Arkansas River - Royal Gorge



The Royal Gorge is a classic Colorado run on the Arkansas river.  The highlight is entering the heart of the gorge below the famous Royal Gorge Bridge, which tourists flock to during the warm months.  The bridge itself makes the dubious claim of being the world's highest suspension bridge.  There's little doubt though that the view looking up from this deep and narrow gorge is spectacular.  During the tourist season, expect the paparazzi to be out in full force. (bonus tip: They love it when you roll.)

The whitewater on this run varies significantly with water level.  Because the run channelizes significantly, it can be run at very low water levels (500 and below) and still be an enjoyable class III romp.  At lower levels, neophyte boaters should keep a watchful eye out for the Sunshine hole.  Although the move is fairly straightforward, this hole gets sticky at low water levels, and I can attest from personal experience that it's sticky enough to recirc a swimmer.  The rest of the run at low flow is straightforward, but be aware of the dangerous pocket in the wall at Wallslammer.  Expect a long paddle out through the class II.  Due to the relatively warm weather, its placement lower in the Arkansas drainage, and the ability to run it at low flows, this can often be run as early as Febuary and late into the fall.

At high flows, this run graduates into class IV to IV+ territory and is almost guaranteed to freeze a grin on your face.  Our group caught it at 4200 cfs once, and it was a huge wavetrain ride the entire way down with only a couple sticky holes to watch out for (most noteably "Boateater", which lives up to its name).  We had a mix of ability levels, and even timid class IV boaters with a bombproof roll made it down fine (but don't minimize the danger of swimming at high flows).

A flow note: The alternative gauge at Wellsville is useful in the offseaon when the Parkdale gauge is not operational.


KSC, justin.payne
Class IV- to IV
Current Flow 1180.0 CFS
05-18-2024 13:45

View River Forecast

Alternative Flow
208.0 CFS
04-09-2013 13:31

View River Forecast

Alternative Flow
3400.0 CFS
05-18-2024 20:11
Recommended Flow Minimum: 200.0
Average: 2000.0
Maximum: 7000.0
Typical Season Begins: April
Ends: October
Recommended Use Kayaking: Yes
Rafting: Yes
Canoeing: Yes
Packrafting: No
Fishing: Yes
Length 10.0 Mile(s)
Gradient 46.0 FPM

Royal Gorge

03-04-2012 -

Photo By: Kevin Cripps