This photo needs editing.
Difficulty III
Length 13 Miles
Flow Range 300 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 55 minutes ago 257 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 03/15/2019 2:14 am

River Description

Brown's Canyon is arguably the best Class III run in the state. It is a beautiful little canyon with lots of smoothly rounded granite, on the hills and in the river too. The only sign of civilization is the railroad on river left. 
Canyon Doors is one of the first rapids and is generally considered the best playspot on the run. At high water, around 3000cfs, you have to surf it on the fly because there is no eddy. The biggest rapid is Zoom Flume, about 1/2 way down the run, it kind of approaches Class IV in difficulty. At 1200cfs it still has big water feel with some swirlies to negotiate. This run is very popular for commercial rafting. Avoid the weekends if you can, especially during peak tourist season.
To Get There: For the put-in at Fisherman's Bridge take Hwy 285 to mile 144.7 and turn east down to the river on County Road 301. Cross the bridge and make an immediate right to the public access downstream river left of the bridge. 
For the take-out, return to Hwy 285 and head downstream. Your first option (generally used when flows are low or if you're looking to shorten the run) is Hecla Junction. The turn-off for this access is at Hwy 285 mile 135.5 where County Rd 194 takes you down to the public access on river right. For the alternate access that gives you a bit longer run, continue to Hwy 285 mile 133.9 and turn onto Hwy 291. Before you cross the river, turn onto County Hwy 191 and follow it to the Stone Bridge public access. The State Parks system manages river access and requires a day-use fee.
Because this is a high use, high traffic area, Park Rangers are particularly aggressive when it comes to enforcing parking permits and fees.

check out Julie Keller's great photos of this reach.

See Colorado Rivers and Creeks II, by Banks and Eckardt (The Bible), for info on this and most of the other runs of Colorado.

Lat/longitude coordinates are approximate, from TopoZone.

See also:
Pinecreek (Class IV/V),
The Numbers (Class IV),
Fractions/ Frogrock/ Milkrun (Class III),
Buena Vista (Class III),
Browns Canyon (Class III),
Salida (Class III),
Rincon (Class III),
Pinnacle Rock (Class III),
Royal Gorge (Class III/IV).



Rapid Descriptions

Ruby Mountain Campground

Class - II Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The put-in

Canyon Doors

Class - III Mile - 3.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Fun breaking wave, best playspot in the canyon.

Pinball Rapid

Class - III Mile - 3.75
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Zoom Flume

Class - III+ Mile - 6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The big one. There should be lots of activity on the banks to clue you that this rapid is just below. Big waves and pushy current, I do remember one rock in the middle to avoid.

Giant Steps Rapid

Class - III Mile - 8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Hecla Junction

Class - II Mile - 9.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Alternate takeout, reccomended at low water or at really high water when Stone Bridge has no clearance underneath.

Seidel's Suckhole

Class - III Mile - 10
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Big wave/hole at high water

Double Drop Rapid

Class - III Mile - 11
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Stone Bridge

Class - II Mile - 13
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The takeout


Gage Descriptions

Low: 600 - 1,000 cfs
Med: 1,000 - 2,500 cfs
High: 2,500 cfs and up

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2016-07-03 n/a Fatality Other Read More
2016-07-03 Medium Fatality Cold Water Read More
2015-06-10 High Fatality High Water Read More
2011-06-08 n/a Fatality Other Read More
2008-06-23 High Fatality High Water Read More
2007-06-16 Medium Fatality Cold Water Read More
1999-06-26 High Fatality Other Read More
1998-06-21 Low Fatality Other Read More
1997-06-09 High Fatality Other Read More
1996-05-18 High Fatality Other Read More
1995-07-11 High Fatality One Boat Trip Read More
1995-07-02 High Fatality Other Read More
1991-07-20 Low Fatality Other Read More



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Colorado Parks & Wildlife to Require Hunting or Fishing License at River Access

Kestrel Kunz

In an unexpected and strategic move by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), a Colorado hunting or fishing license will now be required to access State Wildlife Areas and CPW-leased State Trust Lands (effective July 1, 2020). Many of these affected areas have historically been used for paddling, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, and other non-consumptive recreation uses. CPW's press release stated that "This rule is aimed at curtailing non-wildlife-related use of these properties", and while we understand the need to increase revenue to support management of these areas, we have a few concerns with this strategy. On July 1, American Whitewater, Colorado Mountain Club, and multiple other organizations submitted a joint letter to CPW Commissioners requesting that they reconsider the new Rule and find a more practicable and sustainable method for collecting fees for these areas.

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Opportunity to Participate in Upper Gunnison Watershed Management Plan (CO)

Kestrel Kunz

The Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District in Gunnison, Colorado is coordinating a Watershed Management Planning effort "to help protect existing water uses and watershed health in the Upper Gunnison Basin in the face of pressure from increased water demands and permanent reductions in water supply." The current phase is focusing on Tomichi, Cochetopa, Cebolla, Taylor, and the Gunnison River above Blue Mesa. With local stewardship staff in Crested Butte, American Whitewater has joined the Watershed Management Planning Team to help represent recreational river users and quantify flow preferences and recreational opportunities on the Taylor and Gunnison Rivers. American Whitewater is very excited to be involved in this stakeholder driven process and we are asking paddlers to share their input on management priorities for the Upper Gunnison Basin. If you have experience paddling Cebolla, Taylor, or the Upper Gunnison Rivers, please fill out this quick survey! 

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AW releases Saint Vrain and Lefthand Creek Recreational Flow Study - CO

Nathan Fey

Longmont, Colorado - As part of a comprehensive Stream Management Plan for the St Vrain Creek Watershed, American Whitewater is collecting and compiling data on recreational uses, and identifying projects and strategies to improve stream health, recreation, and environmental conditions in the region. You can help with this extensive effort. Please participate in the Recreational Flow survey.


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Support Colorado River Access on Colorado Gives Day!

Kestrel Kunz

Colorado Gives Day is on December 4 this year and is fast approaching! Go here to schedule your online donation to support American Whitewater's Colorado River Access Program. All donations made to American Whitewater on Colorado Gives Day (December 4) will be put towards our River Access Program in Colorado. American Whitewater works to improve river access and public safety throughout the state by working with landowners and managers, paddlers, law enforcement, and lawmakers to understand Colorado's river access laws and the ongoing threats to public safety. Thank you for your support!

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Voluntary River Closure Proposed On the Slate River (CO)

Kestrel Kunz

Crested Butte CO - Alleged disruption to a Heron Rookery and concerned private landowners have led to a "Voluntary Closure" of the Slate River from the Gunsight Bridge to the Town of Crested Butte between March 15 and June 21 for the 2019 season. The Slate River between Oh Be Joyful Campground and Skyland Bridge, a 10.5 mile stretch, provides an incredibly scenic and unique flatwater paddling experience in the Gunnison Valley. The Voluntary clsoure is a product of the Slate River Floating Management Plan, created by a Working Group convened by the Town of Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Land Trust. The Working Group was created in direct response to pressure from the local community including conservationists and private landowners adjacent to the river, who are concerned that a recent increase in boating activity is disturbing a Heron Rookery that straddles the Slate River. 

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AW Comments on Colorado Nat'l Forest Wilderness Process

Kestrel Kunz

Today, September 5, marked the close of the public review process for the DRAFT Wilderness Evaluation Report. The Evaluation Phase is the second step of 4 different steps required in the assessment of lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). American Whitewater thoroughly reviewed the DRAFT Wilderness Evaluation Report and submitted our comments to the Forest Service on September 4, 2018. Overall, we found that key paddling reaches throughout the GMUG area were greatly under-represented in the Polygon narratives and thus weren't acknowledged as contributing factors to the Polygon's respective Wilderness Ratings. We let the Forest Service know this, highlighting specific paddling reaches that should be added to each Polygon and which Polygons we believe should have a higher Wilderness Rating based on the high-quality recreation opportunities that each area has to offer. 

Please stay tuned as we continue to report on the GMUG Land Management Revision Process and in the meantime you can learn more about the GMUG here. (Photo of Josh King by Nick Spitzer)

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TAKE ACTION: Comment on the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Management Plan

Kestrel Kunz

ARKANSAS RIVER, Colo. - The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) is revising their Management Plan for the first time since 2001. The new Draft Plan was made publicly available in October and the AHRA is accepting public comments through November 10, 2017 (next week!). In order to design effective and productive comments, American Whitewater has thoroughly reviewed the Draft Plan, discussed the Plan with our local Affiliate Clubs, attended AHRA Public Open Houses, and reached out to key members of the local paddling community. To make it easy for you to SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS, American Whitewater staff have compiled our key concerns and comments for your review. 

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Colorado Honors the legacy of Matt Brown

Nathan Fey

Gunnison, Colorado - Last Wednesday, Matt Brown - longtime river guide, adventurer, and pillar of the Gunnison Valley community- passed away tragically after an accident in Moab. Matt was so much to so many.  At the request of his family and friends, contributions in Matt's memory can be made to American Whitewater’s River Access work in Colorado.  Matt was a strong ally and advisor in our work to protect the public’s rights to float and fish in the State.  We miss him immensely.

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Comments needed on Upper Colorado River Recreation Area Management Plan

Nathan Fey

Kremmling, Colorado - The Bureau of Land Management has released for public review and comment a set of preliminary alternatives for managing about 40 miles of the Upper Colorado River between Parshall and State Bridge - including Gore Canyon and Pumphouse. This is your chance to weigh in on whether there should be a day-use permit;  a camping permit with designated campsites in the popular stretch between Pumphouse and State Bridge; and expanding the developed Pumphouse Campground.

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Gore Fest 2017 is a few weeks away!

Nathan Fey

Bond, Colorado - American Whitewater is presenting Gore Canyon Festival - August 25-27th 2017Online registration is open and there are events for everyone, so sign up today! 

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A Successful River Cleanup on the St. Vrain (Lyons, CO)

Kestrel Kunz

On Sunday, nearly 50 people gathered on the banks of the St. Vrain River to pick up trash from the water and the shoreline. We started the day off with Hotbox Roasters coffee and donuts, and a few words about River Stewardship – the common cause that brought us all together. We found bedframes, rusty nails, lawn chairs, car doors, plastic water bottles, candy wrappers, fast food containers, and it doesn’t stop there. Our findings are likely a combination of leftover debris from the floods, illegal waste dumping along the river, and built up trash from years of careless passers-by. Thank you to all those that came out for the river cleanup! American Whitewater depends on our affiliate clubs, members, and dedicated volunteers in order to tackle our many River Stewardship projects.  

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Releases to Lower Dolores River certain in 2017.

Nathan Fey

Cortez, Colorado - Last week, American Whitewater met with local water managers, fisheries biologists, an other interests in Dolores River water, to start negotiating releases from McPhee Dam - like we do every spring.  This year, things are looking very good for the Dolores...

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Upper Colorado River Access funded by Land & Water Conservation Fund - CO

Nathan Fey

Dotsero, Colorado - A key river access point on the Upper Colorado river, once threatened with closure, has now been permanently protected through a partnership between BLM and Eagle County. 

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One more day to submit input on Colorado's Brown Canyon National Monument!

Kestrel Kunz

There is only one more day left to share what you value most in the Browns Canyon National Monument planning area! The Bureau of Land Management, U.S Forest Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are working together to develop a Coordinated Management Plan for Browns Canyon National Monument. In order to design a plan that most benefits citizens and visitors of Colorado, the agencies designed an Online Survey and Mapping Tool to understand how the public interacts with the Browns Canyon planning area and what aspects of the area are most important to the public.


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New Report on Impact to San Miguel River From Proposed Reservoirs

Evan Stafford

Colorado - American Whitewater has released a new study on whitewater recreation in the San Miguel River Basin. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) requested that Montrose County consult with American Whitewater on recreational needs and future impacts for the San Miguel River. Montrose County acquired conditional water rights to the San Miguel River in hopes of building multiple new reservoirs on BLM land. American Whitewater worked with Montrose County’s agents to assess the impact its conditional storage proposals would have on existing recreational opportunities. 

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Proposed Asphalt and Gravel Mine threatens the Upper Colorado River

Evan Stafford

A new proposal to allow the development of a 90- acre open pit mine in Eagle County at the gateway to the Colorado River has local river users asking questions. We encourage everyone to attend an Open House December 6 at 6 PM at the Gypsum Recreation Center, and to make your voices heard at the Town Council meeting where they will discuss the application on December 13 at 7 PM.


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President Obama Designates Browns Canyon National Monument - Colorado

Nathan Fey

On February 19th, President Obama will use his authority under the US Antiquities Act to protect over 20,000 acres of public lands surrounding Colorado’s Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River. American Whitewater has actively worked to protect Browns Canyon since we hosted the Colorado Roundtable in Buena Vista back in 2006, and we are celebrating the result of all the partnerships and work that has gone into this campaign. Join American Whitewater and community leaders in thanking President Obama for designating the Browns Canyon National Monument!

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Obama Administration to meet with Coloradoans to discuss Browns Canyon

Nathan Fey

Salida, CO - This Saturday, Senior officials from the Obama Administration will be meeting with Coloradoans to discuss the Browns Canyon National Monunument. It is important that paddlers attend the meeting, and speak-up for protecting the landscape around one of the Arkansas River's greatest whitewater runs.

While its a tough time of year to travel, WE MUST show public support for this designation. Please attend and speak on behalf of Browns Canyon National Monument!

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Senators Urge President to Designate Browns Canyon National Monument

Nathan Fey

Colorado - U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet have urged President Obama to consider designating Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River as a National Monument.  AW has worked directly with Sen. Udall to protect the landscape surrounding our nation's most popular whitewater river, and are confident that designation will not change how the Arkansas River is managed.  Your support is critical to protecting this special place...

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Senator Udall Introduces Browns Canyon of The Arkansas River Legislation

Nathan Fey

Colorado - Its official! On December 10th, U.S. Senator Mark Udall introduced S. 1794 to create the Browns Canyon National Monument, covering 22,000 acres between Salida and Buena Vista. The legislation includes 10,500 acres of new wilderness and preserves the most popular rafting destination in the country. American Whitewater has played a direct role in securing permanent protection for Browns Canyon over the past several years, and worked directly with Senator Udall to advance this legislation.

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Lyons Outdoor Games and Burning Can to Support AW

Nathan Fey

Lyons, Colorado - For the second year in a row, Oskar Blues Brewery is hosting the Burning Can Festival at this year Lyons Outdoor Games.  Burning Can, which takes place under the backdrop of Rocky Mountain National Park and the St. Vrain River, is a celebration of good beer, served in a can.  This year, All money raised from Lyons Outdoor Games recycled cans will be donated to American Whitewater. See you there!

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Public Hearing Announced for Browns Canyon of Arkansas River National Monument

Nathan Fey

Saturday May 18th - US Senator Mark Udall will host a listening session in Golden, Colorado, to hear community comments about his Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River National Monument and Wilderness Area proposal.  This meeting is the second of two public meetings that Udall is holding regarding the proposal. Public Comments are encouraged.

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Browns Canyon Of Arkansas River National Monument Proposal Released

Nathan Fey

Colorado - Mark Udall, who chairs the U.S. Senate National Parks Subcommittee, unveiled draft legislation today to create the Browns Canyon National Monument, covering 22,000 acres between Salida and Buena Vista in Chaffee County.  AW has been active in supporting and helping shape the proposal which includes 10,500 acres of new wilderness and seeks to protect the most popular rafting destination in the country.

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AW launches Flow Study for Yampa River

Nathan Fey

Colorado - American Whitewater is conducting a study of flow-recreation relationships for the Yampa Basin, and identifying specific metrics for use in the Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool. This study is intended to inform local, state, and federal planning efforts as to the full range and quality of recreational boating opportunities for the Wild and Scenic suitable Yampa River, as well as the Elk and White Rivers, and their tributaries. Your participation in the flow survey is requested.

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River Access Task Force Submits Recommendations to Colorado Governor

Nathan Fey

Colorado - On December 23, Governor Bill Ritter issued a report outlining a series of proposals for resolving disputes between landowners and rafters in Colorado. He also signed an executive order creating the River Access Mediation Commission to provide a way for some of the most contentious conflicts between boaters and property owners to be addressed. The Governor’s River Access Dispute Resolution Task Force was a 17-member group created in July of 2010 to help craft ways to sort out conflicts on Colorado rivers on a stretch-by-stretch basis as those disputes arise.

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Help Protect the Yampa River - Colorado

Nathan Fey

Colorado - Last month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released their proposed management plan for the Little Snake Resource Area, encompassing over a million acres of soaring plateaus, wild and scenic rivers, and sweeping sagebrush basins.  Special interests are trying to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to protect portions of the Yampa River – one of the nation's last free flowing rivers.    Let BLM know that protections for these rivers are important to you!

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Toxic Mine Drainage Threatens Arkansas River

Nathan Fey

COLORADO- At the headwaters of the Arkasas River a blocked mine tunnel, filled with toxic water laden with acid and heavy metals, presents an immediate and catastrophic risk to human life, environmental health, and the $65 million whitewater industry.

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Brown's Canyon Permits Delayed (CO)

Jason Robertson

18thumb.jpgPermits tabled for one year while AHRA does a more thorough count in 2002 to determine if management plan triggers have been reached.

Matt Muir


Thomas O'Keefe


Nathan Fey

Colorado Stewardship Director


Kestrel Kunz


Drew Althage


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190152 02/12/09 n/a n/a
1195685 07/27/09 Thomas O'Keefe
1204201 02/20/15 Nathan Fey
1207908 07/09/17 Kestrel Kunz Reach # fixed
1211456 03/15/19 Drew Althage updated description
1211457 03/15/19 Drew Althage updated description