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Lower Blue River, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

Green Mountain Reservoir to Kremmling
~ 14 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Blue River forms in Summit County near the town of Blue River, then flows north through Breckenridge to its confluence with the Colorado River in Grand County. From its headwaters the river flows to Dillon where a dam forms Dillon Reservoir. From the dam it flows under IH 70, through Silverthorne and into Green Mountain Reservoir which is created by a dam at the small community of Green Mountain Camp. Flowing out of Green Mountain Reservoir the Blue River runs parallel to SH 9 all the way to the Colorado River just south of Kremmling.

The Lower Blue River begins at the dam forming Green Mountain Reservoir and flows to the Colorado River through Class II to III rock garden rapids. Runs begin at 7,680 feet msl, and the river drops 180 feet in elevation in the first 4 miles at a gradient of about 49 fpm, slightly steeper than the Upper Blue. The scenery is just awesome, and is reason enough to paddle this stream. The water is very cold and the air is cool to cold depending upon season and time of day, so be prepared for whatever Mother Nature has to offer.

The general character of the Lower Blue River is a pool-and-drop stream flowing through a forested canyon. On the east bank is the Arapaho National Forest, and on the west bank is the White River National Forest. The rapids tend to be your typical garden variety that are less technical than those found on other Colorado streams. Anybody with at least intermediate level whitewater skills should have no problem on this section of the Blue River, which is ideally suited for canoes, kayaks and rafts. Paddlers in rafts can take this run with little or no previous paddling experience, especially in a guided boat.


Summit and Grand Counties, between Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Kremmling. Arapaho National Forest is located on the east bank, and White River National Forest is along the west bank. There are no towns through which this section of the Blue River flows. Ranchland lines the banks after departing the forest area, and land ownership is private, so please respect property rights and avoid trespassing.

Distance from major cities

Durango 350 miles; Grand Junction 190 miles; Denver 70 miles; Salt Lake City 475 miles; Albuquerque 562 miles; Phoenix 804 miles; Oklahoma City 695 miles; Tulsa 800 miles; Dallas 854 miles; Austin 1,045 miles; San Antonio 1,018 miles; Houston 1,104 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

The Lower Blue River flows very clean, very clear and very cold. Water quality is excellent as it flows through a pristine area of national forests and ranchland.

Best time to go

The prime season on the Lower Blue River is typically April through July, but it may be extended or shortened, depending upon winter snowpack and late spring rainfall. Spring runs depend heavily upon a substantial winter snowpack that fills Dillon Reservoir, prompting dam releases.

Hazards to navigation

True hazards on the Lower Blue River are, for all practical purposes, non-existent. The rapids are basic Class II to III without a lot of technical maneuvering required. The biggest single hazard may be water and air temperature. Wear wetsuits or drysuits with a base layer to protect against hypothermia. Remember, this section of the river starts at an elevation of about 7,680 feet msl, so the outside air temperature will be cool in summer, and very cool to cold in the spring. Dress according to current weather conditions.

River Access Points

30 Road, off SH 9, on river left at 0.0 miles; Spring Creek Road (10 Road), on river left at about 3.8 miles; Unnamed county road on river left at the confluence with the Colorado River at about 13.8 miles.

Campgrounds and accommodations

Blue River Campground is located on river right just north of the Quaking Creek Ranch and Quaking Aspen Creek. Access is from SH 9. At least six other campgrounds are located below, on either side and above Green Mountain Reservoir. Campgrounds on the west side of the reservoir are accessed via 30 Road, while those on the east side are accessed from SH 9.

Liveries, Outfitters and Shuttle Services

There are no known liveries or shuttle services operating on or near the Lower Blue River. Area outfitters who may be able to provide rentals, shuttles and/or information. Other outfitters may be available. Otherwise, plan on running your own shuttles, or inquire of locals as to their willingness to provide a shuttle for a nominal fee.

Reviewer's comments

The Lower Blue River offers much the same characteristics as the Upper Blue River, except that it has no technically difficult rapids to negotiate. The Class II to III whitewater is actually quite peaceful, adding just enough fun to make the trip interesting for experienced whitewater paddlers and exciting for less experienced paddlers. The scenic beauty of this area is spectacular, and you will want to take photos to show your family and friends. The snowmelt water is cold, and the air temperature will usually be cool to cold, so dress for the conditions. Camping along this river is nearly as much fun as paddling it. Excellent campsites around Green Mountain Reservoir, as well as Blue River Campground on the Upper Blue, offer ideal places for setting up a base camp for those wanting to spend more than a day running the river or enjoying the forests.

Technical Data
Class Rating II to III
Length 14 miles
Minimum Flow 200 cfs
Optimum Flow 300 - cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in 30 Road off SH 9
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out County Road at Colorado River
Lat. / Long.
Elevation 7,680-7,110 feet msl
Gradient 49 fpm (180 fpm first 4 miles)
USGS Gauge Web: Dillon
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season April through July
Permits No

Canoeman River Guide Services offers river trips, trip planning and instruction on rivers in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Click HERE to visit the web site of Rocky Mountain Canoe Club

Poudre Paddlers Canoe and Kayak Club

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Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Colorado River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

Colorado River
[ Colorado River Homepage ] [ Blue River to Piney River ] [ Piney River to Barrel Springs ]
[ Barrel Springs to New Castle ] [ New Castle to Plateau Creek ] [ Plateau Creek to Loma ] [ Loma to Westwater ]

[ Upper Blue River ] [ Buzzard Creek ] [ Fraser River ]
[ Piney River] [ Plateau Creek ] [ Rock Creek ]

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