Browns Canyon is the most popular stretch of class III whitewater in the United States, but it's a very rough run for first-timers! It's the Arkansas River from Buena Vista to Salida, Colorado. On July 3, 2016, my son Ricky and wife Connie accompanied me on this thrilling whitewater adventure. We chose Buena Vista based Colorado Surf Factory as our guides. After an hour of training and suiting up in splash jackets, helmets and life vests, we rode a bus to the river, took the raft down to the Arkansas and launched.
It started out as a lazy ride down a wide, slow section of the Arkansas, but quickly things started getting interesting. We made it through a lot of whitewater, getting stuck a couple of times on big rocks. Upon successfully navigating a particularly dangerous series of rapids, our guide informed us that an hour before we launched, a 51-year-old Littleton woman rafting with another tour company, River Runners, had fallen out and was killed there. I think we took his orders more seriously after learning of this tragedy.
In case you decide to try this, know that you must sit on the rim of the raft, holding on with your feet. I didn't know that it would be this hard to paddle down the river safely. Since the crew must listen to the guide and, in complete synchronization, follow his rowing orders exactly, it's stressful and physically demanding. Doing all that, it's difficult to keep from taking a swim! On our way down the river we saw a few people who had fallen into the water from other rafts. Fortunately the three of us were in good condition for this run, Connie and I having joined a health club in January, and Ricky having availed himself of the gym at his workplace, Intuit. I had the added responsibility of being the lead paddler with whom the other rafters must synchcronize their strokes, and for this 64 year old dude, it was tough.
Besides the thrill of the rapids, we enjoyed some of the most beautiful scenery in Colorado on this trip. On the way there we drove over Wilkerson Pass and had lunch in Buena Vista. In the photos above, I'm the one with the ill-fitting helmet in the front right, followed by Ricky, and Connie can be seen behind Ricky in some of the photos. Ricky is 6' 6" (198 cm) tall, so Connie was tough for the photographer on shore to see. Good times!