Colorado River Rafting Flow Report
Thinking about Glenwood Springs whitewater rafting? Good choice! One of the best things about the Colorado River is that the flow is the variability of conditions from year to year, month to month, and even day-to-day – making it important to check a Colorado river flow report.
When we are preparing for the whitewater rafting season, we look very closely at the snowpack to determine the expected Colorado River water level and Roaring Fork flows throughout the season. These flows affect the length of our trips, the intensity of the rapids we encounter, and even the age restrictions for certain trips. We also use this information to keep both our guests and our guides safe during their adventures!
Know Before You Go
Whitewater lingo can be a little intimidating to the unfamiliar. So, we want to provide some terms to familiarize yourself with before your river adventuring.
One of the most important references to keep in mind is related to the snowpack. Our mighty river basins in Colorado rely on the snowmelt from the peaks of ski mountains and the greatest peaks of the Rocky Mountains to supply the water flow for recreational use, agriculture, and sustaining ecosystems. In the rafting industry, we monitor the winter snowpack to determine if we are below, above, or right at average. This information allows us to prepare for high and low water seasons. Whitewater enthusiasts use this information to determine peak runoff to get the biggest rapids of the season. If you’re curious about monitoring the snowpack, visit the SNOTEL site administered by the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Cubic Feet per Second (CFS)
We often get questions about our current CFS or the Cubic Feet per Second. CFS is how the flow, or volume of the river, is measured. To wrap your head around this, imagine a single basketball as being equivalent to one cubic foot. To put this in perspective, this would mean a wave of 1,200 basketballs coming down the river every second if the volume is 1,200 CFS for the day. Greater snowpack correlates to more runoff and higher CFS.
The average CFS for our Shoshone Rapid stretch typically tops out around 9,000 CFS and drops to roughly 1,400 CFS throughout the course of the summer.
For near-instantaneous updates on the Roaring Fork River and Glenwood Canyon’s Colorado River Shoshone Rapids river flows, visit our Give Back partners at American Whitewater for up-to-date CFS beta.
Once you understand the CFS and its impacts on the Colorado River flow rate and Roaring Fork flows, we can talk about the rapids and how they are classified in the West.
In Colorado, this is the standard rating for whitewater rapids which vary depending on fluctuating water levels.
Class I – Easy. No significant waves or obstacles.
Class II – Novice. Playful riffles, regular waves, clear passages, and wide channels.
Class III – Intermediate. Moderately difficult rapids with larger irregular waves, and narrow channels. Avoidance of obstacles is required.
Class IV – Difficult. Intense, powerful rapids requiring precise maneuvering in turbulent waters.
Class V – Extremely difficult. Continuous rapids. Large waves and holes with a steep gradient.
Our 1.5 miles of Shoshone Rapids is a continuous stretch of typically class III rapids with some intermittent class IV waves during the highwater season from mid-May thru mid-June. While the Shoshone stretch is relatively short, it is a technical class III due to the boulders and holes boaters need to navigate around.
One of the beauties of this stretch of the Colorado River is that the Shoshone Powerplant above the rapids releases water throughout the season, which provides a minimum flow. This allows us to raft this class III stretch year-round, even during periods of drought.
Check out the USGS Colorado River (U.S. Geological Survey) for information on Colorado’s water levels throughout Colorado and the West.
Before you hit the river, please familiarize yourself with our local river maps and consider joining one of our guided trips before exploring the Colorado River or Roaring Fork river on your own. See you on the water!