There aren't many outdoor adventures that better bond a family than a white-water rafting trip. Here's your guide to family-friendly river rafting in the Grand Valley, whatever your skill level.
The simplest and safest way to plan a rafting trip is to book a package from a local provider such as Adventure Bound USA. The experienced professionals will help you choose a one-, or two-day trip that's exciting enough to thrill the kids without putting them in peril.
Professional rafting or paddling outfitters allow you to choose a traditional raft or an inflatable kayak. You can even book a guided three- to seven-day river trip through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River or on the Green and Yampa Rivers through Desolation Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument.
Professional services provide a convenient, no-fuss solution for inexperienced rafters who prefer an easy float trip or need a little assistance for more challenging adventures.
Around 30 miles from Grand Junction, the Westwater Canyon stretch of the Colorado River provides some of the most popular whitewater rafting trips. Beginning at the Westwater BLM Ranger Station and ending at the Cisco, UT boat ramp, this 17-mile stretch is one of the most easily accessible stretches of Class III rapids in the West.
The Westwater Canyon stretch includes spectacular views of billion-year-old rock formations and bighorn sheep, along with beach points with hiking trails once used by nomadic Indians. While it does have almost everything, however, Westwater Canyon is better suited for families with older kids and a good amount of rafting experience.
The journey begins with some nice stretches of scenic placid water before the pulse-pounding action begins. As it continues, the trip includes big roller coaster-style waves and lots of splashy fun. While it is scenic, the Westwater Canyon stretch of the Colorado River is not necessarily ideal for younger kids or families who are only interested in scenic, leisurely float trips.
Just minutes outside of Grand Junction, you will find several launching points for fun, relaxing float trips down the Upper Colorado River. Ideal for families with kids over the age of six, this segment of water showcases Class I-II rapids, which don't require much experience but won't necessarily hold the attention of older, experienced children.
Groups can set off at the Loma Boat Launch and drift 25 miles through a pair of expansive desert sandstone canyons called Horsethief and Ruby. Along the way, paddlers can stop to sun along various beaches or set off down scenic trails for a little light hiking.
While it offers several guided rafting experiences, the Grand Valley area is also a perfect spot for do-it-yourself rafting trips. There are several local outfitters that will let you rent your own gear. You can also call the Colorado Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Grand Junction Field Office at 970-244-3000 to get advice on where to raft and find out how swiftly the local rivers are flowing. Ideal rafting season is usually between March and October, but it's possible to enjoy the area's rapids all year long, especially once you have some experience under your belt.