Whitewater rafting through the Royal Gorge offers plenty of excitement with big drops and crashing waves.

Whitewater rafting the Royal Gorge CO is Pure Adrenaline

Whitewater rafting the Royal Gorge is an adrenaline rush from start to finish. Even before you enter the canyon your blood starts flowing in anticipation of the rapids to come as the walls rise dramatically around you. A few warm-up rapids – El Primero, El Segundo and El Tercero – help build confidence, but the momentum of the river builds as each rapid is a little bit larger than the one before. Pump House, Hollywood Hole and Care Taker rapids get your attention, but then you see the horizon line for Sunshine Falls. Frothy whitewater splashes from the unknown as the rafts in front of you bob out of sight. You could scout on river right along the same trail that takes you to the old care taker’s house, but you know the line so you keep going. You might take a quick reflection of what life might have been like for the caretaker and his family before the old Canon City pipeline was abandoned in the early 1970s, but Sunshine Falls is up next and it commands your full attention. You can see the photographer’s tent on the concrete embankment at the bottom of Sunshine Falls. Enter the rapid river left charging a big drop and crashing wave that knocks everyone into the boat. “Get up and paddle” the guide yells. You make your way river right as lateral waves knock the raft around. A big hit at the bottom knocks everyone around again, but the boat is still upright and all of a sudden you realize that you’ve made it through the rapid. Drenched in water you can’t help but smile and let out a loud hoot.

Whitewater rafting the Royal Gorge.
Rafting the Royal Gorge in Canon City, Colorado.

Don’t take too long to catch your breath, because the Grateful Dead is straight ahead. This rapid is either a wave train or boulder garden depending on water flows. Either way it offers continuous action and leads right into the second most difficult rapid found in the Royal Gorge – Sledge Hammer. Enter left and line up for a crushing hit called Mount Rushmore. Continue through several more big drops and avoid the undercut rock and recirculating hole – Clark’s Hole – at the bottom of the rapid.

By this point the adrenaline is pumping and your loving life. A small break from the rapids allows you to take in the spectacular views from the bottom of the Royal Gorge. Keep your eyes peeled towards the rim, because soon the Royal Gorge Bridge will come into view. As the canyon narrows you encounter some more rapids in what is called The Narrows. Three steep drops take you into the Fishbowl. At this point people are probably taking your picture who rode the Incline Railway from the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. You can see the bridge 1,000 feet above you, but the guide is calling “All Forward”!, Wall Slammer is straight ahead. A vortex wave pushed you right into the wall, but with a proper angle away from it and some strong paddle strokes you narrowly avoid crashing into it. You eventually float out of sight from the bridge, and the river calms down for a few moments. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad rolls by and people are taking your photo yet again. Above the Royal Gorge Helicopter comes flying down into the canyon. After a few moments of rest your attention is put back on the river as Boat Eater is waiting for you. Don’t get sucked into the wave train and you should be able to miss this monster hole on by going river right. Corner Pocket aka Soda Fountain Rock is a nice place to stop and swim, but don’t let your guard down making the move around the rock.

Big drops and pounding waves provide plenty of excitement when rafting through the Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River.
River rafting through the Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River.

After jumping off the rock into the refreshing Arkansas River it’s time to paddle out of the Royal Gorge. Lions Head, Exit Rapid and Pipeline offer some good splashes, but the most challenging part is over. Everyone feels a sense of accomplishment as the canyon opens up to vibrant green cottonwood trees and open meadows. Take out at a beautiful park in Canyon City and take a 10 minute bus ride back to the River Runners Royal Gorge Rafting Center where you can check out photos of your Royal Gorge rafting experience and browse the largest selection of River Runners souvenirs in the world.

Royal Gorge White Water Rafting Video