The Roaring Fork River begins in Pitkin County high in the San Isabel National Forest and flows to the northwest through Aspen, Snowmass and Glenwood Springs to its confluence with the Colorado River. The Fryingpan River Flows into the Roaring Fork just below Snowmass, and the Crystal River joins the Roaring Fork at Carbondale. Its headwaters are between Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest peak at 14,443 feet msl and Independence Pass at 12,095 feet msl. SH 82 parallels the river in very close proximity along most of its run.
This section of the Roaring Fork River does not roar as much as it purrs. It has similar characteristics to the Woody Creek run above, though most rapids on this reach are in the Class II to III+ range, much like the run below that flows into Glenwood Springs. Surrounding areas are ranchland descending from about 6,750 to 5,890 feet msl on an average gradient of about 86 fpm. Though not as majestic as the reaches above, this section is still very scenic in a flatland sort of way, characterized by rolling hills rather than mountains. The river is a little wider and offers lines that avoid the meat of most rapids.
Between the SH 82 bridge and the SH 133 bridge the river can be run by intermediate or higher level whitewater paddlers in canoes with flotation and kayaks. Almost anybody can make this run in rafts. The water is cold, though daytime temperatures are a little warmer than on sections above. This is an excellent trip for those developing or honing whitewater paddling skills for bigger rivers. Its close proximity to Glenwood Springs makes it a convenient run with all required necessities (mainly food, gas and lodging) very nearby.
The White River National Forest of Pitkin County above Snowmass is where this run begins, ending above Glenwood Springs in Garfield County.
Durango 275 miles; Grand Junction 105 miles; Denver 175 miles; Salt Lake City 390 miles; Albuquerque 535 miles; Phoenix 688 miles; Oklahoma City 800 miles; Dallas 959 miles; Austin 1,150 miles; San Antonio 1,123 miles; Houston 1,209 miles; Little Rock 1,116 miles; Kansas City 781 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
The Roaring Fork River flows clean, clear and cold, but is not drinkable without purification. The run starts at an elevation of 6,750 feet msl, so be sure to bring warm clothing for off the river because it will get cold at night, even in mid-summer. The cold water and moderate elevation make it comfortable, but not necessary to wear wetsuits or water-repelling garments to prevent hypothermia.
The prime season for this run on the Roaring Fork River is April through August, depending upon winter snowpack, spring rainfall and the amount of water being diverted upstream.
There are no significant hazards for experienced whitewater paddlers on this section of the Roaring Fork River. Rapids are rated Class II to III+, and can be paddled by most boaters even with moderate experience. Little to no experience is necessary for those in rafts.
Put in at SH 82 Bridge just above Snowmass at 0.0 miles. Take out at SH 133 bridge at the confluence with the Crystal river at Carbondale at about 10.0 miles. There are no other access points for this section of the Roaring Fork River.
There are at least 3 campgrounds on the Fryingpan River just a few miles to the north and above its confluence with the Roaring Fork near Snowmass. No campgrounds are known to be available on the Roaring Fork River itself. There are accommodations available in surrounding ski resort towns near the river, but expect to pay a pricey rate, even in the skiing off-season. Some resort facilities may be closed during river running season.
At least three commercial outfitters offer rentals, shuttles, guided trips and/or river information on the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers.
This is a fun run that can be thoroughly enjoyed by most paddlers during a season lasting from April into August, depending upon water from sections above. It has a difficulty of Class II to III+, but most of the rapids can be avoided or minimized by the width of the river and by choosing a good line. The area is scenic, though not as spectacular as up above, where the tall mountains and forests are right beside the river. It is very near Glenwood Springs, so it is convenient, and offers excellent training runs for those getting ready for harder rivers. Easy access and a short 10 mile paddle make it runnable 2 (or more) times in a day by those intent on collecting some serious river time. Bring your camera and take lots of beautiful photos of the Roaring Fork River.