Just as what goes up, must come down, Colorado rivers are rushing with whitewater after record snowfalls this past winter and local outfitters in Gunnison-Crested Butte are expecting one of the best rafting seasons ever due to snow pack in the Taylor River Drainage that is approximately 150 percent of normal levels.
Not only is there great rafting and kayaking, ranging from Class I to IV for guided trips on the Gunnison and Taylor Rivers, but you’ll see amazing tricks at the Gunnison Whitewater Park, the annual Gunnison River Festival which takes place this year June 23 – 26. Some of the toughest kayaking in the United States is on the Crystal River in Marble, ranging from Class II to V+.
“We’re really excited about the water levels and should have great levels all year long. It also opens up some routes for the Upper Upper Taylor in an area we call Lottis Creek, with Class III and IV water that hasn’t been doable for the last couple of seasons,” says Matt Brown, co-owner of Scenic River Tours with offices in Gunnison and seven miles up the Taylor Canyon, www.scenicrivertours.com.
“We are now offering raft trips every day. The Taylor River is running higher right now than all of last year and summer flows may be at the highest level we’ve seen in 14 years. Some think this is scary, but it actually makes the river less technical and smoother to navigate since the rocks are under water and it’s more fun because of the bigger waves,” adds Mark Schumacher, owner of Three Rivers Resort & Outfitting in Almont, www.3riversresort.com.
Gunnison River Festival, June 23 – 26
For a unique blend of hardcore and lighthearted outdoor recreation for all ages, don’t miss the ninth annual Gunnison River Festival. Where else can you find a mix of USA Freestyle kayaking, a costume river parade, downriver raft race, hooligan race, kayak enduro, raft rodeo, foam boat and Strider Cup bike races for kids?
Gunnison Whitewater Park, redesigned in 2007 and 2008 and with a new feature and footbridge added in 2010, serves as home base for the festival at the corner of Highway 50 West and County Road 38. Add in Taylor River near Almont and Oh-Be-Joyful Creek near Crested Butte and there is serious fun to be had on area waters.
The USA Freestyle Kayak (USAFK) tour returns to the festival in 2011 with a national point series. Classes include cadet (youth), open men/women and pro classes. Also, National Whitewater Rafting paddlers will join the North Bridge Paddle Race. “This brings a new element of great kayaking and rafting to our event as we are now part of the pro tour. Freestyle kayaking is making an effort to become an Olympic sport by 2020,” says event organizer Angie Mauldin.
For costs, information, and registration forms, visit www.gunnisonriverfestival.com or call (970) 596-7094.
The following schedule is subject to change.
Thursday, June 23
• Go With The Flow Yoga on the River, 6:45 p.m. – Whitewater Park
• Event registration and live music by “Red Lady String Quartet,” 5 – 7 p.m. – IOOF Park
Friday, June 24
• Vendor’s Arena/Demo Expo, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Whitewater Park
• Sunset Concert with live music by “Better Late Than Never,” 6 – 8 p.m. – Whitewater Park
• Go With The Flow Yoga on the River, 6:45 p.m. – Whitewater Park
Saturday, June 25
• Registration Booth, Opens at 8 a.m. – Whitewater Park
• Community River Parade, 9 a.m. – Northbridge to Whitewater Park
• Downriver Raft Race, 9:30 a.m. – Northbridge to Whitewater Park
• Opening Ceremony, 10 a.m. – Whitewater Park
• SUP Downriver Race, 11 a.m. – Whitewater Park
• USA Freestyle Kayak Races, all day – Whitewater Park
• River City Fun Zone for kids featuring interactive and educational activities to understand watersheds and underwater life, foam boat races and a Strider Cup bike race. Opens at 11 a.m. – Whitewater Park
• SUP Surf Comp, 2 p.m. – Whitewater Park
• Raft Rodeo, 2 p.m. – Whitewater Park
• Hooligan Race (competitors race in boats made from non-boat materials such as inner tubes, kegs, barrels, etc.), 3:30 p.m. – Whitewater Park
• Live Music by “Simpler Times,” 4 – 6 p.m. – Whitewater Park
• Raft Sprint Race, 5 p.m. – Whitewater Park
Sunday, June 26
• Registration, Opens at 8 a.m. – Almont
• Taylor Canyon Endure, 10 a.m. – Whitewater Put-In to Confluence
• Upper Taylor Downriver Race, 10:30 a.m. – Whitewater Put-In to South Bank
• Lower Taylor Family Float, Noon – 5-Mile Put-in
• Barbeque and live music, 4 p.m. – Almont Resort, Almont
Dinner Float Trip
Enjoy the area’s only dinner cruise, Rocky Mountain style! Start out at Three Rivers Resort in Almont by 4 p.m. and enjoy a 10-mile scenic float trip on the Gunnison River to Garlic Mike’s Restaurant for a delicious Italian dinner. You will receive the float trip, vehicle shuttle and a voucher for Garlic Mike’s (tip is extra). The total time required is approximately three hours. The trip is available seven nights a week with at least 24 hours notice and a minimum of four people. For prices and reservations, call Three Rivers Resort at (888) 761-3474.
Lodging & Rafting Deal
Save on lodging and rafting when staying two nights or more at Three Rivers Resort in Almont from May 1 – June 10 and Aug. 15 – Sept. 30. For only $100 per person, receive two night’s lodging in a lodge room or small, one-room cabin and one Upper Taylor whitewater raft trip each. Price is based on two-person occupancy and does not include lodging taxes. This offer is not valid with any other offers or existing reservations and can be booked by calling (888) 761-3474. Other lodging options and custom packages can be arranged. Visit www.3riversresort.com.
Rock & Raft Package
Scenic River Tours is offering a new Rock & Raft Package, featuring a full day of adventure that includes lunch by the river. Participants will whitewater raft the Taylor River until noon, stop for lunch, and raft some more before stopping to rock climbing in a new area being developed by Scenic River Tours. Wrap up the day with more time on the water. For more information and the cost, call (970) 641-3131 or visit www.scenicrivertours.com.
Visitor Information & Personalized Vacation Packages
To find out more about Gunnison-Crested Butte’s calendar of events and personalized vacation packages, call the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association’s toll-free number (800) 814-8893 or visit www.GunnisonCrestedButte.com. Find the Tourism Association on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gcbta or follow us on www.twitter.com/gcbta. The Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport is served year-round by United Airlines with flights from Denver.
About Gunnison-Crested Butte, Colorado
Gunnison-Crested Butte is nestled among almost two million acres of pristine wilderness in southwest Colorado. Winter sports enthusiasts know the area for its world-class alpine skiing and snowboarding at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. Gunnison-Crested Butte is also a haven for outdoor summer activities. In the warmer months, visitors can choose from recreational activities such as hiking, climbing, mountain biking, boating, whitewater rafting, kayaking, fly-fishing, camping and horseback riding. Year-round visitors enjoy distinctive restaurants, unique shops and stimulating cultural opportunities, and have a wide range of lodging options — from rustic inns to guest cabins and bed-and-breakfasts to full-service resort hotels.
Gunnison, county seat and a real western town, is home to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, Gunnison Whitewater Park, Gunnison Valley Observatory, Pioneer Museum and Western State College, which offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional fields. Both Crested Butte and Gunnison have thriving historic central business districts packed with shopping and dining opportunities.
Recognized as the “Official Wildflower Capital of Colorado” by the Colorado Legislature and one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations” in 2008, Crested Butte is 28 miles from Gunnison and the site of rich mining, ranching and skiing heritage and home to the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Only three miles up the road is the resort village of Mt. Crested Butte, home to the ski area, an active base area, the area’s conference center, and outstanding hiking and biking trails.
Marble is located in the Upper Crystal River Valley along the Elk Mountains and is the gateway to nearby Crystal, home to one of the most photographed mill sites in the country. Marble has seven sites on the National Register of Historic Places and is the location of the Yule Marble Quarry.
In Gunnison County, visitors will find the Curecanti National Recreation Area, where dinosaur fossils were recently discovered; the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Colorado’s largest body of water and home to the largest Kokanee salmon fishery in the United States; and The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of our country’s newest national parks. Gunnison County includes the quaint and historic towns of Pitkin, Gothic, Tin Cup, Marble, Powderhorn, Almont and Crystal, plus the better-known communities of Gunnison, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. Gunnison County is part of the West Elk Loop and Silver Thread Scenic & Historic Byways.
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