With diverse backgrounds ranging from studying extraterrestrial fluvial geomorphology to being born in the jungle of Chitwan National Forest in Nepal, American Adventure Expeditions’ certified guides shepherd rafters of all experience levels down sections of the Arkansas River, navigating rapids of varying intensity and trip lengths. Half-day, full-day, and overnight trips plunge into world-class runs such as The Numbers, an advanced route with powerful Class IV rapids gushing through tight passages and down steep drops, or the more family-friendly Class II and III waters found within Brown’s Canyon for mild bumps and splashing contests with ill-tempered salmon.
Guides also pair up aquatic excursions with other extreme thrills such as mountain biking and zipline tours for combo adventures, or skip the water entirely during land-based adventures such as the Royal Gorge Route Railroad train tour. Additionally, two outposts sit along the river, and offer snacks, restrooms, and picnic areas.
From May to September, experienced guides at Buffalo Joe’s Whitewater Rafting lead tour groups of all levels down the crashing waters of the Arkansas River. As paddlers pass through the picturesque crags of Brown’s Canyon, Royal Gorge, and Wild Horse Canyon, they navigate rapids ranging from gentle splashes to powerful whirlpools, depending on the trip. Families with small kids can relax and admire wildlife as they float down Milk Run, and the class IV and V rapids in the Numbers section of Brown's Canyon challenge more experienced groups. Full-day or overnight expeditions include meals much heartier than standard outdoor fare: paddlers feast on USDA-approved top sirloin steak, a Buffalo Joe’s signature touch.
Buffalo Joe’s Whitewater Rafting also takes water skimmers on inflatable-kayak tours of the river and organizes private, guided fishing trips for fishermen hoping to catch an old boot to match the one they have.
The outdoors enthusiasts at Rock-N-Row lead rafting trips beneath the 1,100-foot walls of Royal Gorge and fly-fishing excursions in Bighorn Sheep Canyon so visitors of all fitness levels can experience the playground that is Colorado. In addition to rafting and fishing, Rock-N-Row's team plans outings that range from trail riding through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to rock climbing. Organizers also coordinate adventure combos to pack in more awe-inspiring moments and opportunities to show off extreme knot-tying skills. Seeing to clients' safety, Rock-N-Row's guides run daily equipment checks, and also claim certifications in CPR and first aid.
Whether issuing orders over the sound of roaring rapids or getting soaked by jets of errant river spray, the guides at River Runners all share a common thought: this sure beats sitting in an office. For more than 40 years, they’ve ferried passengers down the Arkansas River on jaunts into Bighorn Sheep Canyon’s class III and IV rapids or the challenging class IV and V rapids churning throughout The Numbers. They also explore the waterways running through the 2,000-foot-deep canyons in Dinosaur National Monument, breezing down the Utah River on one-day jaunts or arguing about whether or not T. rexes could feel love during a five-day exploration of the Yampa River.
Captain James Cook's nautical adventures have taken him from delivering yachts across oceans using only sextant navigation to earning the ASA's most-advanced instruction certification. Since 1986, he's channeled that oceanic expertise into Victoria Sailing School, where expert instructors help students of all skill levels earn ASA certifications and endorsements through hands-on techniques.
Before they set foot on a boat, however, aspiring seafarers get their feet wet in a safe classroom setting in the Colorado Executive Club Building. Upon passing their exams, they move on to practical sessions on the Cherry Creek, Lake Carter, or Chatfield Reservoirs, where they learn basic maneuvers or rig spinnakers on a J/22. More advanced students cut their nautical teeth on a J/30.
Along with sailing courses, 10-week coastal- and celestial-navigation classes help guests master the skills necessary for steering a course through the open seas, including an ability to decipher longitude, latitude, and the shouted, arcane demands of the moon. Weather for the Mariner classes teach students to analyze weather maps and prep strategies to avoid hurricane hazards.
Lyle Phetteplace fell in love with the outdoors and his home state of Colorado at an early age. Today, he runs Renaissance Adventure Guides so he can pursue his passion and allow others to experience adventure, too. The excursions he curates include hiking, kayaking, climbing, backpacking, and even sea kayaking, a skill beginners hone on the lakes of Colorado before moving on to distant ocean destinations, such as Costa Rica. Lyle and his team also design guided travel tours of the country, which presents excellent terrain for hiking, backpacking, and other activities.
The staff at Renaissance Adventure Guides believe outdoor adventures can bring people closer to their fellow participants and to the environment, so they treat each experience differently. They customize adventures to suit the abilities and goals of their customers, while also keeping groups at a manageable size so everyone receives personal attention and a unique, secret high-five. Because safety is always at the forefront of any expedition, they also offer avalanche training with instructors qualified by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. Additionally, they pass along their love of exploring to children through kids camps filled with days paddling the river.