When spring arrives and the rivers swell with snowmelt, paddlers start to pull their gear out of storage to get ready for rafting season. There are some who are in it for the thrill: They seek out Class IV and V rapids, eager for the stomach flip and technical savvy it takes to navigate that kind of water. Others choose to enjoy a slower moving experience, enjoying the scenery on Class I or II water with a little thrill thrown in here and there.

Famous sections along the Arkansas River (Browns Canyon, Royal Gorge) draw people from all over the world for some of the heaviest water in North America. The Colorado River at Glenwood Springs and the Animas River near Durango offer a more laidback float better for families and young children. Note that the intensity of the rapids changes as the summer progresses. Less snow on the peaks means less snowmelt in the rivers. August and September are the perfect months for families and new paddlers.