Water drenches me when our raft rocks then rolls through a rapid while rafting Colorado’s Arkansas River with Echo Canyon River Expeditions. We paddle hard as our skillful guide steers us past the rock pile that creates the frigid wave pouring over us. When the water is calmer, we can’t stop grinning as we drift through the sheer-sided Big Horn Sheep Canyon.
Echo Canyon River Expeditions is the largest commercial outfitter running rafting trips on this section of the Arkansas River near Canon City, which is about an hour’s drive from Colorado Springs. A typical raft experience with Echo Canyon starts at the outfitter’s building where rafters receive a life jacket and helmet, and given a chance to rent a wetsuit. After a short drive to a put-in spot, the guides give directions to rafters on signals for paddling, how to stay in the raft, and what to do if you fall out of the raft. On the river, experienced guides are controlling the way you run through the rapids. Echo Canyon runs a superbly professional operation.
Echo Canyon River Expeditions offers experiences from wild to mild for rafting Colorado’s Arkansas River. The Royal Gorge Rafting trip is the most adrenaline filled choice, because rafters paddle through several Class III to V rapids as the raft races through the narrow, rock-strewn Royal Gorge. The Big Horn Sheep Canyon raft trip is tamer, with just a few Class III and lots of Class II rapids, so during the float parts of the trip while on calmer water, everyone is looking for the bighorn sheep that climb around the steep walls. On this rafting experience you can go on a paddle-assisted raft (picture a guide with oars at the back the boat) and paddle as much or as little as you want. Children as young as four-years-old can go on the Family White Water trips where an oar-wielding guide takes you on a mellow five-mile section of the Arkansas.
Echo Canyon offers half- and full-day rafting trips. The company also offers combination experiences, such as Raft-N-Rail, which includes a ride on the Royal Gorge train; the Royal Gorge Zipline & Raft, which include time at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park.