River Runners Browns Canyon, Buena Vista, CO.

It was suppose to reach 114 for a high on the day we left for Colorado, and as much as I love Texas, there are times when you just need a little reprieve from the Texas heat!  We were on the second day of our Road Trip to Rushmore Summer Vacation, and we wanted to spend a few days in Colorado before heading to South Dakota, and of course in Colorado, what we wanted to do was rafting the river!

Thanks to River Runners for inviting us out for an incredible adventure!  While they did provide us with a complementary day on the river and campsite, I was not financially compensated for this post, and as always, all opinions are my own!

River Runners Summer 2018

We left Texas about midnight, on purpose, so we could witness the beauty of the New Mexico Summer Night Sky!  I stopped in a completely dark stretch of road and we all piled on top of the car and just sat in awe of the stars and brightly lit Milky Way!  In Colorado, while my husband and kids slept, I left I-25 shortly after going through Raton Pass, and drove all night on Highway 69, never seeing another car!  I did see a few deer and big birds on the road, only later to see a sign warning me of Eagles feeding on the highway, but I’m pretty sure those were owls!  As the sun was coming up over the Arkansas River, we pulled in to Buena Vista and River Runners Camp.  I had scheduled a 2pm trip on the river, which meant I had about 6 hours to sleep.

River Runners Campsite on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, CO.

My son put up our tent, a huge, quick-set up tent I purchased at Sams Club just for the trip!  While I tried to get a little sleep, the kids, who had slept the whole way, were quickly getting out their fishing poles to try to catch some Brown Trout, and exploring the river!  Honestly, I was too excited to sleep for long!

River Runners Whitewater Rafting on the Arkansas River in Colorado

We grabbed lunch about noon and got ready for our trip!  We were taking a four hour trip through Brown’s Canyon, with some Class 3 rapids.  River Runners also has a calm family float for your first time, for kids as young as 3 years old, and some more exciting trips, like The Gorge and The Numbers!

Kids as young as 6 can go on Brown’s Canyon trips.  My daughter’s first trip on Brown’s Canyon was when she was 12, with Girl Scouts.  She has loved it ever since!

River Runners Whitewater Rafting on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista Colorado

A few tips: 

It’s a really good idea to eat something before your trip, because it’s 4 hours and no stopping along the way, and no time to pull out some snacks to eat.

There are no potty stops either, so go before you go…  they have nice restrooms with showers if you need one afterwards.

Bring a larger water bottle that you won’t cry if you lose.

Leave phone, keys, wallets, etc  in your car.  Don’t bring anything you might not want to lose.

I double strapped my Ricoh Water-Proof, Adventure Proof camera to my arm, just in case.  You need your hands and arms free to paddle the raft (unless you pay more to have someone paddle for you, which is an option).

We wore shorts and since there was rain in the forecast, as seems to happen a lot during the summer in Colorado, we wore their splash jackets, which kept us warm since we are from Texas and not use to being cold during the summer!  They also provide a helmet and PFD (both are required), as well as booties for your feet.

Before we all jumped on the rafts, we listened to a safety talk about different hand signals, how to stay in the raft, and what to do if you fall out, or the boat flips over.

Your feet are what you use to anchor yourself inside the raft, and your guide will help you to keep the raft from flipping.

River Runners Summer 2018.jpg

Soon we were on the river, and what an incredible rush!

Our guide, Mike, was incredible!  We talked his ear off the entire way, and he interacted constantly with my 10-year-old, who sat closest to him in case he needed any help.  He told us is a teacher in Phoenix during the school year, and comes to Colorado each summer to work as a guide!

The first part of the trip was pretty easy, which was nice because it gives you a chance to get your paddling and balance in the boat down.  Mike told us about places to visit, where to eat in town and all about The Numbers and The Gorge, the class V rapids, while we gently paddled along, getting use to him telling us when and where to paddle.

Once you enter Brown’s Canyon, the speed picks up a bit!  It was definitely challenging, and a great first time on the river!

Leo River Runners Summer 2018.jpg


We didn’t fall out.  We really only had one close call, and that was because another raft was on a rock, and we were stuck for a minute.

In fact, the whole time we were on the river, we only saw two people fall out.  No boats flipped at all, that I saw.

During a slow part of the river, the kids all had the chance to jump out and swim, which they did!  I joked about wanting to get in the water, but not being sure I could get back in the boat, but Mike assured me I could.  Just so I could report if it was easy or not, and not at all because I REALLY wanted to go swimming, I jumped in!  After a minute, because the water really is COLD, Mike grabbed me and pulled me in easily!

We did have another chance to jump back in the water at the take out, where the water is slow and there is a wait for the rafts ahead of you.  I was not ready for it to be over!

While they loaded the rafts on the trailers, there were restrooms!  I was relieved because I thought the only option was that cold river!  The bus ride back took about 20 minutes.

River Runners Grill in Buena Vista Colorado

River Runners Campsite on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, Colorado

Of course, when we returned, we were starving!  We grabbed some fish tacos and bratwurst, and a few sips of a cold margarita, then as soon as I had a shower and was changed into dry, warm clothes I was ready to sleep!  Literally, I think I was back in my tent by 8pm, and asleep before the sun went down!

River Runners Campsite on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, Colorado

My husband and kids stayed up long enough to eat and play, then they fished until the sun went down.

River Runners Campsite on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, Colorado

Just a few feet from the river, the sound of it lulled me into a wonderful night’s sleep, and I awoke early to find tiny little bunnies all around our tent!  Of course, as soon as I moved they all vanished.  The campsites are huge, and my daughter was thrilled that we stayed in the same one as she did as a Girl Scout!

River Runners Campsite on the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, Colorado

We quickly and quietly left the campgrounds in search of food and coffee that morning, ready to head to South Dakota, but taking a part of Colorado with us.  Literally.  I found about 15 rocks my son had picked up.

A Little More Information

River Runner also offers overnight rafting trips, inflatable kayak trips and even paddleboards!  It’s all located in Beautiful Buena Vista, which is an incredible little town!  Take your bikes or rent some when you get there, they have great trails!

Traveling with your dog?

They don’t allow dogs on the rafts, but the campground is VERY dog friendly!  There is a neat little doggy daycare in Buena Vista, where you can drop off your furr baby while you raft the river, called Gone to the Dogs!  Click HERE to visit their website.

Things to do in Buena Vista, CO


For a fun-filled evening, check out the Comanche Drive In Theater!  Click HERE to visit their website.

Buena Vista is a hub for hiking and climbing nearby 14,000 ft. Princeton Mountain!  Click HERE for some easier, but still beautiful hikes around Buena Vista!

The Arkansas River is also full of Brown Trout!  Rent a guide with ArkAnglers and spend a day learning how to fly fish, and catching them!  Click HERE for more information.


The Merrifield Homestead Cabins are historic cabins with hot springs tubs and while I haven’t stayed there, that will change with out next visit to Colorado!  They look amazing!  Click HERE for more information.

River Runners

24070 County Rd 301, Buena Vista Co

Click HERE to visit their website.

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