The Best Colorado Rivers for Beginner Kayakers

Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in Colorado River, Rafting, Scenery, Summer

Colorado has no shortage of scenic rivers and there’s few better ways to explore them than on a kayak! Seasoned kayakers will find no shortage of places in Colorado to drop in and experience everything from flat, calmer waters, to adrenaline pumping Class V rapids. But for first timers, the idea of getting into unexplored waters for the first time can be rather intimidating. Luckily, Colorado has plenty of stretches of river where beginner kayakers can learn basic techniques and learn from their mistakes without getting into too much trouble on the water.


  • Class 1: No waves or obstacles. Like sitting in your bathtub.Rapid Classes
  • Class 2: Easy. Rapids with regular waves and wide channels.
  • Class 3: (AVA minimum age 6-7 years) Moderately difficult. Irregular waves and narrow channels. This is what we consider to be family-level whitewater rafting.
  • Class 4: (Minimum ages may vary) Difficult. Complex channels with obstacles to be avoided. Precise maneuvering.
  • Class 5: (Minimum ages may vary) Extremely difficult. Long rapids following each other consecutively.
  • Class 6: Considered unrunnable.

There are a handful of rivers throughout Colorado that are known as great places for beginner kayakers to cut their teeth on the state’s famous whitewater. Weather and the time of year can of course influence the severity of rapids so it’s best to research conditions before starting any kayak trip down one of these incredible rivers.

The Colorado River

Its difficult to find another river that has as many options and adventurous spots than the Colorado River. There are lots of calmer stretches along this river and even when the rapids pick up a bit, but even in these more intense areas, beginners shouldn’t feel too stressed as they are on the easier side of Class II rapids.

The Upper Eagle River

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Located west of Avon, Colorado is the Upper Eagle River. This is a great stretch of water for beginner kayakers to hone in their kayaking skills on, experience some whitewater, and not get in too deep over their heads. After an easy drop-in at the Wolcott Campground, kayakers can expect some pretty smooth navigation. When water the water is higher, it is rather friendly and when the water is running low this stretch of water can become a bit more challenging. Beginners will want to take-out at Chambers Park in Eagle to avoid the Class IV rapids that lie just ahead.

The Arkansas River

Arkansas River ViewsThe Arkansas River is found near Buena Vista and Salida and is another great area for beginner kayakers to work on their skills. This river is known for its convenient entrance and the wide variety of rapids it can offer for kayakers of all skill levels including beginners. The Whitewater Park located in Buena Vista can also provide beginners with an opportunity to test their skills on without requiring a longer trip down the river.

Perhaps the most important thing for beginner kayakers to bear in mind is the necessity of proper preparation. It’s important to be familiar with the equipment and have the proper safety equipment such as a helmet and a personal flotation device. Even calm rivers can have sections that can quickly become challenging for beginners. It is definitely a good idea to go with an expert guide in order to ensure optimal fun and success on a beginner kayaking trip down one of Colorado’s rivers.