Clear Creek River – Paving the way for Rafting in Colorado

Clear Creek – the Fire Starter for white water rafting

Clear Creek is approximately 66 miles long, headwaters just northwest of Grey Peak and joining the South Platte near the junction of Interstate 76 and highway 224. The creek was famous as the location of the most intense early mining and provided the route of the Colorado Central Railroad. Clear Creek was originally named Cannonball Creek as early as 1820, called so by the French hunters of the expedition of Stephen H. Long. In the 1830s it became known as Vasquez Fork, also Vasquez River, after the fur trader Louis Vasquez who had his fort at the mouth of the river and trapped along it. It gained its present name from the gold rushers in 1859. Kayakers’ discovered Clear Creek in the early 1950’s but when construction of I-70 started they left. In 1989 commercial rafting was started on Clear Creek. The first company failed, but in 1992 Clear Creek Rafting started the success we enjoy today. The rafting industry in 2012 had its best year ever contributing $7 million directly and almost $18 million in economic impact. 60,644 rafters in 2011 is up 16% and the largest year for Clear Creek and 2nd largest in state. The total state experienced a 1% decline in rafting in 2012. Fee’s are paid to Clear Creek County, Idaho Springs, and Jefferson County depending on the Put-In and Take-Out jurisdiction by the rafting company.

beautiful mountain view

Steepest Raftable River in Colorado

Clear Creek has an average gradient of 67 feet per mile, and over 100 feet per mile on the advanced sections of the river. That simply translates to more rapids per mile. This in conjunction with proximity to Denver makes Clear Creek very accessible. Clear Creek offers a prefect beginner-starting with class II rapids so everyone can practice and then goes to class III rapids. Intermediate traditionally starting in Dumont offers 5 class IV rapids surrounded by class III. Below Lawson Bridge there is 1mile of continuous class IV rapids. The lower canyon (Kermits down to 119) is class IV advanced water, but has no cell phone reception. Below 119 is Black Rock with Class V rapids and thrilling just to WATCH.

How long does the rafting season last?

Our rafting season is dependent upon the amount of snow on this side of the Continental Divide. When the snow starts melting at Loveland Ski area it takes approximately 24 hours to come down Clear Creek to Lawson. The water will ebb and flow with the temperatures. The melt stops if temperatures drop to freezing. The rafting melt starts when temperatures are warmer longer than they are freezing. White water rafting on Clear Creek is totally dependent on Mother Nature. Rain will augment the water especially when a large upstream rain storm sends that ‘chocolate milk’ rushing in. This year we are praying for more snow-and a very wet spring. When 2 week Peak (actually Engelmann Peak) losses it’s snow we traditionally have 2 weeks left.

The National Water Information System operated by the US Geological Survey in conjunction with the City of Westminster provides rafting companies with ‘Water Talk’, giving us current water conditions by phone or web. The website www. has current and past information on water levels . Water is measured in cubic feet per second.

Rafting Outfitter Regulations

In Colorado rafting outfitters are regulated by Colorado State Parks, who recently merged with Department of Wildlife. The Colorado River Outfitter License is a certification of outfitters, their rafts, equipment used, safety regulations, Guide specifications, sanitation practices, and documentation of each trip on the river. Colorado State Park Rangers do impromptu inspections of rafts, first aid supplies, guides and office procedures periodically during rafting season. The commercially rafted rivers require a permit for each river. River Permits are governed by State Parks, Forrest Services, Counties, Cities and BLM.

Ready to Raft?

Mile Hi Rafting offers great rafing adventures. Journey down Clear Creek or the Arkansas River. From our Sure Shot beginner trip to our advanced Ultimo trip we have something for everyone. Want to combine rafting with camping, horseback riding, ATV riding, or another adventure? We have that too! Check out our pacakges: White Water Rafting Packages.