Blue River Rafting Information 2023

The Blue River is a treasure of the Colorado high country. The river rises south of Breckenridge near Quandary Peak at 14,200 feet, and flows downward through the town, then is collected in the Dillon Reservoir where it is retained for domestic water supplies and for recreation. In summer you’ll see sailboats, paddleboards, and kayakers crisscrossing the lake, but no swimming is allowed to help keep the water cleaner. In drought years, almost all of the river’s flow is stored in Lake Dillon, but in wet years, like this year, Denver Water can let the river flow, and we can raft it!

After Lake Dillon, the Blue River continues through Dillon and Silverthorne, then runs north through the White River National Forest to join the Colorado River near Kremmling at 7,400 ft. Sections of the pristine river are renowned for trout fishing. Fly fishers enjoy catching local trout including brown, rainbow, and cutthroat. Wildlife is abundant, and you can spot diverse bird species, like bald eagles and ospreys, soar above deer, elk, and moose. In the summertime, you can raft the river, walk the region’s varying hiking trails, and camp in nearby campgrounds. In the winter, trails alongside the frozen river host cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

Rafts to Run The Blue River Again For the First Time in 3 Years!

The abundant snowpack and ample spring rainfall have resulted in the reopening of commercial rafting on a Colorado river after a three-year hiatus. The Denver Water Board’s prediction of higher water levels in the Blue River, fueled by the full Dillon Reservoir, has paved the way for the return of commercial rafting, marking its first season since the summer of 2020.

Commercial Rafting Back on The Blue River
Book a Rafting Trip On The Blue While You Can

Book a Rafting Trip on The Blue River While You Can

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that water flows will maintain at this level and commercial rafting will continue to be offered for an extended period of time. The current forecasts suggest that the Blue River can accommodate commercial rafting excursions for approximately two-four weeks, which implies that it will cease to be available by the end of June or early July.

Blue River Water Flows Great For Rafting

Here’s a look at the water flow from the USGS so far this year with comparisons to last year when flow was not sufficient for rafting. The chart (2) also shows median year flows, which,  interestingly, we have not yet hit. Cross your fingers! We may still surpass it!

Blue River Water Flow 

Blue River Water Flows Great For Rafting
Whitewater Rafting on The Blue River

Why Doesn’t the Blue River Flow Every Year?

River water flow varies naturally year on year based on snowfall, rainfall, and temperatures. This year has been a very wet year. Besides snowfall well above average throughout most of Colorado’s peaks, we have experienced one of the wettest Mays and Junes on record. River flow also varies based on dam releases. Dillon Reservoir water is managed by Denver and Colorado Springs Front Range cities as drinking water, for irrigation, and for hydropower generation. When the state receives more rainfall, lawns are not watered, and the reservoir level rises even faster.  Little-known fact: this water is transported to Front Range communities through the Roberts Tunnel, an underground tunnel connecting the reservoir with the South Platte River. Water districts also use Dillon and neighboring Green Mountain Reservoirs for water trades to other districts, so, the lakes help other regions cover their drought periods by, in effect, issuing IOUs for repaying water in their wetter years.

What are Some Threats to the Beautiful Blue River?

The Blue River Watershed group, cites the following threats (3) to this amazing resource besides demand for drinking water, irrigation, and hydropower:

  1. Historical dredge boat gold mining and hard rock mining of gold, silver, lead, copper, and zinc, which causes a loss of flow and stability, and contaminates the waters with heavy metals 
  2. Deforestation and trees killed by beetle infestations increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires, erosion, and mudslides.
  3. Nearby roadways can add sediment and chemicals to rivers.
  4. Invasive and non-native aquatic species, like pike, brook trout, and mussels 
  5. Gold Medal fishing status was lost in 2016.
  6. A very serious future threat is drought mitigation and the possibility for a Colorado River Compact call for water from the reservoir. 

Thanks in great part to the efforts of huge gains have been made in restoring this mighty river to its earlier pristine beauty.

Experience Beauty of Wilderness on the Colorado River
What Is a Trip On The Blue River Like

What’s a Trip Like on the Blue River?

The Blue River provides challenging whitewater rafting closest to the major tourist destinations of Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Dillon, Keystone, and Frisco. The river rushes through the White River National Forest, and the scenery surrounding the river is stunning, with tall trees and lush pasturelands. Colorado Rafting Company is permitted by the Forest Service to run the upper Blue from just north of the Town of Silverthorne. We put in at Hammer Bridge, and take out about 5 miles and about an hour and a half later at Columbine Landing. In between we paddle past amazing scenery and then hit fast flows with exciting rapids.

Starting at 8,500 feet and cruising through the Boulder Canyon, we paddle about 3 miles of calmer, fast water as you get used to responding to the guide’s paddle instructions. By the time we’re coordinated as a group, we pick up speed and water volume as Rock Creek and Boulder Creek join the river’s flow. Now you really have to pay attention to the paddle instructions from your guide captaining from the back of the raft. We rapidly drop over 200 feet through unnamed and named class ll to III (lV at higher flows) rapids such as Boulder Creek, the aptly named O.S, and Pipeline, then we finish up in Columbine Landing. While the classes of rapids vary with water level, all the guides are excited about big water this year!

Colorado Rafting Company offers guided rafting trips several times a day on the Blue River when the water is flowing. Book directly online or call us today to reserve your Blue River rafting adventure.