At 7,700 feet of altitude and inside a river basin, Gunnison, Colorado is a well-endowed setting for summer fun and high adventure. Check out Gunnison for iconic outdoor Rocky Mountain activities like rafting and fly fishing, or try something new and brave the rapids by surf board, “duckie,” or stand-up paddle.
Gunnison is so into its river sports that it holds a yearly Gunnison River Festival, “an annual river event that embraces river and stream activities, education and the celebration of the Gunnison River Basin.” Catch this year’s festivities on June 22-23, 2012. Or jump into Gunnison river fun all summer long with some of these top activities:
A chat about rafting in Colorado with those who know will almost inevitably include mention of Gunnison. It’s right up there with the Yampa River, the Green River, and the Arkansas River among the best rafting destinations in the State, and for that matter, the country.
First timers, families, experts, adrenaline junkies, and everyone in between will find a rafting route to cool them down and shake them up in Gunnison. Waters rate from class I-VI in intensity. The most popular pick is a half day trip along the Taylor River or the Gunnison River, with waters in the class II – class III range.
2) Fly Fishing
The Gunnison Gorge has world class fly fishing conditions, with its stocks of rainbow brown, brook, and cutthroat trout that earn the area awards and gold medal distinction among enthusiasts from far and wide.
For newcomers to the sport, go with a guided expedition and learn the ropes from seasoned experts. Outfitters like Gunnison River Expeditions and Dvorak Expeditions can get you set up with the gear and guidance to make it a trip of a lifetime. Both exhilarating and peaceful, the only thing to regret about fly fishing is not having tried it sooner.
A near cousin to rafting, kayaking is an action-packed, but more autonomous, way to ride the caps and rapids of Gunnison’s rivers. For those who are just getting their feet wet, try out a “ducky,” which is a personal inflatable kayak that doesn’t overturn.
Tip for learners: Gunnison has the perfect spot for practice and improvement in kayaking. At the Gunnison Whitewater Park, the Todd Crane Center for Outdoor Leadership and the Recreation Department have built a playground for whitewater sports practice. The rock structures along and in the water help you stay in the same stretch of river to master new tricks and techniques.
4) Canoe trips
Trade intensity and adrenaline for tranquility and length with a canoe trip through the canyons of Gunnison. A popular route starts in Delta, Colorado and takes out at Whitewater. Covering a distance of 42 miles in gentle class I-II waters, and taking a full day and a half, a canoe trip like this is about peace, rhythm, endurance, and absorbing the scenic passage of time.
Once you’ve spent enough time in Whitewater Park and mastered your kayaking and rafting skills, don’t take off the wetsuit quite yet. You may spot an adventurous few who have brought their surfboards to the river. Join the fun! Inside the park’s controlled conditions, it’s the closest you’ll get to riding waves in Colorado.
If You Go
For more information about visiting Gunnison, head to www.cityofgunnison-co.gov/
Gunnison River Festival: http://www.gunnisonriverfestival.com/
Rafting resource: http://www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com/colorado-rafting
Fly Fishing: Guided expeditions
Gunnison River Expeditions: http://www.gunnisonriverexpeditions.com/fly-fishing
Gunnison Whitewater Park http://www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com/whitewater-park
Cynthia Ord is a freelance writer based in her hometown of Denver CO, a contributing editor at The Travel Word (http://www.thetravelword.com/), and a Latin America addict.
Special thanks to Gunnison-Crested Butte for providing the photos featured in this article!
Fly fishing photo by Jim Church.
Taylor River rafting photo by Three Rivers Resort.
Kayaking Blue Mesa photo by John Dobert.