Rafting the Colorado River: An Employee Trip
Mountain Whitewater employees celebrate another great season by participating in a multi-day trip rafting the Colorado River.
By Ben Costello, November 2015
It was another great rafting season on the Cache La Poudre River for Mountain Whitewater, one of the best ever in fact. There were great water levels throughout the season and entertaining music at the Paddler’s Pub. A fantastic crew of employees and all our wonderful guests contributed to making 2015 a rafting season to remember. The staff at Mountain Whitewater worked hard all season to ensure a great experience for everyone involved. After all of that hard work, it was time for a group of employees to celebrate the season by going on a multi-day rafting vacation.
In mid October, with permits secured, food packed and rafting and camping equipment secured in trucks, our group of twelve guides headed to Western Colorado for a trip rafting the Colorado River. The plan for the devoted band of river rats was to launch just west of Frutia, Colorado and head down river to spend five days running the Ruby-Horsethief and Westwater Canyons of the Colorado River.
Those who have never experienced an over-night rafting trip often assume the trips are strenuous and rough. Traveling with minimal gear while eating freeze dried food, like backpackers. That is not the case for most rafting trips. Rafts can accommodate lots of gear, a full kitchen, large, comfortable sleeping pads, camp chairs, fire pans, plenty of beer and lots of other creature comforts. Our trip rafting the Colorado River included meals like lasagna, eggs and bacon, steak shish-ka-bobs with artichoke dip, Reuben sandwiches, chicken fajitas and pineapple upside-down cake. Camps were comfortable, even luxurious by camping standards.
The first part of the journey traveled through the Ruby and Horsethief canyons. This particular stretch of the river contains mostly placid, class I and II water and beautiful desert landscape. Huge red rock walls, calm green water and aromatic desert shrubs are experienced along the way. Birds of prey ride the drafts off the canyon walls while fish jump, leaving ripples on the water surface. It’s a perfect setting for a relaxing row by the oarsmen (and women) captaining the seven rafts on the trip. Two of the guides paddled stand up paddleboards while others simply rode on the bow of a raft. Regardless of the mode of travel, each member of the group enjoyed being out in the desert away from the hustle and bustle of real life. Spending time on a desert river allows for the unmistakable feeling of freedom without worry. No electronic devices, no bills to pay, just the great outdoors with great friends.
The group spent the first couple days of our adventure on this part of the river. Popular activities included playing in the water, relaxing by the fire and playing Bocce Ball or Washers. On our layover day, most of the group hiked up Mee Canyon. I stayed back to wait for a couple of our other guides friends who would be meeting us at camp that day. It was nice to spend time soaking in the view. I watched river otters play and waved at other groups of rafters heading down river. We left camp the next day and spent time jumping off the rocks in the Blackrock area before moving on to the Westwater Canyon section of the Colorado River for some exhilarating class III and IV whitewater.
Westwater Canyon is one of the most popular overnight river trips in the Western Colorado/Eastern Utah area. It is the only place, other than the Grand Canyon where a whitewater traveler can see Precambrian rocks like Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite. These rocks and the large, steep canyon walls give it a feel very similar the Grand Canyon. The short, but action packed section of whitewater within the Westwater Canyon area provide for a very wet and wild experience for river runners.
Rafting the Colorado River in Westwater Canyon did not disappoint for our employee trip. We saw mostly warm sunny weather, with just a little rain while running the rapids when you are wet anyway. Most all of the rapids were run successfully by the seasoned guides, smashing through large waves while smiling with joy. One raft, a smaller mini-me did flip in one of the larger rapids called Skull. The raft hit the main, large hydraulic in the rapid and was flipped instantly. But that was not unexpected because rowing a raft as small as the mini-me makes for a wild ride. All went well as the raft was easily righted once it was pulled into an eddy after the rapid. For our group, there is nothing more satisfying than traveling together on a river and running big rapids.
The trip ended with one final night at camp with rowdy campfire discussions about the day of running whitewater. Final rounds of washers and bocce ball were played to determine trip champions and the group enjoyed one last gourmet camp meal. It was another memorable addition to the river logs of the veteran guides and an unforgettable first multi-day experience for a few others. The trip fortified the already tight bond between coworkers. Can’t wait to do it again. A multi-day adventure rafting the Colorado River, or any other river for that matter, is an unbeatable experience. And for our group, it was a perfect way to unwind and celebrate another season doing what we love: guiding rafts on the Cache La Poudre River.
photos by Melissa Matsunaka