Whitewater River Rafting

Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado

Whitewater Rafting

Welcome to the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area! This is one of the nation’s most popular locations for whitewater rafting and kayaking. It’s also home to the most commercially rafted river in the United States, the Arkansas River!

Tumbling 4,650’ in 152 miles, boaters can find anything from roaring Class IV and V rapids, to milder Class II and III sections, which are ideal for beginner and family trips. AHRA also offers a world class trout fishery and abundant opportunities for camping, picnicking, hiking, wildlife watching, horseback riding, mountain biking, OHV travel and sightseeing within the Upper Arkansas River Valley.

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Arkansas River Flows CFS

Cubic Feet Per second

Whitewater Rafting Trips On The Arkansas River

The Right Gear

A trip on the Arkansas River is not complete without the proper safety equipment. A personal flotation device (PFD) is a must. Colorado State Law requires anyone under the age of 13 to wear a PFD whenever swimming in the Arkansas River Headwaters Area. Helmets are a great idea if you are spending anytime on whitewater.
Sprung a leak? Person overboard? Pack the following: first aid and patch kit, an extra PFD, a spare oar or paddle, a pump, a bailing device and bow-stern line. Have rescue gear: ropes/throw lines, a knife, carabiners and a whistle.
If you left home without the right supplies, stop by one of our gear stores.

River Safety

Rivers are powerful and dynamic. Unforeseen hazards lie below the surface of the water. Consider the following before planning your next trip:

  • Know the section of the river, its current conditions, and the weather forecast. Does your group have the skill set and experience to navigate?
  • Be aware of river “signs” – both natural and man-made: holes, wrap rocks, undercuts, rock sieves, significant rapids and “strainers”.
  • Everyone in your group should know First Aid, CPR and water rescue.

Let Someone Else Deal with the Logistics

If navigating the rivers of Colorado’s high country are new to you, then reach out to one of our many talented river guide services to book a trip. Not only do river guides know how to have a good time, they are also experts at river safety and know how to back up a boat trailer.

Private Boaters

The Arkansas can present tremendous challenges to both novice and experienced boaters. Be certain to get specific information about the section of river you are interested in. Consult others who have boated there, know your abilities – and carry and use safety equipment. All whitewater boats (canoes, kayaks and rafts) must have the owner’s name and current address written legibly and clearly visible somewhere on the craft. In addition, it is also recommended that a telephone number be clearly displayed on the boat.

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

Colorado’s Largest State Park

Below the striking Saguache and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges lies the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. This 152 mile stretch of river starts in the high mountains near Leadville and runs all the way down to the open plains of Pueblo. The Arkansas River winds through Chaffee County where boaters can find anything from challenging Class V white-water rapids to idyllic float fishing on calmer waters. No matter how you choose to enjoy the river, the power of the Arkansas should always be taken seriously, no matter how much or how little water is flowing.


The Arkansas River Headwaters Area also offers an abundance of other recreational opportunities including camping, hiking, picnicking, mountain biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, wildlife viewing, and if you can believe it, gold panning. The shores have colorful outcroppings, rock spires, and some sandy beaches for the perfect lunch break while on a day trip.

The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area is a landmark cooperative effort between Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW), the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS). Through this partnership, the agencies provide visitors with outstanding recreation opportunities and care for the nationally significant natural resources of the Upper Arkansas River Valley.



Browns Canyon National Monument

Browns Canyon National Monument is right in our backyard! Carved by the Arkansas River, granite cliffs with cathedral-like spires, colorful outcroppings, significant elevation changes, and an ideal ecosystem will provide visitors with ample recreational activities. The Monument provides habitat protection for bighorn sheep, elk, golden eagles and peregrine falcons.

The canyons and the forests within the Monument are magical and ready for your exploration. This protected area is ideal for fishing, horseback riding, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, and more. You will feel the tranquility immediately as humans are scarce and wildlife viewings are abundant.

Browns Canyon

buena-vista-salida-colorado-rapids map

Nature Pledge banner

The Adventure By Nature Pledge is an outreach and education project supporting outdoor recreation, economic and visitor growth in Chaffee County by encouraging responsible recreation, stewardship principles and best practices for visitors and residents recreating in the outdoors.

We believe that stewardship of the environment is everyone’s responsibility. Please help us protect and preserve our home so future generations can enjoy it just as you have.