5 Things to Look for in Colorado Whitewater Rafting Companies

Written by Ben Sack, 03.23.2024

Given just how many Colorado whitewater rafting companies there are—the state, after all, is one of the premier destinations for river running in North America—it might appear hard to choose the right outfitter. But when you know how to choose—the factors that distinguish a good rafting company from a not-so-good alternative—it can be a straightforward process.

Here at Echo Canyon River Expeditions, we’re proud to have led Royal Gorge rafting trips and other premier routes on the Arkansas River—one of the best places to whitewater raft in Colorado—for more than three decades.

We offer the following primer on choosing a reputable and trustworthy rafting company—essential for ensuring yourself a safe and fulfilling experience—as a general guide.

5 Things to Look for in Colorado Whitewater Rafting Companies

Echo Canyon boat yardWhen planning a whitewater rafting vacation to the great state of Colorado, keep the following factors in mind to select the best river outfitter.

Remember, not all rafting companies are created equally. Some go to greater lengths to ensure trip safety, integrity, and enjoyment than others. You want to choose a genuine industry leader who’s 100% committed to guest safety throughout operations.

1. Safety Record/Accreditations

throwbag training sessionBe sure the rafting company you’re considering is an accredited one with a good safety record and a valid permit for use.

At Echo, we’ve grown to become a true industry leader: Our procedures and practices are often adopted by our managing agency for use as a template by our (friendly) competitors.

2. Experience & Professionalism of Guides

Confirm the company in question employs professional and well-trained guides who are certified and qualified to run the particular river section you’re looking to raft.

Some rafting companies are content with status-quo practices they’ve followed for years, while others always look to further training, education, and safety on the river. At Echo, we’re aiming to lead a state standard when it comes to raft guide training: We train six to seven days a week, eight hours a day, for six weeks straight.

By comparison, many other Colorado whitewater rafting companies train their guides for two weeks in total. Our experienced rafting staff helps set us apart!

On an Arkansas River rafting trip with Echo, you’ll feel at ease knowing your guide has received a higher level of training and is steering the way with full confidence and competence.

3. Types of Trips Offered

What class is whitewater rafting in Colorado? The state boasts a spectacular range of whitewater experiences, including a multitude of both Class I-III sections and bigger, gnarlier Class IV-V reaches.

Guides and rafting guests preparing for a raft tripNot everybody, of course, is looking for the same sort of rafting experience. Maybe you’re a family group with young children or older adults, keen for more of a laidback sort of float trip with a little Class II whitewater rafting woven into the mix. Maybe you’re a hardcore river runner hungry for big water and high thrills. Make sure any rafting company you’re considering offers the kind of trip you’re most interested in and can explain in detail what to expect on each itinerary.

At Echo Canyon River Expeditions, we run the full suite of Colorado white water rafting trips: We’ve got everything from Class I-II runs perfect for first-timers and youngsters to crowd-pleasing Class III experiences that appeal to a wide range of rafters to Class IV-V possibilities for adventure junkies.

4. Accommodations & Equipment

Any rafting outfitter should provide a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD), proper helmet, and any additional gear for keeping guests safe and warm on the water.

5. Customer Reviews/Overall Value for Money

Commercial Rafting on the Arkansas RiverIt’s probably a no-brainer, but customer reviews give you a great sense of a rafting company’s quality and bang-for-buck worth. And these days, needless to say, there are more avenues for accessing those sorts of crowd-sourced testimonials and ratings than ever.

Royal Gorge Rafting & Other Whitewater Rafting Vacations in Colorado: Reserve a Spot With Echo Canyon

Guides pose while a scouting a rapid in Browns Canyon on the Arkansas RiverThe Arkansas River is one of the best places to whitewater raft in Colorado, bar none. From easy Class I and Class II whitewater rafting on gentle reaches such as the Upper Bighorn Sheep Canyon to the Class IV and (seasonally) Class V rapids of the Royal Gorge, there’s something for everybody on the Ark.

As we’ve hopefully spelled out convincingly, though, you need the right river guide to make your Arkansas River rafting experience the best it can be. Look no further than Echo Canyon River Expeditions as your go-to outfitter for a whitewater rafting vacation on this extraordinary flow.

Set off on the adventure of a lifetime with Echo Canyon as your rafting companion! Experience awe-inspiring rapids and expert staff for an unforgettable journey. Book with us today!

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About the Author

Ben Sack is the General Manager of Echo Canyon River Expeditions, Colorado's largest white water rafting outfitter. He's also a raft guide, a photographer, and he loves exploring Colorado and beyond with his wife and two boys.
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