Best Time for Rafting

by Mar 25, 2019Journey Quest News0 comments

When is the best time to go Whitewater Rafting? This question is often asked, and truth be told, there is no one right time to go rafting. At different times throughout the summer, you will experience different water levels and the river will be bigger or smaller. Come during high water and you are in for a wet, wild, and exhilarating adventure. Come during low water and you will face the challenge and difficulties of weaving in and out of rocks. So, in reality, the questions should be asked, what kind of a trip do you want and when is the water level ideal for your desires. I am going to break down the conditions of the river on what we typically see throughout summer on the Arkansas River.


Early Season

April – Late-May


The rafting season on the Arkansas River near Bighorn Sheep Canyon and the Royal Gorge typically starts early May, but we have taken guests down the river as early as April. The tricky thing with early season rafting is the weather and river can be very unpredictable. What I mean by that is Colorado’s weather is often known as bi-polar. One day it could be 65 degrees and sunny with the next day being 20 degrees and blizzarding. The weather can be great, or… un-raftable. The river conditions can vary greatly. Expect lower flows with colder water temperatures. The warming the weather is in the mountains, the higher the river will be from snowmelt. Here is a quick overview of early season rafting:


River Conditions: Lower flows with some rock dodging

River Temperature: Mid-High 30s

Weather: Unpredictable – You can find some good days in the 60s and 70s scattered throughout


High Water

Late May – Mid-June


High water on the Arkansas River typically arrives somewhere between Late May and Mid to Late June. The high-water flows are solely dependent on two factors, the snowpack from the winter and the temperatures in the mountains. With a large snowpack and warm temperatures in May, the river can reach exciting water levels creating monstrous waves any adrenaline junky would love. Not to worry, there are still plenty of calm sections along the river that are perfect for families. Even at high water, kids as young as three can still enjoy the excitement of rafting. Due to the water being fresh snowmelt, expect water temperatures to still be quick chilly in the Low 40s and Mid 50s. Wet suits and splash jackets are highly recommended for staying nice and warm on the river if the weather is a bit chilly. If the water level gets to moderately high flows, 3200+ CFS (Cubic Feet per Second), the Royal Gorge gets closed until the river drops to lower levels. Not to worry though, Bighorn Sheep Canyon is still a blast at high water flows. Here is a quick overview of high-water rafting:


River Conditions: High Water Flows with Big Waves

River Temperature: Low 40s to Mid 50s

Weather: Expect highs in the 70s and 80s later on in June. Chances of rain showers are low.



Late June – Early August


This is an excellent time for family rafting. The water levels are down a little but still expect some good waves. The weather is warmer with highs in the 80s and 90s. The water in the reservoirs that feed the Arkansas have had some time to warm up, so expect water temperatures as warm as the Mid 60s. Late July through early August is the monsoon season here in Colorado, that means rain showers. The rains help keep the river at moderate water levels before it drops for late season rafting. Expect rain showers in the afternoon if you plan to go rafting during the monsoon season. Here is a quick overview of mid-season rafting:


River Conditions: Moderate river flows with great waves and a few rocks to dodge

River Temperature: As warm as the Mid 60s

Weather: Highs in the 80s and 90s with the potential of afternoon rain showers


Late Season

Mid-August – September



There is still plenty of water in the Arkansas River to have a blast! These late-season water levels make for a great, relaxing day on the river. Enjoy calm waters, exciting rapids, and the challenge of weaving in and around rocks to avoid getting stuck. The weather in Colorado is pretty consistent this time of year. You can expect highs in the 80s and 90s with seldom chances for rain storms. The water temperature consistently stays in the 60s during this time of year. Although the river can get very low in September, it is still a very relaxing day on the river. Here is a quick overview of late-season rafting:


River Conditions: Moderate to low flows with plenty of rock to dodge

River Temperature: Mid 60s

Weather: Highs in the 80s and 90s with sunny skies


We hope to see you this summer on the river. For more information about our trips, feel free to give us a call.



Phone: (719) 276-2227

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