Southern Colorado.
Get your adrenaline pumping with white-water rafting: The appeal of the Arkansas River is that it offers a wide variety of rapids and is easily accessible. With difficulty ranging from Class I to Class V rapids, there are options to suit the whole family, including multi-day trips.
For you reference, here’s the breakdown of the different white water classes:
Class I: Easy, smooth water with minimal obstructions
Class II: Mild rapids with quicker moving water; some maneuvering required
Class III: Moderately difficult rapids with high and irregular waves; good maneuvering skills necessary
Class IV: Difficult, long rapids with standing waves; precise maneuvering required
Class V: Long, hard rapids with unavoidable waves; extremely difficult with steep gradients and dangerous obstructions
This website offers a great breakdown of the rapid classes by section of the Arkansas. Note that the peak season is May to September and although there are many guides to pick from, they do book up, so schedule ahead of time.
Cast a line with fly fishing: Whether you are a newcomer to fly fishing or have lots of experience, the Arkansas and its tributaries offer many exciting opportunities. Due to varying elevations and diverse insect and fish populations, just about wherever you cast a line along the Arkansas will have a unique outcome. Several local outfitters offer guided trips or you can get your license to go it solo through Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Give stand up paddleboarding a try: You can still get your adrenaline up along one of the calmer stretches of the Arkansas, with stand up paddleboarding—or SUP. With a number of outfitters offering all the lessons and gear rentals you need to get out on the water, this is a fun way to get a new perspective of the river.