A Look at Our Early Season Rafting Favorite: Gore Creek

Rafting Gore Creek in Vail

As we look forward to summer rafting, we’d like to introduce you to one of our favorite early season trips: Gore Creek, our local favorite here in the Vail Valley. If you’ve never had the opportunity to raft Gore Creek, you need to make time!

Why Gore Creek is our Favorite

Gore Creek is special for a couple of reasons. First, it flows right through the heart of Vail Village, and the scenery is spectacular. Second, the rafting season on Gore Creek is relatively short. You have to catch it during its brief window each year.

Gore Creek is fed only on snowmelt. The season gets underway as soon as the snowmelt and runoff begin. May and June are the ideal times to experience the incredible whitewater on Gore Creek.

Gore Creek features awesome Class III rafting from East Vail to Lionshead Village. This river epitomizes what we refer to as, “playboating”. In addition to the fun rapids, this stretch features holes and waves along the way, including the well-known International Wave in Vail Village. These areas provide opportunities to “surf” the raft and swing in and out of rapids. It would be difficult to have more fun in a raft than you’ll have right here in the heart of Vail.

The scenery all the way through the upper Vail Valley along Gore Creek is what really makes this trip memorable. The towering cliffs, waterfalls, aspens, and wildlife along this stretch are incredible.

Getting to and from Gore Creek

Finally, one of the nice things about rafting Gore Creek is the quick transfer times. If you’re staying in Vail, you’re already on the river and just minutes from the put-in. At the takeout in Lionshead, you can easily walk right back into town. If you’re staying in Beaver Creek, you can expect a quick, 15-minute drive to and from the river.

With such easy access and world-class rafting right here in Vail, it’s no wonder we love this short but sweet season on Gore Creek!

To learn more about our whitewater rafting adventures, please check out the Rafting Page .

Start planning your trip now! You can call us at 970-476-3700 or you can contact us online.

How to Prepare for Your White Water Rafting Adventure

This year’s runoff is shaping up to be a memorable one! There’s a ton of snow in the high country and recent storms have continued adding to our snowpack. Statewide throughout Colorado, the snowpack is currently over 140% of normal. Here in the Colorado River basin, the snowpack is currently 138% of normal. And over in the Arkansas River basin, it’s 148% of normal! It’s going to be a long, high water season on our rivers.

What to Bring on a White Water Rafting Trip

As you prepare for your summer rafting adventure, there are a few things to think about. The first is what to bring. The list is pretty simple but you’ll want to make sure you have a few key items. Here’s the rundown.

On every rafting trip, we provide a helmet, a wetsuit on cool days, a splash jacket, a PFD, and wetsuit booties.

You should bring your swimsuit, and wear it underneath your street clothes for the ride to the river. On hot, sunny days when we’re not wearing wet suits and splash jackets, you might want to wear a cover shirt for sun protection. We also recommend that you wear and bring sunscreen and chapstick. If you plan to wear your sunglasses on the raft, don’t forget Croakies or Chums to keep them in place! Finally, bring cash to tip your guide (18% is normal).

Check out this quick video, as Cole and Kyle explain what to bring and why:

Questions to Ask your Rafting Guide

With your bags packed, you are all set for your whitewater rafting adventure. It’s going to be an epic season here in Colorado, and we hope to see many of you on the river. As you prepare for the trip, how about some questions you might want to ask your guide? Here are a few things you might want to ask while you’re on the river:

  • How does this water compare to other times of the year?
  • What animals may we see on the water today?
  • What’s your favorite part of being a rafting guide?
  • What do you do during the off-season?
  • What other stretches of the river do you run?
  • Where is the best swimming hole?
  • Ask about the history of the area.
  • Ask for any crazy river guiding stories they have!

If you’d like more information on rafting with Sage Outdoor Adventures, please be sure to check out our Rafting Page. And explore the rest of our website to see all the other fun activities we offer, including horseback riding, ATV tours, and fly fishing!

For details, availability and booking call us at 970-476-3700 or contact us online.

Early Summer Rafting and Runoff Explained

Summer whitewater rafting

By Cole Bangert

Undammed rivers have a unique river flow when the weather warms up and the snow melts, one that can often be confusing to visitors. But since we get to watch the river on an hourly basis from our office on the bank of the Eagle River, we’ve become experts at predicting when river levels will be perfect for whitewater rafting.

How Winter Snow Impacts Summer Rafting

Snow accumulates throughout the winter at elevations between 8,000 and 14,000 feet. In the spring, the lowest snow melts first. Waterways become murky and levels are boosted, but not to floatable levels. On cold days, the water level goes down, and on warm days it rises, but this fluctuation is minor since the amount of snow melting at lower elevations is not very substantial early in the spring.

As spring progresses, the deeper snowpack at higher elevations begins to warm and melt. This is the time period when you will see the rivers start to have dramatic changes. The water will be muddy, cold, and fast: a clear sign that it’s time for summer whitewater rafting to start.

Summer Weather and River Water Levels

Early Summer Rafting in ColoradoIn the Vail Valley, we watch the Eagle River fluctuate on a 12-hour cycle. For example, the river will be at its highest flows at about 2:00 a.m. Just 12 hours prior, that snow was quickly melting during the hottest part of the day, around 2:00 PM.

As days warm up or cool down, we can almost always predict what the river levels will do the next day. For example, if the river has been steadily rising for five days, and then we get a cold rainstorm, we can predict a drop in river levels the next day.

This often seems backward to many visitors. Rain should equal higher river levels, right? But here’s what happens: that rain actually becomes snow up at high elevations. Instead of the snowpack melting and raising the river, the storm actually re-freezes the snow and the water levels will drop the next day.

So, what happens when the weather is the opposite? When we get an absolute scorcher of a day, we expect to see a massive jump in water flows the very next day. The hot weather heats and quickly melts the snowpack. We have seen the river go up by over 30% overnight, creating incredibly powerful whitewaters.

Peak Summer Rafting Conditions

The peak flow is different every year, which means whitewater rafting conditions are different every year. It is totally dependent on how much snow fell over the winter. After the peak, the water will slowly diminish in volume. The river will drop in level much slower and more gradually than when it rises with snowmelt on its way up to the peak.

Enjoy Summer Runoff Whitewater RaftingAs we get into July, the only snowpack remaining is on the highest peaks. At this time of year, our fluctuations mellow out. Summer temperatures are more stable and warm, so a consistent melt rate occurs. Eventually, all the snow melts, and the water you see in the river is a result of groundwater seeping out of the earth and running down the riverbed.

Moderate snow levels and moderate river levels are actually ideal for our summer rafting guests. When the rivers are “cranking” with tons of snowmelt, river access can be tricky. Flood levels can even close some stretches of the river. The low height of bridges or the severity of rapids can make some areas impassable.

Luckily, with decades of rafting experience under our belts, we have a good sense of the best times to enter the whitewater based on your rafting experience level and goals. Navigate to our rafting page to find more information on our rafting tours, or contact us today for a chat on river conditions and guided tours!

The Spring Melt: Impact on Rafting and Fishing

Another late blast of snow across the Rockies can dump feet of wet spring snow in some locations. But that doesn’t stop the sun from shining, and temperatures will continue to climb back up into the 70s in many places across Colorado. The smaller creeks will fill up and the water will start to rise. In summary: the spring melt is underway!

Spring Weather and Rafting

Even as late as May, Colorado’s snowpack can stand at over 100%, leading to higher than average surges of water. This means when the runoff begins, there will still be a ton of snow up high. Depending on how rapidly summer temperatures arrive, runoff could last weeks longer than normal. At its peak, that means these weather conditions will bring some epic whitewater rafting conditions!

Pro tip: the Arkansas River and the Colorado River often give great insight into when to expect peak rafting conditions. If you don’t want to miss the excitement, give us a call at 970-476-3700 to reserve your spot. Or check out our rafting trips.

Early Spring Weather Impact on Fishing

While the rafting community will be celebrating outstanding whitewater conditions, fly fishing enthusiasts might be less enthralled with the prospect of an extended high-water spring season. However, many veteran anglers will tell you that runoff is not the time of year to sit on the sidelines.

Among many in the fly fishing world, runoff gets a bad rap. Water is high, often muddy and many of your favorite holes might be unrecognizable. But that doesn’t mean the fishing isn’t great. It just means you have to fish differently.

In some ways, runoff provides advantages that help offset the challenges. During high water, fish concentrate in predictable locations. They tend to get pushed out toward the banks and into any slack water where they can find reprieve. You may not be able to wade during runoff, but you probably don’t need to. With fish in these more reachable locations, they can be easily targeted from shore. Check out our fly fishing page for more information.

No matter what you find yourself doing this spring, whether you’ve got a paddle or a fly rod in your hand, have fun and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer! If you have questions about trips with Sage Outdoor Adventures, call us at 970-476-3700 or send us a message.