Description - The Arkansas River is one of the most popular river-rafting spots in the United States. The area also provides some of the best fishing in Colorado. The spectacular scenery is highlighted by the steep, narrow, rocky canyons that provide excellent opportunities to view Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. There are over 25 developed river-access areas. Popular activities include rockhounding at Ruby Mountain, fishing for brown trout at Hecla Junction, and wildlife-watching at the Five Points Watchable Wildlife Area in Bighorn Sheep Canyon. The area is jointly managed by BLM and the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.
- The Arkansas is a true western, "big water" experience. This is a varied and spectacular river which provides a multitude of different experiences. Although considered very crowded in rafting and kayaking circles, the river is very underutilized when it comes to fishing.
The mountain section of the Arkansas River flows for 150 miles from the old mining town of Climax through Central Colorado to the Pueblo Reservoir. From 12,000 foot elevation at the Continental Divide it drops to 4,700 foot in the Eastern Plains. There are hundreds of year round fishing opportunities, especially below Lake Creek and from Salida to Pueblo.
Recreation - Although the "Ark" is known for a prolific caddis hatch during May and June, numerous other hatches make this a relatively under-fished jewel for those seeking a true Western, "big water" fly fishing experience.
Wading anglers should note the numerous rafters from May to August. The Browns Canyon and Royal Gorge runs are particularly popular. This busy boating is termed "the rubber hatch" by local anglers. Fishing from boats can be quite successful, however, especially when casting streamers at the banks and behind structure. Knowledge of class III-V water is necessary for boaters. Contact a qualified guide if you are new to river rafting.
The Arkansas has predominately brown trout with some rainbow and cutthroat that average 11-14 inches. Dry fly fishing is excellent May to mid-September and real exciting during the blizzard-like caddis hatch May to June. Some canyon waters freeze over during colder winters. The river below Twin Lakes is open year-round. The Arkansas generally has smaller fish, but greater numbers and relatively light numbers of fishermen combine for a great experience.
The Arkansas River is the nations most popular whitewater boating river. Highly valued for its diverse recreation, this 150 mile stretch is used by more than 500,000 rafters, kayakers, anglers, campers and wildlife viewers each year. Trips vary in difficulty and length, allowing flexibility.
The internationally renowned "numbers" rapids lie a short distance north of Buena Vista, with views to the west of the Collegiate Peaks. These are world class kayaking waters. The river continues through narrow Browns Canyon where it flows away from the highway and is adjacent to a railroad. Its remote character and quality rapids make this the most popular segment.
With space at a premium, from Salida to Pardale the sinuous river threads its way across pools, riffles and moderate rapids, creating excellent whitewater and trout fisheries. U.S. Highway 50 parallels much of the river, providing fishing and boating access, family picnicking, wildlife viewing opportunities, and great spots to photograph friends rafting on the river.
The 1,000-foot sheer rock walls of Royal Gorge ascend above the segment of the river as it flows into Cañon City. Rapids such as Sunshine Falls and Sledgehammer make running this stretch an adventure.
Climate - The elevation of the Arkansas River ranges from 5,000 to 12,000 feet. Persons coming from lower elevations should be aware that time is needed to adjust to the higher elevations.
Warm days and cool to freezing nights can be expected in the mountains during the summer. July and August are usually the warmest months. During this time afternoon thunderstorms are common. Be prepared for both warm and chilly weather, as well as for rain showers.
Being at high elevation and fueled mainly by melting snow, the Arkansas is a rather cold river. During the spring runoff the river is full of freshly melted snow, and the temperature of the water is especially cold.
Please make sure that you dress appropriately when participating in whitewater sports. Wear shoes that can protect feet if you bounce off rocks or walk out of a canyon in the event of an accident. Wet suits are mandatory when air and water temperature added together total 100 degrees or less. If total is less than 80 degrees, a full set of waterproof or wool garments on top of the wet suit should be worn.
The Arkansas River flows for 150 miles from the old mining town of Climax east through Colorado following Highway 50 out of the state. There are hundreds of access sites, but the most popular are at Granite, Buena Vista, Fisherman Bridge, Ruby Mountain, Hecla Junction, Stone Bridge, Big Bend, Salida, Rancor, Vallie Bridge, Lone Pine, Pinnacle Rock, Spikebuck, Parkdale and Cañon City.