The Royal Gorge – Grandeur Amid Adrenaline

Written by Ashlee Sack, 08.05.2017

Amid adrenaline rushes and epic rapids, you’ll also find mountain majesty in the Royal Gorge.

Morning Royal Gorge Rafting Trips Offer Something Special

If you’ve never heard the sound of a Canyon Wren singing in the half-light of morning, it’s something that should be on your short list. Most people associate whitewater rafting with the adrenaline-fueled pursuit of adventure, and whitewater rafting the Arkansas River can surely provide thrills for any adventure-seeker. With class IV rapids and a pace that will keep your heart pumping at high water, the rapids along the Royal Gorge will not disappoint. There is, however, another side to the famed 1,000-foot chasm that most people don’t anticipate when booking a whitewater rafting trip in Colorado: It’s exceedingly beautiful. In between the frantic ‘forward two’s and horizon-line drops of Sunshine and the Narrows, the Royal Gorge provides some of the most dramatic and inspiring scenery in the Centennial State. The best time to enjoy it? Mid-summer…right after a morning cup of coffee.

Less is Best

In the early morning hours, the river is often less populated than in the afternoon. (It’s vacation! Most people prefer to sleep in.) Before 10 a.m., the light is just beginning to reach the bottom of the canyon, and the rays of light have not yet touched the north-facing walls. The result is a cool, majestic vibe that isn’t as obvious once the temperatures rise and there are more boats than birds. Between the rapids, you’ll float at a more relaxed pace and look up in wonder at the towering cliffs on your right and left. Your guide will relax a bit in-between rapids, and will spin the boat around so you can catch a glimpse of the engineering wonder that stretches between the north and south rim – the Royal Gorge Bridge. A thin black line outlined against the blue sky, the Bridge will eventually disappear behind the canyon walls as you continue your float downstream. In the softer light or morning, you’ll be able to see the striations of igneous and sedimentary rock as they course upward and sideways according to ancient volcanic movement and agitation. After heavy rains, oftentimes seeps and waterfalls trickle against the water-worn rocks of Sunshine Falls (oddly located below the rapid of the same name) and dozens of un-named springs. At times, the only sound you hear is the crash and flow of the Arkansas River, churning against itself and the thousands of rocks that make up the river bottom.

Clear Skies Ahead

In Southern Colorado, you will also find that the weather almost always better in the morning, when skies are clear and summer monsoon storms have not yet gathered above the region. The cooler air and bright summer sky make for clear views of the river, canyon walls, and rim. Colors – especially during this mid-summer green season – will be vivid in the early hours.

All of this is visible in the afternoon, of course, but there’s something mystical about the Gorge in the morning. It’s as if you’re waking up with the river itself as it becomes ready for a day of action. As you continue your day, you’ll likely find yourself drawn back to that place. We’d be surprised if you’re able to stay away…the canyon will call you back.

If you’re up for the challenge, Royal Gorge ½ Day trips are available throughout the summer, and right now is perfect for a mix of scenery and perfect water flows. Book the 9:00 Royal Gorge Half-Day trip in advance to secure your spot.

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About the Author

Ashlee has been living and rafting in Colorado for over a decade. She loves exploring and sharing all the best of the Royal Gorge Region with her husband and two little boys.
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