A winter season with heavy snowfall makes for a wicked summer of boating on Aspen's "roaring" rivers.
- Paddlers rejoice! Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers, as well as area creeks, offer playgrounds of rapids.
- Water levels and flow rates of rivers, creeks and streams depend upon winter snow pack and seasonal temperatures.
- Rent a canoe, duckie or hard boat from one of Aspen's many outfitters.
- Wanna learn to roll a boat? Take a private lesson or multi-day clinic.
With so many rivers and creeks running within a 50 miles radius of Aspen, it's no surprise that boating is a popular sport in the valley. Get after it while you can though; it's a short paddling season, averaging less than 2 months of the year: late-May to early-August, depending on winter season snowpack and spring temperatures.
While canoeing retains its allure, kayaking has taken over as river rats' favorite pastime. And, to be clear, many sections of local rivers are not suited for canoes, due to rapids, holes and obstructions. These same obstacles make the rivers dangerous for swimming, as well.
Check Water Levels
Those interested in self-guided adventures down Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers, as well as Castle Creek (all paddling hot-spots) should be sure to check water levels and flow rates before going to put-in. Visit waterdata.usgs.gov/co/nwis/nwis or www.roaringfork.org/sitepages/pid41.php for current information on streamflow. You must, also, understand the skill level necessary for safely paddling certain sections of these waterways. For more information about where to go paddling, contact White River National Forest's Aspen/Sopris Ranger District offices at (970) 963-2266 or 925-3445.
Take a Lesson
For those interested in learning how to kayak or for those who need to rent equipment, Aspen is home to numerous outfitters who offer rentals and instructional lessons, clinics and multi-day camps. "Duckies," inflatable rubber crafts, are popular among the less experienced crowd because they are easier to manuever than hard boats and are a total blast on Class II-III sections of local rivers.
Where to go Canoeing:
Formed by a dam on Fryingpan River, Ruedi Reservoir serves as the perfect spot to put-in your canoe for a calm morning of fishing and paddling. With two boat ramps, it's easy in-and-out for canoes or any other watercraft (including motorized) that you might want to launch. Directions from Aspen: Drive 19 miles north on I-82 to Basalt. Take a right at Fryingpan River Road and drive about 14 miles to parking lot. There is an $8 parking fee. Open from May-September
Where to go Kayaking:
Roaring Fork River
Flowing from the granite of Independence Pass, "the Fork" runs some 60 miles long with about half that accessible to paddlers. The river has 4 sections: Slaughterhouse (Class IV plus), Upper (Class III), Middle (Class II-III) and Lower (Class II) which serves as an excellent practice grounds for more difficult sections of the river.
Located north of Aspen and east of Basalt, this river, though better known for world-class fly-fishing, offers superb paddling when the season's right. Above Ruedi Reservoir, Class IV-plus rapids can be found. Below the res, Class III-IV rapids provide thrills. The river is known for boulder gardens and other obstacles like strainers and holes. Be aware and be careful!
This waterway's most popular sections are recommended for advanced/expert paddlers only.
Guided Tours & Rentals
Absolutley the best way to paddle is with a local professional who can provide the best equipment, expertise and instruction. Explore the many outfitters who will happily find the perfect trip for you and your group of would-be river rats.