Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Brief History of the Colorado River

The Colorado River looks much 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.  

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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 this senior water right, the plant keeps water levels flowing, which helps create the rapids that we all depend upon.  

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 a splash-tastic 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. All of the trips offered on the Colorado River are family-friendly and only require that each rafter is at least 35 pounds (50 lbs to do Shoshone). The rafting gear is provided: boats, paddles, helmets, PFDs (personal floatation devices), wetsuits, footwear, sunscreen, and a Professional River Guide trained on multiple rivers and with medical certifications to back.

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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 the traditional Half-Day trip, an amazing Full-Day trip, the and Double Shoshone (twice through the Shoshone Rapids). Defiance Rafting Company offers a couple of extra trips that no other rafting company can due to their location in the Glenwood Canyon right on the shores of the Colorado River: The Nooner, 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 Shoshone Rapids and finish meandering in Class I and II waters. At Defiance Rafting’s home base, we have a private takeout that no other company has, allowing us to essentially finish where you parked your vehicle at the Defiance boathouse. This trip is perfect for those short on time, travelling through, delayed with a full parking lot at Hanging Lake, or beginning their rafting careers and just want a little taste of white water rafting.


The Nooner says it all – starts at noon and is a little midday quickie! Perfect for rafters wanting to experience the Shoshone Rapids but not the full 2 ½ hour trip of the Half Day. Again, starting at the Shoshone put in, rafters will experience Class III rapids full of splashes and exhilarating fun and finish back at the Defiance Rafting Company. This trip spends most of the time in the Glenwood Canyon and gives whitewater rafters the canyon experience they came to see without driving 50 MPH along the highway.

4 o’clock Special

Although the name suggests, this trip is far from special – it is magnificent! Early evening lighting offers the true colors that gave Colorado its name plus the river crowds have died down at this time of the day and the river is essentially 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 can even drop a few inflatable kayaks on our private boat ramp and give some of the rafters on the trip an extra experience on the water that no other company will offer without an extra charge. BONUS – paddle drop!  

Double Shoshone

A smaller boat makes these Class III rapids look and feel like Class IV rapids so let’s shrink the boat by 3 feet! Oh, and 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 white water rafting. Rafters are expected to be fit and prepared to paddle your hearts out. However, do not be intimidated by the description as this ride is just the same as the others and like those, requires family fun and adventure. The requirements are the same and the views are just as spectacular – if you have time to look around.  

Half Day Rafting Trips

This is a Glenwood Springs rafting tradition. The Half Day rafting trip offers families of all ages to enjoy some fun in the sun through the Shoshone Rapids as well as the scenic gesture of floating through Glenwood Springs from a river’s perspective. Nothing short of a well-spent day on the river, the half day gives everyone in the group what they desire. With swimming holes, stories of the Glenwood Canyon history, and boat-to-boat water fights, 2 hours on the water is often times not enough as told by past rafters.   

Full Day Rafting Trips

If you enjoyed the description of the Half Day Trip, then it’s time to upgrade and get the Full Day Experience! Spend about 6 hours on the water exploring the Colorado River from a raft, from an inflatable kayak, from natural hot springs, and it all comes with a lunch from a local Glenwood Springs deli that Defiance partners with, and you better believe its mouth-watering. Who says there’s no such thing as a FREE LUNCH?! Not only that, your river pro will stop at nothing to offer every one of the people in your group a memorable river experience like none you’ve had before.

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