Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Rafting the Arkansas River

Written by Ben Sack, 10.17.2023

One thing is for sure, with decades of experience with Arkansas River rafting trips, Echo Canyon knows how to plan the best possible adventure. Whether it be trip logistics or packing essentials, knowing the details will help you maximize your Colorado rafting experience.  

Whether you’re interested in family rafting trips or more adventurous outings, white water rafting preparation is critical for safety and enjoyment. To help you on your way, Echo Canyon guides put together the 10 top things people wish they knew before embarking on Arkansas River rafting trips.

1. Water Levels

If you don’t live in the mountains, you probably aren’t aware that water levels in the Arkansas River change dramatically over the summer season. If you are interested in adventure rafting trips, book in the early summer season when the water is the highest. Think the middle of June for the biggest, most exciting flows. For mellower floats, wait until August and September.

Check out these top must-try class IV whitewater rafting destinations in Colorado.

2. Trip Lengths

People often say that time seems to speed up while rafting on the river. If you are still deciding between a half-day and a full-day trip, go with the full-day. Spending an entire day on the Arkansas River is the best way to soak in your experience. We hear this time and time again from our rafting guests.

3. Hydration

Due to the dry climate of Colorado and the challenges of high-altitude travel, you need to drink plenty of water on the river. Bring a water bottle with a strap so you can attach it to the boat and stay hydrated. At the Echo office you’ll find a water bottle filling station, so you don’t have to worry about filling it up before heading to the rafting office.

4. Sun Protection

Since you are exposed to the sun all day long at high altitudes, sun protection is a must on the Arkansas River. Not only should you wear a hat, but you also want to consider wearing long sleeves and perhaps even tights or pants if your skin is sensitive to UV rays. Most people go with rash guards or similar thin, non-cotton clothing that often times offer UV protection.

5. Cell Phones

Since most people take pictures with phones these days, guests often want to bring them on the river. If you decide to bring your cell phone, pack a phone pouch ahead of time rather than resort to a plastic bag on the day of the rafting trip.

waterproof phone case

6. Gratuities

Some people aren’t aware that it’s customary to tip your guide after a rafting trip. It can be uncomfortable if you realize this once you arrive back from the trip and didn’t plan for extra, but you no longer have a way to tip your guide. As such, be prepared with cash on hand, or your phone for a Venmo transfer. Nearly all guides will gladly accept a tip via Venmo.

7. Sunscreen

Be sure to apply sunscreen before you get out on the water and start perspiring. Oftentimes, people make the mistake of applying sunscreen to a sweaty forehead, only to have it washed off early in the trip. Not only does this leave your skin exposed, but the sunscreen will probably wind up in your eyes.

8. Change of Clothes

When you make it off the river at the end of the day, it can be uncomfortable if you have to ride home in wet river clothes and shoes. Packing some extra clothing to change into is always a smart move – especially if you want to head straight for a bar or restaurant.

9. Snacks

Packing your own extra snacks is a smart idea for white water rafting preparation. Whether your kids do better with a light snack or if you need one yourself, grab some easy snacks that will hold up well in plastic bags and pockets.

10. Sunglasses

Remembering to pack sunglasses will save you from having to squint all day long. The combination of sunlight and glare from the water can be really tough on the eyes. Protect yourself and your vision with a pair of nice shades. And if you really like your eyewear, consider glass straps like Croakies or Chums.

Talk to Echo Canyon About White Water Rafting Preparation

Between the amazing scenery, group camaraderie, and heart-pumping action, anyone can have fun on a rafting trip. In fact, the Arkansas River is one of the top river rafting spots in Colorado. If you want to make your experience the trip of a lifetime, working with Echo Canyon on white water rafting preparation is a smart move.

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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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