Kayaking and Rafting in Colorado

Kayaking and Rafting

With the headwaters of nearly 20 rivers beginning in Colorado, the state has long been considered the go-to place for kayaking and whitewater rafting.

Colorado’s rafting and kayaking season typically runs from May through September, with the swiftest running whitewater occurring in May and June. August is the best month for a more laid-back kayaking experience.

River waters across the state vary and are classified Class I through Class VI, depending on the intensity of the rapids. Class I rivers offer an easy float downriver while Class III rivers have more challenging rapids, interspersed with boulders and narrow passages.

Top 7 Colorado Kayaking Destinations​: Colorado Parks & Wildlife


Cover plenty of miles and even cross state lines at Navajo State Park’s expansive reservoir. The 35-mile long reservoir offers endless recreational opportunities, and kayakers are bound to discover new adventures upon every visit. For fewer crowds, park staff recommend the Colorado side of the reservoir. Look around at the various other boaters (even house boats!) and take in the sprawling views.

Elkhead Reservoir

Elkhead Reservoir stretches across an expanse of 900 acres! There’s a new adventure around every turn and the majestic backdrop is breathtaking. The crisp high-altitude air is the ideal reset button amidst the bustle of life.

Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area

For a quicker pace and a more extreme workout, head to Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area! Safety is especially important here, since waters can be rough and fast. Wear a helmet and PFD, and seek out professional instruction if you’re not completely comfortable kayaking on whitewater. Enjoy the thrill!

John Martin Reservoir

For an uncrowded getaway, check out John Martin Reservoir. The park’s Lake Hasty is even quieter, since no motorized boats are allowed there. Grab your PFD and explore the expansive waters among the park’s abundant fish and waterfowl.

Harvey Gap

Clear your head on the 190 surface acres of the Harvey Gap reservoir. Boats with motors over 20hp are prohibited, making for pleasantly still waters to paddle through. See how many waterfowl species you can identify during your day on the reservoir!

Sylvan Lake

For a wooded getaway, lose yourself at the 42-acre lake among the trees at Sylvan. From Memorial to Labor day, conveniently rent a sit-on-top kayak from the visitor center. Enjoy the peace and quiet of the calm lake, where no motorized boats are allowed. Take deep breaths and listen to the chirping birds and the swishing of your paddle in the water.

Rifle Gap

Rifle Gap's long, narrow 350-acre reservoir of crystal clear waters beckons all water enthusiasts. While some days are a bit windy at the gap, the gorgeous mountain backdrop and shimmering waters make any day on the water a peaceful outing.

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