Jan 26, 2022
Tips

Colorado River Kayaking: 5 Things You Need to Know

So, you’re ready for your next outdoor adventure. The Colorado River is a great place to have it. But as you probably already know, preparation is key. Before you hit the waters, let’s go over a few important considerations. Here are five things you should know ahead of your Colorado River kayaking trip.

5 Tips for Your Colorado River Kayaking Adventure

Tip #1: Decide Where on the River You Want to Kayak

The Colorado River is a whopping 1,450 miles long. It’s divided into two parts: the Upper Basin and the Lower Basin. If you go with the Upper Basin (which is where more experienced kayakers gravitate), you might be kayaking through Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming. If you opt for the Lower Basin, you’ll see parts of Arizona, Nevada, and California.

We know you might be feeling ambitious and thinking, “Let’s kayak the whole thing!” That’s not really possible without leaving your kayak and adding in a good deal of hiking. Also, it’s really far. Instead, what most people do is pick one section of the river to focus on.

For example, when you take a guided kayak tour with Evolution Expeditions, you’ll start at the opening of Black Canyon before descending into the emerald waters of the Colorado River. You’ll also see the Emerald Cave.

Tip #2: Consider Your Experience Level

If you’re eager for a challenge, we admire you! But you should still consider where you’re at in your own kayaking journey and what level of difficulty you’re looking for before your Colorado River kayaking experience.

When it comes to flowing water, it’s divided into three classifications based on the speed at which it’s moving:

  1. Class A: Flowing under 2 MPH
  2. Class B: Flowing at 2-4 MPH
  3. Class C: Flowing at greater than 4 MPH

You’ll also want to consider the difficulty levels of the rapids. Some parts of the Colorado River should be left to seasoned experts, while other areas are perfect for beginner kayakers. For reference, Class I is easy while Class X is for professionals.

It’s best to explore the Colorado River with an experienced guide. They can help you appropriately navigate the waters and tailor things to your personal experience level.

Tip #3: Consider All the Opportunities Along the Way

There’s so much more to Colorado River kayaking than just the kayaking itself. For instance, when you take a guided kayak tour with Evolution Expeditions, you’ll pass through giant volcanic boulders at the opening of Black Canyon. You’ll pause at dry land for a little bit of hiking. We stop at a remote beach for lunch and swimming. Along the Nevada and Arizona shorelines, you’ll be witness to desert bighorn sheep, osprey, falcons, bald eagles, and great blue herons.

It’s not just a day of kayaking. From start to finish, it’s an experience. When planning your excursion, think about all of the additional things you’ll see on the water and nearby beaches. Consider hiking opportunities and the wildlife you might run into. Make the most of your Colorado River kayaking trip!

Tip #4: Dress for the Environment

The mistake that many kayakers make here is to dress based on how the air feels. Rather, you want to dress for the temperature of the water. A wetsuit or drysuit might be necessary. (A wetsuit keeps you warm but isn’t waterproof. A drysuit is totally waterproof. However, used alone, it won’t keep you warm.)

If it’s going to be cold, dress in layers. However, avoid anything made out of cotton because it absorbs water and stays wet for longer. For your first layer (meaning whatever directly touches your skin), opt for something like quick-drying nylon or polyester. You want something that’ll protect you from not just the water but your body’s own sweat.

Even if it’s cloudy outside, you are still being exposed to the sun. A hat and sunglasses will come in handy. Sunglasses are especially helpful with the glare that bounces off the water. You can also look for clothing that’s created to protect you from the sun. It’ll have an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). Lastly, slather sunblock on any exposed skin.

And always, always, always wear a personal flotation device. Even if you don’t think you need it, even if the waters are very calm and quiet, wear it.

Tip #5: Always Keep Your Eyes on the Water

This is a good rule of thumb for all of us. Just like you should always wear a personal flotation device, you should always be vigilant about monitoring the waters. Even if the section you’re kayaking on the Colorado River is calm and smooth, the weather can change that quite drastically. 

Some parts of the Colorado River are much choppier than others. If you head into Class IV and V waters (and up), you’re at risk of capsizing if you’re not experienced. 

In general, out in Mother Nature, things can change in a heartbeat. This shouldn’t scare you! Rather, it should serve as a reminder that you should always be aware of your surroundings. If the weather is starting to look questionable and you’re not prepared to handle a turn for the worse, head back to dry land immediately.

With the right preparation and a knowledgeable guide, Colorado River kayaking can be safe, eye-opening, and memorable. Evolution Expeditions welcomes locals and tourists, beginners and pros, for an epic adventure out on the water. Contact us today about scheduling your guided kayak tour.

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