|From early March through mid-September, Pagosa Country is a popular destination for rafters, kayakers and tubers. With waters inviting beginners to take a ride, or challenging experts to test their skills, area rivers provide something for everyone.
Flowing through the heart of downtown Pagosa Springs, the majestic San Juan River is perfect for the beginner or those who enjoy a gentle float. Offering superb views of the town and, farther downstream, spectacular shale cliffs, rafting or kayaking trips down the San Juan begin as early as March (when wet suits are required) and continue until the season peaks in May or June.
By mid-summer, river flows dramatically taper off and, while rafts and kayaks disappear from the river, activity continues to bustle as tubers take to the waters. Beating the summer heat in the cool, refreshing waters of the San Juan, tubers can bring their own tubes or rent them from local businesses, enjoy surfing several river features or just enjoy a languorous glide down the lazy river. People wade in the cool waters and gather on the banks of the river in this superb recreational corridor running from one end of town to the other. Even when flows are at a minimum and river speeds drop to a gentle flow, young children should always enter the river with a life-vest and never without direct adult supervision.
More experienced boaters can test their skills about 23 miles west of Pagosa on the Piedra River. During a brief 6-8 week season (from May through June), waters boil over class III to IV rapids through a pair of breathtaking box canyons offering kayakers and rafters a challenging ride on nearly 20 miles of wild river and whitewater.
Further west, the upper Animas River enjoys a reputation as one of the top five stretches of river rafting thrills in North America. With a season starting in late May and ending in early August, these waters rank high for both scenery and intensely long stretches of rapids. In high water, the Animas runs with continuous class III rapids and stretches of intermittent class IV and V whitewater.
A little south of Pagosa Springs, in New Mexico, trips on the Rio Chama are offered in 1-3 day blocks. A mild-running river (with only class II rapids), the Chama offers a scenic stretch of water passing by multi-colored sandstone cliffs, spectacular canyons and a landscape that provided inspiration for American painter Georgia O’Keefe.
Several Pagosa Springs companies offer guided rafting trips that can last from three hours to three days. Visitors are encouraged to call a week in advance to secure the date of their choice (multi-day trips may require longer notice). Local companies also offer equipment rental, from kayaks, rafts and associated gear, to daily rentals of tubes for mid- to late-summer relaxation.
From raging rapids to gentle runs, soaring cliffs or deep canyons, cityscape and backcountry, Pagosa Country has it all when it comes to river rafting, kayaking or tubing.