Talon News - Good Local News


River Rafting Season is Near


March 31, 2017

James Evangelisti

15 ft Raft in Desolation Canyon on a Green River Rapid

As the weather starts to warm up and the snow begins to melt, the water levels in the rivers rise and provide opportunities for all types of recreation. River sports in the 4 Corners area are more abundant and accessible than you would think, and there are dozens of opportunities within a few hours of driving. There are also a number of places to play on the river without having to go very far at all. Rivers are generally rated I through V; class I is flat running water with almost no danger or obstacles and class V is very difficult with many obstacles: unintentional swims can be extremely dangerous.

The Animas and San Juan Rivers by Aztec and Farmington are great class I-II stretches of water to get your feet wet if you are new to river sports or just prefer the mild over the wild. These sections are generally calm at lower water levels, and the City of Farmington's Penny Lane Dam redesign project removed the only major hazard between Aztec's Riverside Park and Farmington's Berg Park. This section is great for rafts, canoes, kayaks or stand-up paddle boards. There are still a few areas along this stretch for which you need to remain attentive, and it is strongly recommended to portage the whitewater park in Farmington especially at higher water. If you are not comfortable floating through a particular river feature, walking around on the shoreline is always a good option.

More exciting stretches of river can be found nearby as well. The Animas River as it runs through Durango is a class III rating on the international scale of river difficulty. This section of river is for experienced boaters only, whether in a raft or a kayak. There are, however guiding companies in the area that would be happy to take you and your family down the river. Depending on the water level, with a professional guide, this section can be appropriate for the whole family or just the adults regardless of experience. There are a number of companies that raft this section and can be found on the Internet.

The San Juan River near Pagosa Springs is another great class III stretch that can be rafted for most of the summer, or you could head to the north and west, if you have the time, to the Colorado, San Juan, and Green Rivers in Utah. Options there include a day trip in Moab or multi-day overnight rafting through Desolation Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, and Westwater Canyon to name a few. Many of these stretches require permits, and specific camping gear to conserve the area.

James Evangelisti

Boats in Canyonlands National Park, Green River

Before you get on any unfamiliar stretch of river always do your research to find out what you are getting yourself into. There are some great on-line resources, and talking to somebody that knows the area is always a good idea. The USGS has a water resources page where water levels can be found for almost every river in the U.S. and there are a number of web pages dedicated to river recreation. Americanwhitewater.org and southwestpaddler.com are good places to start. Gear rental shops or commercial rafting companies can have good information on local rivers as well.

Remember ... River activities are inherently risky. Even on 'gentle' sections of river, there are still hazards associated with water. Always wear a properly fitted life jacket and any other safety gear appropriate for the activity you are doing. Have fun and be safe.


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