Durango: Rafting on the Animas River

The Animas River is one of Colorado’s major rafting rivers and accounts for about 9 percent of Colorado’s commercial rafting market, according to some report somewhere.

But you don’t care about reports. You care about getting on the Animas River. Good call.

The Animas River offers some amazing white water rafting for people of all ages and abilities, and because Durango was built on the river’s banks, the city is the best base for your rafting trip. (We recommend staying at the Durango Quality Inn. Ahem.)


Rafting trips on the Lower Animas are less, uh, dramatic than the Upper Animas, making the lower section of the river perfect for family friendly floats. Depending on the time of year and the river’s flow, the Lower Animas is generally rated Class 2 to Class 3 rapids, so rafters will enjoy floating down some calm sections in between bouncing through (relatively easy) whitewater such as the Smelter, Santa Rita and Pinball rapids.

The Upper Animas is for more advanced rafters. The 12-mile stretch of river squeezes through the Animas Canyon as it runs past several of the San Juan Mountains’ 13,000-foot peaks. The Upper Animas is typically categorized as Class 3 to Class 5 rapids and is one of the most advanced stretches of commercial river in the nation when the water is high. Veteran rafters can tackle heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping rapids such as Broken Bridge, Dinner Gorge and Lunch Box. I don’t know why those names seem so much more foreboding than “Pinball rapids.”

River flow usually peaks in May and June with the spring runoff, but you can still get your rafting fix through late summer.

We would try to list all of Durango’s rafting companies for you, but there are like a billion of them, and we’re sure we would miss one or two.

Whether you come to Durango specifically for the rafting or just want to try it while you’re here, be sure to book your room at the Durango Quality Inn for easy access to the river and to any of Durango’s gabillion rafting companies.

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