Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Brief History of the Colorado River

The Colorado River looks a lot different than it did 50 years ago. As the fifth longest river in the United States, the river drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven states in the US and two Mexican states, and remains a vital water source for 40 million people. The river supports Lakes Mead and Powell, a number of different dams, aqueducts, and hydroelectric plants along the 1,450 mile stretch of water.

The source of the Colorado River is La Poudre Pass Lake, with the mouth of the river traditionally extending to the Gulf of California, or what is also known as the Sea of Cortez, between Baja California and Sonora. With the many diversions along the way, however, the river has rarely reaches its traditional destination.

The Colorado River flows through many cities along its journey, including Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Moab, Yuma, Lake Havasu City, San Luis Rio Colorado, Bullhead City, and Page, and has become a recreational resource for millions of residents and visitors to the western U.S. for many years.  

Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant Glenwood Springs.jpg

Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant

Colorado River

In Glenwood Springs, Colorado, there is one aspect that sets this stretch of Colorado River apart from others: The Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant. Built in the early 1900s, the structure sits along I-70 on Exit 123 and is only accessible from the East-bound lane of the highway. The Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant was built to “furnish electrical power to the various towns in the western part of the state…” and was organized by the Colorado Power and Irrigation Company, which is now the Public Service Company of Colorado parented by Xcel Energy

With some of the most senior water rights on the Colorado River, the plant provides a bounty of water capable of hosting thousands of recreational and commercial rafters annually. Just West of the plant is the launch site for the Shoshone Rapids and the gateway to the rest of the Glenwood Springs section of the Colorado River. This plant also secures Glenwood Springs’ local economy by bringing people from all over the world to experience its rafting, kayaking, and fishing. By maintaining these senior water rights, the plant keeps water levels flowing, which helps create the rapids that we all get to play on!.  

Whitewater Rafting Trips

Located in Glenwood Canyon, the Shoshone Rapids are a must do experience in Western Colorado. The 2,000-foot-tall canyon walls create a magnificent backdrop to what is often referred to as the “Baby Grand Canyon.” With individual rapids named “Man Eater,” “The Wall,” “Tombstone,” and “Entrance Exam,” these Class III-IV rapids are an excellent way to spend a warm Colorado summer day. At high water in late May to early June, the river captures water from snowmelt, reaching expansive levels up to and above 20,000 cfs (cubic-feet-per-second).

Many commercial rafting outfitters offer whitewater rafting trips along this section of the river, but never above 6,000 cfs. Most trips offered on the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon and Glenwood Springs are family-friendly and only require that each rafter is at least 35 pounds (or 50 lbs to do Shoshone). The rafting gear is provided: boats, paddles, helmets, PFDs (personal floatation devices), wetsuits, splash gear, footwear, sunscreen, and a Professional River Guide trained on multiple rivers and with medical certifications to back.

Defiance Rafting - Colorado River Glenwood Springs.jpg

Whitewater rafting is a Colorado tradition

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Some of the white water rafting trips you can expect on this stretch of water include half-day trips, or an amazing full-day trip. Defiance Rafting Company offers a couple of extra trips that sets it apart due to its location in the Glenwood Canyon right on the shores of the Colorado River: the Double Shoshone Half Day (twice through the Shoshone Rapids), the 4 o’clock Special, and the Shoshone Short. These three trips offer a bit of a shorter trip, or at least a bit more adventure on the longer trips, and usually, the price reflects that beautifully, all without taking away from the fun and excitement of the Shoshone Rapids. Let’s review the rafting trips in more detail.

Shoshone Short      

This trip starts at the boat launch right next to the Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant and takes out at the Glenwood Canyon Resort in No Name, Exit 119. Rafters begin in the Class III-IV Shoshone Rapids and finish in meandering Class I and II waters. At Defiance Rafting’s home base, we have a private takeout, allowing us to finish where you parked your vehicle at the Defiance boathouse. This trip is perfect for those short on time, just passing through, or beginning their rafting careers and just want a little taste of white water rafting.

4 o’clock Special

Fact: ask a Defiance river pro and they will tell you this is their favorite time to be on the river. Late afternoon lighting provides the true colors that gave Colorado its name plus the river crowds have ebbed and the river is basically yours. The 4 o’clock time slot is the perfect time to be on the water. Not only that, with Defiance’s perfectly placed location in the Glenwood Canyon, we include a few inflatable kayaks (aka, duckies) and give rafters an added experience on the water.

Double Shoshone Half Day

This ride is so nice, we like to do it twice!! In a 13-foot raft, you and your guide will all paddle together, gaining the true experience of whitewater rafting. Rafters are expected to be fit and prepared to paddle your hearts out. The views are always spectacular – if you have time to look around.  

Glenwood Canyon Half Day

This is a Glenwood Springs rafting tradition. The Glenwood Canyon Half-Day rafting trip offers families of all ages to enjoy some fun in the sun through the Shoshone Rapids and the scenery inspired relaxation had when floating through Glenwood Springs from the river’s perspective. Nothing short of a well-spent day on the river, the Glenwood Canyon Half Day provides a little something for everyone. With swimming holes, stories of the Glenwood Canyon history, and boat-to-boat water fights, it’ll be a 2.5 - 3 hour experience you won’t feel guilty about.

Full Day Raft Trips

Spend about 6 hours on the water exploring the Colorado River or the Roaring Fork River from a raft and from an inflatable kayak. And it all comes with a fresh made deli lunch. Who says there’s no such thing as a FREE LUNCH?! A full day playing and relaxing on the river? Yes, please.

Creating memorable adventures, on the daily. - Only in Glenwood Springs with Defiance Rafting.