Whitewater Rafting: Shoshone and Glenwood Canyon

Summers in the mountains can really heat up! It’s no surprise whitewater rafting is one of the most sought-after activities for those hoping to cool off.

A wide range of professionally guided trips are available to suit your style. Choose from relaxing and scenic float trips (great for families with small kids) and adrenaline-pumping jaunts through class IV and V rapids, and everything in between.

If we had to choose just one rafting experience to try during a summer stay, it would be the Shoshone trip with Sage Outdoor Adventures.

This route is extremely popular and with good reason. The 3-4 hour tour gives rafters the best of both worlds; it starts off with Class III rapids to provide a bit of a thrill, yet ends with a beautiful and calm float. Guests will marvel at the red walls of Glenwood Canyon as they head down the Colorado River towards the town of Glenwood Springs.

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Meeting Point

Rafters meet at Sage’s Colorado River Outpost in Dotsero. This is a common put-in and take-out point for rafters, kayakers, and paddle boarders as the stretch of river is gorgeous.

As you enter the dirt road, stay to the right to find Sage’s Outpost facility. Park near the building for free. Head into the building to check in for the tour, grab a quick snack and use the restroom.

Once checked in, guests are introduced to their guides, fitted with life jackets, and loaded into a bus. This bus will take everyone to the Shoshone put-in, which is about 10 minutes down the road from the Outpost.

Age Restrictions

This trip is appropriate for kids 7 years old weighing 50 pounds or more. The river flow changes throughout the season and Sage may change weight requirements as a result, so we recommend calling the outfitter directly to double check. Kids 5 years old weighing 30 pounds or more can join after the Shoshone rapids section to enjoy the mellower second half of the trip, which is largely a scenic float.

Equipment and Guides

Rafts accommodate 6-10 people plus a guide. On Shoshone, the smaller rafts are used most often. Guides are highly trained specifically for commercial rafting trips. They know how to keep guests safe and having fun! Sage Outdoor Adventures\’ guides come from all walks of life and all over the world. One thing they all have in common is a love and respect for the great outdoors that they enjoy sharing with guests on rafting tours.

What You’ll See: Bighorn sheep, a sunken train, a burn scar, and the California Zephyr

Once the bus reaches the Shoshone put-in point, the real fun begins! Since a safety briefing was given back at the Outpost, guests are to get started tackling some Class III rapids.

Class III rapids are enough to provide a real thrill for rafters, without crossing the line into being “scary” or too intimidating. Guides raft this section of the river daily and know exactly where to go for maximum safety and fun.

We don’t want to spoil all the secrets in advance but guests are in for a treat! This stretch of river is full of beauty and history. It begins on the Colorado River flowing through Glenwood Canyon, with red rock walls towering up to 2,000 feet above the river. The scenery is breathtaking and trips sometimes spot bighorn sheep ambling along the mountainside.

There are so many things to see and learn on this trip!

The Amtrak railway and its iconic California Zephyr runs along the river and canyon. Rafters are likely to see this passenger train chugging past. Depending on who you ask, some say a derailed coal train car rests at the bottom of a very deep spot in the river, changing the river’s flow. This supposed accident happened so many decades ago, it isn’t documented in news articles we could find. Whether true or an urban legend among raft guides, it’s still a fun “fact”.

Guides are sure to address something that occurred in recent history, the Grizzly Creek Fire of 2020. The Grizzly Creek fire began on the highway median in Glenwood Canyon by human error, possibly a chain dragging on the road or discarded cigarette. It quickly spread to 32,631 acres in surrounding trees and forest, burning for over 4 months. With such immense damage to the canyon’s forests, mudslides and subsequent road damage followed. As rafters float through Shoshone, they will catch sight of the burn scar from the fire. The amazing truth is the forest will eventually recover but that will take anywhere from decades to centuries. Seeing this is an up close and personal reminder to respect our wilderness so generations to come are able to enjoy it.

Once past the burn scar, there are a few more rapids before the river calms down significantly. This is the time to relax and take in the sunshine on the other side of Glenwood Canyon. The water is much calmer and guides might allow rafters to swim a bit, depending on the river conditions.

The Shoshone trip concludes in the town of Glenwood Springs, made famous by the many geothermal hot springs throughout the town. Originally named “Defiance”, Glenwood Springs has attracted many historical figures including President Teddy Roosevelt, Doc Holliday, and Al Capone. Although Sage will be transporting passengers back to their cars at the Outpost in Dotsero, Glenwood Springs is worth a visit.

Helpful Hints

Shoshone is for those who want to participate in the adventure! Keep in mind that whitewater rafting is an active activity. Guides can handle the river well but guests are required to participate by paddling and taking instructions from their guide. For those who don’t want to do much work and prefer to float, we recommend an alternative trip.

What to wear/bring

Wear a swimsuit, plenty of sunscreen, water shoes, or sandals with straps. Guests can wear a shirt and shorts as well. Just remember, anything in the boat is likely to get wet in the rapids! Sunglasses or prescription glasses should be attached to croakies.

Leave anything you don’t want to lose or get wet at home or in a vehicle. There is always a chance rafters “go for a quick swim”, whether they intend to or not! It is a bumpy ride, after all. Bring a change of clothes and a snack for after the trip.

Ready for your adventure?

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