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Float #12: Roaring Fork River

5 Aug

Hwy. 133 Bridge to Two Rivers Park

roaring fork river map

Roaring Fork River
Garfield County, Colorado
Sunday, July 17
13 Miles

DW and I spent a glorious 7 days in Glenwood Springs, CO at the National Speleological Society convention (a national group of cavers, for those who don’t know). We don’t go caving all that often, but we really enjoy attending their events as it’s always a fun crowd of outdoor enthusiasts. We have friends in Colorado who frequently go rafting and we met up with plenty of others at the convention who brought their own boats. There are two rivers in Glenwood, the Colorado and the Roaring Fork. Both were running high from heavy snowmelt in the mountains, making for excellent rafting. The Roaring Fork starts in the mountains near Aspen and flows into the Colorado at Glenwood Springs. It’s very popular with fly fishers as well as rafters. The upper sections have some big Class IV & V rapids. The section we did was mostly Class II & III. We did a late afternoon float with our new friends Brianna & Jamie and their 8-year-old son Ben, and a couple of cavers from Alberta, Canada. I went in “The Tulip”, Brianna’s 14′ oar raft with Jamie and Ben and DW and the couple from Canada took “The Pickle”, a small 10′ raft.

roaring fork river hwy 82

Preparing the Tulip for launch

As we drove to the put-in the rain started to come down pretty heavy. Unlike Missouri, Colorado thunderstorms rarely last more than an hour and by the time we hit the water the sky had cleared. The air had cooled off significantly and the combination of cool air and cold water prompted me to put on some rain gear to keep from getting too cold.

roaring fork river

DW pilots The Pickle

mt. sopris, roaring fork river

Mount Sopris

The first part of the trip wound through a picturesque valley. Mount Sopris stayed in our background for a number of miles. Being close to Aspen there were many multi-million dollar homes along the riverbanks. We all agreed that many of them were ridiculously large, but the location was supreme. We didn’t hit may big rapids the first half, the water was somewhat calm, but moving very fast.

roaring fork river

Pickle action

roaring fork river

Red mountains near Glenwood Springs

roaring fork river

We didn’t see many other rafters out as it was late in the day for commercial trips. We did see lots of fly fishers, both along the bank and in oar rafts. I have never seen anyone fly fish from a raft on such swift water. Their flies barely touched the water for a second at a time as they swept by. We didn’t see anyone catch anything on this trip. However we did see a fisherman pull a 5 lb. trout out of the water at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado later in the week. It made me wish we’d brought our fishing gear!

roaring fork river

roaring fork river

The Pickle heads for the rapids

As we got closer to Glenwood Springs, the houses became smaller and more frequent. The Roaring Fork runs right next to town. During the last third of the trip we hit the big Class III rapids of this section, known as the Cemetery. The water was up pretty high so most of the obstacles were underwater, but the waves were big. DW and the Pickle had a lot of fun hitting every wave they could. Being such a short boat, it is very maneuverable. It is really hard to get photos during a big rapid section, as you have to pay attention to the water and the boat and keep your balance at the same time. The camera lens also gets full of water spots and I don’t have anything dry to wipe it with.

roaring fork river

My dream cabin

We took out at Two Rivers Park on the Colorado river, just down from the confluence. By the time we got back to camp it was 7:30 and time to knock back a few and cook dinner. The rest of the week we floated on the Colorado, which was equally as fun but not quite as pristine as the Roaring Fork.

Critter Count: 1 Osprey