Camp Games and Activities

Rafting While Camping: A Quick Guide

June 28, 2017

©istockphoto/StrahilDimitrov

Rafting While Camping
Sure you can go hiking or climbing or even go fishing on that upcoming campout—but have you ever thought of rafting? If you camp in the right spot, there may be a rafting outfit nearby and chances are, after a few days in the woods you could use a bath anyway.

You Aren’t Alone
If you’re planning on a rafting trip, you’re not the only one. The Colorado River Outfitters Association recently reported rafting companies in Colorado hosted 550,861 guests on 29 stretches of rivers last year. That’s just in Colorado, where there are 229 rivers, and rafting season mainly runs from May through August with June usually having peak runoff. In other parts of the country, rafting season may run the course of summer but if you want rapids, especially Class III or above, you need nearby mountains with runoff.

Don’t Be Like Mike
Be careful who you take with you on your rafting trip, because that is the crew that will make or break you, literally. Rafters are expected to pull their weight, also literally, as you are the horsepower on your raft. You don’t want to end up with the whiney, lazy rafter who slacks off and then screams like a baby in the rapids. After that incident I did apologize to my fellow rafters—but in my defense I did get wet and cold, and those rapids were scary.

Happy Campers
Although some of the most popular stretches of Colorado’s rivers are near quaint mountain towns like Glenwood Springs, Buena Vista and Durango, most rooms are booked way in advance. The camping around each of these cities is as world class as the rafting, so why not pitch a tent and stay awhile? Popular spots like the Arkansas River through Brown’s Canyon in Colorado, which is the most rafted section of river in the States, bring a lot of people to the nearby towns of Buena Vista and Salida. Not only are hotel rooms in the area booked way in advance but so are many campgrounds. You’ll want to consider reservations from a site such as Reserveamerica.com. If you choose the right area you can find dispersed camping on National Forest land. This is real camping without restrooms or showers so that’s why you are going to need that bath.

Really Happy Campers
If you want to go for it and have someone else set up that tent, there are plenty of outfitters to choose from. If you really want to go all out and spend anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks, you can raft and camp rivers from the Chattooga River in Georgia to the Snake River through Hells Canyon Wilderness in Idaho. You can do a 3 day trip down the Arkansas in Colorado or do the grand-daddy of them all and spend 10 days on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Using an outfitter means you don’t have to bring all the gear, or even set it up for that matter. You get your meals cooked for you and you don’t even have to pack the cooler in the car, much less the tent, the sleeping bags, the…well, you get the idea.

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