Gunnison River runs through the middle of Colorado, creating dramatic whitewater along the way. It winds through some of the most stunning and isolated canyons in the state’s unique and colorful high desert region.
Rafting Trips on the Gunnison River
Half day, full-day, overnight and multi-day trips are available along the Gunnison River. In addition to fast paced whitewater action, the river is also very popular for mild floating and fishing trips.
Whitewater Rafting Difficulty – As it nearly spans half of the state, the Gunnison River has whitewater sections for every level of rafter. The river flows the entire spectrum of Class I – V rapids.
Here are the most popular sections of the Gunnison River for whitewater rafting:
Gunnison Town Run
The first popular whitewater rafting section of the Gunnison River flows right through the town which shares its namesake. Starting from Almont, Colorado (south of Crested Butte), the river descends through beautiful alpine scenery before hitting the Gunnison River Whitewater Park. This section of the river is very mild, only containing Class I – II rapids. Floaters can enjoy a half or full day along the 18.6 mile route’s many access points.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison – Not Recommended
After the Blue Mesa Reservoir, experienced whitewater kayakers can reach the Black Canyon of the Gunnison from the East Portal access point. From here, the river contains Class IV – V rapids, flowing through the towering walls of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
On the National Park’s website, the NPS states that this section of the Gunnison River Cannot be drafted
due to the technical nature and numerous difficult portages.
and recommends rafters try the Gunnison Gorge Conservation Area.
Beyond the unraftable section of the Black Canyon, the Gunnison Gorge offers similar scenery among swift whitewater. Although it is challenging to reach, the 4WD road and mile long hike down the Chukar Trail are worth it for the river’s spectacular whitewater, scenery, and fishing. The Gunnison Gorge is also more popular among kayakers, however it does over smooth Class III – IV rapids primed for whitewater rafting. The section spans 13.5 miles of breathtaking sandstone and black granite walls.
Lower Gunnison River
The Lower Gunnison River is one of the most popular sections of the Gunnison River for half and full day trips. From Delta or above, rafters can enjoy mild Class I to II rapids for trips up to 28 miles long. Because the whitewater portions are not very challenging, this section is popular for families and anglers alike.
The final raftable portion of the Gunnison River cuts through the beautiful and isolated Dominguez-Escalante Canyon. This section is great for relaxed overnight floating and camping expeditions. The national conservation area is home to many exciting hikes and scenic features among clear skies for evening stargazing. The canyon is divided into two distinct 13 mile sections at the Bridgeport Road access point. Ending near Whitewater, Colorado, the Dominguez-Escalante Canyon offers a total of 26 miles of easy Class I – II rafting fun.
Gunnison River Rafting Guides
In addition to many floating and fishing trips available, here are some whitewater rafting guides that operate on the Gunnison River:
Activities near the Gunnison River
The Gunnison River spans for 180 miles through western Colorado, and therefore covers a lot of territory. In addition to rafting all the way until the confluence of the Colorado River, there are opportunities to enjoy the scenic high desert region of the Centennial State along the way. Popular spots include: Curecanti National Recreation Area, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, and Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area.
Nearby Towns (following river east to west):
Season: May to September
Class: III – V+