navigation bar

Roaring Fork River, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 133 to Glenwood Springs
~ 9 Miles

navigation bar River descriptions categorized by state First Aid and general safety information Southwest Paddler on-line store Southwest Paddler Yellow Pages listings Environmental issues and concerns Photos of rivers and surrounding areas Trip reports with photos How to advertise on Southwest Paddler Advertiser Index Internet links to related information and services Southwest Paddler visitor comments General disclaimer Product Reviews Federal and state navigation laws Credits for contributors Web Campfire

SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

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.

The Cemetery run, as this is sometimes called, sounds scary but it is actually the least demanding and easiest section of the Roaring Fork River. Starting just above the town of Glenwood Springs, this a is 9 mile, class II+ to III whitewater run with a gradient of only about 29 fpm. Paddlers also have an option to paddle to the confluence with the Colorado River, then down the Colorado to any available take-out if a longer trip is desired. About 7.3 miles into the run is Cemetery Rapid, the only Class III drop on this section, and it is not technically difficult.

On this section the canyons are gone and surrounding land is much flatter. Ranchland is adjacent to the river outside Glenwood Springs, a small community of about 7,000 people north of Carbondale and just south of the Colorado River. The Cemetery section is an excellent novice whitewater run that can be fun, though not really challenging, for whitewater paddlers with intermediate or higher level skills. In aerobatic terms, this is a barrel roll rather than a snap roll.


Alongside SH 82 at Carbondale down to Glenwood Springs in Garfield County of westcentral Colorado. The White River National Forest is a short distance away on both sides of the river, and the Fryingpan and Crystal Rivers flow into the Roaring Fork at either end, respectively.

Distance from major cities

Durango 265 miles; Grand Junction 95 miles; Denver 165 miles; Salt Lake City 380 miles; Albuquerque 525 miles; Phoenix 678 miles; Oklahoma City 790 miles; Dallas 949 miles; Austin 1,140 miles; San Antonio 1,113 miles; Houston 1,200 miles; Little Rock 1,106 miles; Kansas City 771 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

The water in the Roaring Fork River flows clean, clear and cold, but is not drinkable without purification. The cold water and moderate elevation make it necessary to wear wetsuits or water-repelling garments to prevent hypothermia. Neoprene glove and hard-soled river boots are also recommended, but not absolutely necessary.

Best time to go

The prime season for the Cemetary run is April through August, depending upon upstream diversions, winter snowpack and spring rainfall.

Hazards to navigation

There are no significant hazards other than cold water temperatures on this section of the Roaring Fork River.

River Access Points

Put in at the SH 133 bridge off SH 82 near the confluence with the Crystal River at 0.0 miles. Take out Veltus Park in Glenwood Springs, near 8th Street and Grand Avenue, at about 9.0 miles. Additional takeouts are available on the Colorado River for those who want to continue past Veltus Park on a longer trip.

Campgrounds and accommodations

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 Castle Creek 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.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

At least three commercial outfitters offer rentals, shuttles, guided trips and/or river information on the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers.

Reviewer's Comments

The Cemetery run, as it is sometimes referred to, is an easy whitewater paddle trip that almost anybody with at least intermediate whitewater skills can enjoy from April through August. The run starts near the confluence with the Crystal River, then continues about 9 miles to Veltus Park in Glenwood Springs. It is a somewhat scenic run, though bordering lands are mostly cattle ranches with rolling hills. It is very convenient because of the local availability of everything paddlers need. It is a popular run because of the longer season and its close proximity to Glenwood Springs, so expect to paddle with others when you make this run. If you reach Veltus Park and want more river time, then continue down the Colorado River to any of the take-outs there.

Technical Data
Class Rating II+ to III
Length 9 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in SH 133 bridge off SH 82
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Veltus Park in Glenwood Springs
Lat. / Long.
Elevation 5,890-5,750 feet msl
Gradient 29 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Emma
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season April through August
Permits No

Map of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers

Poudre Paddlers Canoe and Kayak Club

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

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Lone Star Paddler - the paddlesports web site of Marc W. McCord

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

[ Roaring Fork Homepage ] [ Upper Roaring Fork River ] [ Aspen Music School to Upper Woody Creek Bridge ]
[ Upper Woody Creek to SH 82 Bridge ] [ SH 82 Bridge to SH 133 Bridge ] [ Upper Fryingpan River ] [ Lower Fryingpan River ]

Southwest Paddler
Click to return to the Southwest Paddler Homepage
Home Page
Southwest Paddler

Colorado Rivers Index
Canoeman River

Guide Services
Return to the homepage
Home Page

CobraGraphics - Web Designs with a Bite!

Send E-mail This web page designed, created and maintained by
Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics
© March 4, 2003. All rights reserved.
Last updated December 26, 2014

Copyright © 1997-2015, Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. All rights reserved. Southwest Paddler, CobraGraphics and Canoeman River Guide Services are trademarks of Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. The textual, graphic, audio, and audio/visual material in this site is protected by United States copyright law and international treaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except for your personal, non-commercial use. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All original photographs on this web site are the exclusive property of Marc W. McCord or other designated photographers and may not be copied, duplicated, reproduced, distributed or used in any manner without prior written permission under penalty of US and International laws and treaties.