Full Day Colorado Raft Trips on the Arkansas River

Browns Canyon Rafting.
Entering Zoom Flume rapid in Browns Canyon.


Live Life to the FULLest

By: Emily Sievert, Adventure Writer

Here at River Runners, we understand that life can move pretty fast. I mean that literally for us, as we spend most of our time paddling down fast-moving whitewater. For you however, we know that sometimes all you have time for is a half-day rafting trip for your family reunion or that your six-year-old doesn’t have the longest attention span. We also know it can be hard to make the 10:00 am raft trip the day after your brother’s bachelor party or you need to make that afternoon zip line tour. Full day rafting trips, however, really aim to make you fall in love with rafting the Arkansas River, which is our overall goal for anyone willing to participate.

Arkansas River Rafting
The Moeller family on a full-day Browns Canyon rafting trip.

The Arkansas River is not only home to world-class whitewater. Spending a full day on the river really allows you to put your worries aside. Plus you will see some amazing rock formations, encounter splashy rapids, find some great spots to jump into the river, and gain a better appreciation and understanding of all the things a Colorado river has to offer.

Browns Canyon and the Royal Gorge are two of the most beautiful stretches of river I have ever experienced, but thrill seekers may find their fix a little farther north, on a Pine Creek or Numbers rafting trip. These sections of the Arkansas River boast more rocks, harder “lines” through the rapids and more paddling, plus up-close views of 14,000-foot mountain and the Continental Divide. Let’s just say this river certainly raises the bar for “a good time” once you have experienced it.

Now I’m not trying to tell you that going on a full day trip is the only way to enjoy this river, but I will try to prove to you why I think it’s the best option out there. I was lucky enough to get out of the office the other day and jump on a full day Brown’s Canyon raft trip. We left right from our beach on a warm, sunny day, which made the cooler water feel amazing as it splashed us all the way through the canyon. I was riding with a family of six, which even included grandma. After about an hour and a half of chit-chat and some paddle techniques being mastered, we were entering the canyon. The first couple miles were smooth sailing with only one hiccup (we got stuck on a rock), and a good introduction to class II whitewater for those first-timers. Honestly, I think the entire Arkansas River is absolutely breathtaking, but entering Browns Canyon is one of those jaw-dropping experiences that you only come across once in a while (The only other jaw-dropping moment I had this summer was entering the Royal Gorge on a raft). Both canyons jet up towards the sky with huge rock walls.

Full Day Rafting trips at River Runners.
Enjoy a catered lunch on every full day rafting trip.

Immediately after entering the canyon we were face-to-face with the Pinball rapid, which bounced us around a little and got us ready for the Zoom Flume (class III-sometimes IV) rapid. This is where they snap photos of the anxious smiles on the faces of a majority of people who go through Zoom Flume and also where you get some of the biggest splashes. By the end of the rapid, about two hours have gone by and about two-thirds of your adrenaline-based energy is gone, which can mean only one thing: lunch time. We eddy out right below Zoom Flume. Tip #1: careful getting out of the boat-“river legs” are a real thing. Once everyone is safely off the boat the guides immediately get to work cutting fresh vegetables and making a gorgeous spread of lunch meat and cheeses for some deli-style wraps. Too hungry to wait? Enjoy a huge bowl of homemade salsa from our Riverside Grill. Ten minutes later one of the guides tells everyone that they “..have a well-balanced meal prepared for your enjoyment, so please don’t knock it over.”

After everyone is nourished we set off down the river again and conquer the rest of the rapids, until we pull over at a spot we like to call Jump Rock, a 15-foot high piece of granite that juts out over the river. It is awesome. After about two jumps per customer, we are on our way down the canyon.

Jump Rock in Browns Canyon.
Jump Rock is a popular stop in Browns Canyon.

At about the 10 mile mark, we pass Hecla Junction, which is the take-out for the half-day trips down Browns Canyon, but our lucky crew gets to keep going to experience the rapids that are known as “Seidel’s Suckhole” and “Twin Falls.” Not only do those rapids add to the full-day experience, but the next five miles offers some of the prettiest scenery found in the canyon.

Overall, the full day trip was one to be remembered. I got to jump into the river from 15-foot rock, eat a delicious turkey wrap heavy on the mayonnaise (personal preference), and enjoy 4-5 hours of whitewater rafting with a great guide and an even cooler family. If the day seems to always get away from you and a 3 hour half day trip is the only option; don’t worry. Hopefully that gets you hooked on whitewater rafting just enough to come back again and try making it down 15 miles of whitewater. If that happens to be the end result, than my friends, we have done our job and we will see you next time.