Cache La Poudre River White Water Rafting
POUDRE RIVER WHITEWATER RAFTING DETAILS:
- Convenient to Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Fort Collins, and Denver
- Lower Poudre is half day with morning and afternoon start times
- Wetsuit, splash jacket, and booties are available for rent
POUDRE RIVER RAFTING
Whether you opt for mild or wild, the Cache la Poudre River will provide a whitewater experience you’ll never forget. After your trip, take your Colorado vacation to the next level; head up the road and upstream to river’s birthplace in famed Rocky Mountain National Park where you’ll be treated to even more sweeping vistas, rugged peaks, wildflowers, wildlife, and gorgeous waterfalls.
A rafting trip on the Poudre and a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect way to experience Colorado. You’ll have easy access to the wilderness of the Rockies while still remaining close to Denver, Fort Collins, and Boulder.
THE LOWER POUDRE
Looking for family-friendly whitewater? The Lower Poudre’s exciting Class III rapids will still be appropriate for the kids while providing thrills for the whole group. Between rapids, you’ll have plenty of time to take in the stunning scenery. Minimum age 7, minimum weight 50 lbs.
Looking for heart-pounding exhilaration? The intense whitewater of Mishawaka Falls will challenge even the most adventurous as you navigate this narrow, technical stretch. Stop mid-trip to refuel with a hearty riverside lunch. Good physical fitness recommended. Minimum age 13.
Cache la Poudre River Whitewater Rafting – Fort Collins
As the only designated National Wild and Scenic River in Colorado, the Cache La Poudre is one of the Centennial State’s most famous waterways. With the occasional steep drop among narrow passageways and beautiful scenery, whitewater rafting on the Cache La Poudre River is an exciting and memorable experience.
You can find rafting trips typically running on the Poudre River from mid May to early September. The more advanced whitewater is available earlier in the season, typically finishing up by the end of July/early August.
Both beginner/intermediate trips with Class II and III rapids, as well as advanced trips with Class III and IV rapids are available.
Rafting Trips on the Cache La Poudre River
Although it may be intimidating to some first time rafters, there are Cache La Poudre River whitewater trips available for all skills levels. Thanks to its proximity to Fort Collins, there are many opportunities to take quarter, half, and full day trips.
If you’re setting out to raft the Cache La Poudre River independently, there are many great access points for put-in and take-out. In the summer, it is very common to find many riders hitchhiking the way back to their vehicle.
Rafting trips are super convenient to Fort Collins, usually meeting somewhere around town or close by. Then the shuttle will take you to your starting point and invite you to come onboard.
Whitewater Rafting Difficulty: Overall, most sections of the Cache La Poudre River range in difficulty from Class II to Class V. Although, the more advanced whitewater sections are typically only available at the beginning of the season until the end of July.
Despite containing some continuously challenging sections, there are also portions of the Cache La Poudre River suitable for families.
Here are the most popular sections of the Cache La Poudre River to raft:
The Cache La Poudre River is divided into 3 designated whitewater sections, each of which can be broken down into even smaller subsections.
From the west, the river is divided into the Rustic, Narrows, and Mishawaka sections. Beyond that, there is a bit more raftable water below Poudre Park. Here is a more detailed look at these portions of the Cache La Poudre River.
The Upper Rustic
The Upper Rustic section of the Cache La Poudre River begins at the Home Moraine access, passes through the community of Rustic, and ends at the Indian Meadows Picnic Area. This route is good for intermediate and adventurous beginner whitewater rafters and is primarily made up of Class III rapids.
Of all the nearly 10 miles of the Upper Rustic, the most intensive section is known as the “White Mile.” In reality, the White Mile is only a quarter of a mile, but the Class III-IV rapids do make it feel like a longer run.
The Lower Rustic
Below the bridge at the Indian Meadows Picnic Area, the Lower Rustic section flows for 8 miles down to the Narrows Picnic Area. This run is a bit more challenging than the Upper Rustic, with challenging Class IV drops in the spring and early summer.
Within the Lower Rustic, significant features include Grandpa’s Gorge and an unexpected drop just before Mountain Park Campground. The section also contains a few challenging holes that can be paddled through or avoided to the right. Along the way, there are also a few popular river surfing waves.
The Upper Narrows
If you are rafting down the Lower Rustic, it is critical inexperienced riders portage or end their trip at the Narrows Picnic Area. This is because the Upper Narrows contains three Class IV-V rapids, one after the other. The rapids (Super Collider, Cabbage Shredder, and Whiteline) can be extremely dangerous if not run properly.
The Middle Narrows
Of the three Narrows sections, the middle section is by far the most mild. That being said, it is still primarily made up of swift Class IV rapids. Namely, the Middle Narrows contains the significant Sports Car Corner and Green Footbridge rapids, which are about 1.1 miles from the Narrows Picnic Area. To avoid paddling above a Class IV rapid in the Lower Narrows, you can take-out on the left side of the river at the Highway 14 bridge.
The Lower Narrows
The Lower Narrows bring the action back with another mile of Class V rapids. This section is rocky, but also has eddies and famously long, fun rapids. At the end of the Lower Narrows, there is take-out access at Stephen’s Gulch. This point marks the end of the most difficult, three and a half mile Narrows section of the Cache La Poudre River.
The Upper Mishawaka
From Stephen’s Gulch, the Upper Mishawaka offers the most challenging whitewater experience downriver of the Narrows. Here, most of the rapids are around Class IV, especially in the early season. Rapids to look out for include Split Rock (also known as Triple Rock or Twin Pin), Tunnel Rapid, and Mishawaka Falls. At the Mishawaka Inn, rafters can stop in for a meal or a drink to complete their trip or as a pitstop, before continuing downstream.
The Lower Mishawaka
Past the Mishawaka Inn, the Lower Mishawaka is a 3 mile stretch of Class III whitewater. For beginners, the Lower Mishawaka is a great stretch of relatively easy rafting. Of course, an experience guide is also recommended for this section, as there are a few dangerous holes that need to be avoided. Take-out access for the Lower Mishawaka is commonly utilized at the Poudre Park Picnic Grounds.
Poudre Park / Bridges
From the picnic grounds, Poudre Park is a two mile section that may be intimidating for intermediate rafters. The section has low bridges, overhanging rocks, and a couple of steep holes, all of which are Class III – IV(+) rapids.
From Pineview Falls access, many whitewater rafters extend their Poudre Park trip for two additional miles to the Bridges takeout. Here, there are several more Class III – IV rapids, one of which is heavily obstructed by a bridge, and should be carefully maneuvered.
Approaching Fort Collins, the Filter Plant section of the Cache La Poudre River is a nice 2.4 mile stretch of beginner-friendly whitewater rafting. From the Filter Plant put-in, riders can travel along smooth Class II water until the take-out at Picnic Rock. There are two Class III rapids in this section, making it great for families or first time rafters.
Cache La Poudre River Rafting Guides
Activities near the Cache La Poudre River
After being named a National Wild and Scenic River, the Cache La Poudre was divided into two distinct designations: 46 miles of recreational use and 30 miles reserved to be wild. Within the recreational areas, the Cache La Poudre River is also popular for tubing, kayaking, and fly fishing for trout.
Above the river, the Roosevelt National Forest surround the area with hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing opportunities. There are many designated and dispersed camping opportunities scattered across and off of the route along the Cache La Poudre River.
The Mishawaka Inn is a great restaurant and bar with an outdoor concert stage sitting right above the flowing Cache La Poudre. In the summer, patrons can eat, drink or watch live music most nights of the week.
Nearby Towns: (following river west to east)
Season: May – August
Latest in Cache la Poudre River
Cache la Poudre River Half-Day Trips
Offered up to 3 times daily late May - early September - Trips depart from the Estes Park High School parking lot located at 1600 Manford Avenue. Do not come to our downtown office to meet your trip.
Age and Weight Restriction:
All participants must be at least 7 years of age and weigh at least 50 lbs.
Trip Duration: Approximately 6 hours
(Please note: Trip duration includes all transport time to the river and back to Estes Park, safety orientation, gear fitting, and rafting. Time on river varies by river flows but is generally 1.5-2 hours)
Did you say “Rapids?”
The Poudre River (how the heck do you say it? "Poo-der". We didn't name it - we just raft it). The "Poo-der" is a fast-moving river with nearly continuous Class II to III rapids and little float water. This river has the distinction of being the only "wild and scenic" designated river in Colorado and we are one of the few companies allowed to run it.
NEVER BEEN RAFTING? Don't worry, our professional guides ensure that both the first time rafter and the experienced rafters have a great time. Non-swimmers are also welcome.
Actual time on the river can vary each day depending on water flow. While each season is different, the water is usually swift-moving early in the season and slows down after the snowmelt is gone. By August some of the fun comes from dodging the rocks along the way. We'll get you wet!
Feel free to bring snacks and non-alcoholic beverages along if you like.
Trips depart from the Estes Park High School at 9:30am and 12:30pm daily. We also have a 6:45am trip Monday through Friday. (Okay, I heard you *GASP* when you read that time. Those of you from the Central Time Zone it's 7:45am for you. Before you dismiss this trip as too early, this trip is often smaller and we're often the only company on the water then. The river is all ours - it's incredible! Then you're back in time for lunch and your afternoon is open to do something else. This one runs during peak season - mid June through early August).
Call 970-577-7238 (RAFT) or 800-367-8523 for reservations or book online as space is strictly limited on all half day trips. The U.S. Forest Service regulates the number of rafters per trip. (They have no sense of humor about this so no, unfortunately we can't just sneak you on.) During peak season we run at capacity and will turn people away, so reservations are strongly encouraged. Payment is required in advance for all trips so we know how many boats and guides we'll need.
We don't want to leave you behind - book now!
These trips run from around Memorial Day through the end of August - sometimes Labor Day if water levels permit.
$80 per participant. Price includes transportation, all safety equipment, and one experienced guide per raft.
Checking the weather?Be sure to check the weather in Fort Collins, CO, not Estes Park. The weather is generally much warmer at the Poudre River than in Estes Park as it is much lower in elevation. June temperatures are typically range between the mid 70s to high 80s in Fort Collins. Click here for a link to the Fort Collins weather forecast.
We go rain or shine - weather can be different on the river than it is in Estes Park. We take payment at time of reservation. We run at capacity most of the season and turn away others to hold the space for you. We reserve the space for you - you in turn agree to pay for the trip. All money is fully refundable if we are advised of the cancellation at least 7 days prior to the trip.*
Within 7 days of the trip, we are happy to refund your money if given enough advance notice to resell the space. Rescheduling your trip to a later date due to weather within 7 days is equivalent to a cancellation. Trips resold within 7 days will be refunded minus a $5.00 processing charge per participant. No refund applies if the space is not resold before the trip.
Please understand that booking a trip is similar to booking an airline ticket. Trips depart at the scheduled time whether all participants are present or not. Absolutely no refunds if you just do not show up for the trip. We turn away others to hold the space for you. Additionally, drivers, guides and meals are prearranged based on your being on the trip. These costs cannot be recouped. Thank you for understanding.
Every participant is required to sign a waiver before being allowed to raft.
* Cancellations of 10 participants or greater are required to cancel 14 days prior to trip in order to be eligible for a full refund.
Example: You have a trip booked for July 22nd, 2020 and want to cancel 2 spots. You would need to do this by July 15th. After July 15th, we would need to resell the 2 spots in order to get you a refund. However, if you are cancelling 11 people for the same trip, you would need to do this by July 8th. After July 8th, we would need to resell 11 spots in order to get you a refund.
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