Kayaking & Rafting In Snowmass

You can't leave Snowmass without enjoying a kayak or raft trip down one the three nearby rivers - the Roaring Fork, Colorado, or Arkansas River. There are a variety of trips available to suite your comfort level from adrenaline pumping heart-in-the-throat raft trips to enjoyable inflatable kayak rides loaded with some fun, giggles, and beautiful scenery. During our visit to Snowmass, a number of people recommended that we check out Blazing Adventures which has convenient locations in both Snowmass Village and downtown Aspen.

We wanted to take our 5 year old grandson with us, which meant that we were limited on the choices - no kids under six are allowed on any of the trips except for the kayak trip down the Roaring Fork River. So we signed our party of 10 up for the kayak trip down the mighty Roaring Fork River. We were going to float down the river in inflatable kayaks, better known as the duckies - would a real macho outdoors man be caught dead in a duckie? When I inquired about why the kayaks were known as duckies, we were told that just like a mother duck and her ducklings, we were supposed to follow our guide down the river in a fairly tight formation one little duckie after the other. Never happen, not with our group! We were told that the 12 foot inflatable kayaks (ok, duckies) are stable and durable and make floating smaller rapids very exciting.

Our group getting ready to board the Blazing Adventures busAfter signing several waivers, we piled in the Blazing Adventures bus for a 20 minute ride to our put-in location. I was a little skeptical and didn't have high expectations for this kayaking adventure for a couple reasons.

  • First, how exciting can it be if they let 5 year olds go - if he can do it, surely I should be able to handle it.
  • And second, we had seen and ridden bikes along the Roaring Fork River as it flows through Aspen and it looked very shallow, full of rocks of all sizes, and somewhat calm - I envisioned walking the kayaks a lot of the way.
  • And finally, how exciting can paddling a duckie be - it's embarrassing just saying duckie!

Our duckies are ready to go - are we? When we arrived at the put-in spot, our kayaks and all the gear was waiting and ready for us. It must have taken me fifteen minutes with the help of most of my family to stuff my pudgy tummy into that small wet suit - not a pretty picture. I kept swearing it was a kids size and the guides kept telling me it was the largest one they had and the water is very cold, "so quit complaining and get your body in that suit". I held my breath and tugged it on. Next was a helmet and most helmets don't fit my big head, which is why I'm sure I heard all that giggling behind my back and no one could look me in the face without cracking a grin! It's not often that you see a walrus in a wet suit with a small helmet sitting well above his forehead.

And if this is a tame river, why do we need life jackets and helmets? After everyone was suited up and ready to go, we formed our first duckie line and waddled with our duckies to the river - so far we were doing great and had a perfect line behind our guide! Never happen once we were in the river.

Getting some gear instructions from one of the guidesGears on, we're ready to get in those duckiesOur first and only successfull duckie line

Our first glance at this section of the river was at the put-in spot and my jaw dropped - this wasn't the same Roaring Fork River I saw gently and beautifully flowing through Aspen. Maybe this section is how Roaring Fork River got it's name! This section of the Roaring Fork was wider, deeper, was moving rapidly, and looked very cold - my heart started pumping and I adjusted my helmet, tightened my life vest, and zipped up the wet suit. Hmmmm. I noticed the grandson's mouth and eyes were also wide open - the good news is that he was too young to go in a duckie, so he and his mother would be riding down river in a raft with one of the several guides going with us down the river. Why would we need three guides to get down this river - it only goes one way and that's downhill toward Glenwood Springs where it feeds into the mighty Colorado River. Hmmmm, maybe that's one reason why! If we miss the take-out we could end up in Nevada!

Roaring Fork River

So now I starting to get a little excited as one of the guide jumps in his rubber duckie to give us some paddling and river instructions. And rescue and life saving tips if you ended up out of your kayak. . "Some of you are going to get wet and when you fall out, make sure you......" Hmmmmmmmm - my heart is now beating a little faster as I take another look at the rapidly flowing Roaring Fork! I immediately tightened my life jacket one more time, adjusted my helmet, and started paying closer attention to how to paddle and what to do if I flipped the little duckie.

Down to the put in spotGetting the duckies readySome more instruction from one of our guides

Getting some paddling instruction"Follow me" - it was time to go and we all jumped in our little rubber duckies, grabbed a paddle, tried to breath, and started our trek down the mighty Roaring Fork - noticing what had started as a gently flowing tame river was now the Mighty Roaring Fork. One guide led the way, another was in the middle of our duckie pack, and the raft and grandson brought up the rear. And of course after two minutes in the water, just like a mother duck and her ducklings, we were all over the river and the guides were doing there best to herd us up, keep us off the big boulders, and guide us through the slots and away from the swirls and branches.

And for the next two hours we had a blast. Paddling and maneuvering the duckies was easy, they were very stable, and very comfortable. Mine was great at bouncing off and over boulders, taking me under tree branches, and head first into the rapids - I got wet and blessed the wet suit and somehow my duckie made it down the river without tipping me over. We paddled six miles through some beautiful scenery, wildlife, interesting geological formations, and past a couple nice homes. This trip turned out to be a much more thrilling and exciting float than I expected. The river was flowing at a very good pace and we paddled through some exceptional and exciting Class II and III rapids with names like "Members Hole," "Big Nasty," "Fish Falls," and "Big Drop." There wasn't a boring moment during the entire float.

The grandson and a guide in the raftRunning the rapids backwards?Through the Big Drop on the Roaring Fork

Above photos thanks to Mats Jonsson, www.mysportpics.com, who stands on the bank waiting for all the action!


As you might expect if you have every observed a mommy duck and her ducklings, our duckies seemed to wonder all over the place and we kept the guides quite busy trying to keep us fairly close together and heading down the best part of the river. A few people got hung up on boulders or caught by the tree branches or tipped over in rapids, but someone from our party or one of the guides was there to lend a helping hand, retrieve their paddle and raft, and help get them back aboard their duckie. We had a lot of laughs, some thrilling moments, got wet and appreciated the wet suits, and by the end of the trip we had mastered the little rubber duckies and were ready to do it again. We hated for the trip to end. The ride home in the bus was a hoot as we all bravely recounted our adventure during the Roaring Fork River.

The final bus ride home A very fun trip that we hated to see end - clearly one of the highlights of our vacation in Snowmass. We were very impressed with everyone we met at Blazing Adventures and appreciated their sense of urgency to get us signed up, paid, and on the water. Most other adventure firms that we have dealt with seem to be on vacation and in no big rush to get you signed in and on your adventure. Not only that, but our guides seemed to really enjoy what they were doing and loved taking us down the river, had a great sense of humor, were loaded with good information about the river, nature, and environment, and were very serious about safety.

Our thanks to Seth, Hillary, Lane, "C," and Tolbert - you helped make this a highlight of our trip - can't wait to come back and do it again. Blazing Adventures, 800 282-7238.

Blazing Adventures offers whitewater rafting on various sections of three rivers that are classified as Easier, Intermediate, and Advanced, here are just a few examples of their raft trips:

  • Raft trip with Blazing AdventuresLower Roaring Fork Raft Trip - some Class II and III rapids with beautiful scenery, interesting geology, and some fun little rapids suitable for beginners, young children (5 and up) and families
  • Colorado River Shoshone Rapids River Raft Trip - two and a half hour Class III exciting whitewater trips with awesome and inspiring Canyon views
  • Arkansas River's Brown's Canyon Raft Trip - some of the best whitewater (Class III & IV) in Colorado
  • Roaring Fork's Slaughterhouse - for experienced rafters only, technical paddling and physical ability are a must for a thrilling extreme raft trip through Class IV rapids
  • the Numbers on the Arkansas River - a half day thrill ride through several miles of Class IV non-stop rapids and technical boulder garden

Blazing Adventures also offers some Specialty Rafting Trips like the Pirate Raft (use a treasure map to find buried booty on the riverbanks with a rafting pirate captain), Eco Trip (an opportunity to learn about local wildlife and plant species), or the Shoshone Sunset Dinner (a raft trip down the Colorado river and an amazing BBQ dinner along the banks of the river).


In addition to rafting and kayaking float trips, Blazing Adventures offers:

  • Biking in Snowmass with Blazing AdventuresBicycle Tours - very scenic trails for intermediate to advanced road bikers and mountain biking tours as well as training
  • Guided Wilderness Hiking Trips - beginner to advanced half day to all day trips plus some specialty trips, one of which is a jeep ride and then a hike to a 14,265 foot mountain summit
  • 4 Wheel Drive Scenic Driving Excursions - there are several choices to explore and enjoy breathtaking views, ice caves, grottos, elk habitats, and panoramic vistas
  • Mine Tour - enter into the side of Aspen Mountain and disappear via electric locomotive into the working mine of Compromise which is the largest and richest silver mine in the area
  • Backcountry Sunset Tour - jeep up to the historic Burlingame Cabin on Snowmass Mountain, enjoy a delicious meal hot off the grill and a campfire, live music, and s'moores

Blazing Adventures will customize a trip to meet your unique specifications, for example you could create a trip that included rafting, biking, yoga, and overnight hikes. They also have hot air balloon rides, fly fishing trips, horseback riding, and rock climbing excursions.

To learn more about this fun vacation in Snowmass, check these pages:

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