Welcome to ThinkVail – We hope you find this article about whitewater parks near Vail, Colorado helpful. This list of local whitewater parks in western Colorado ensures boaters and spectators enjoy a beautiful day riverside.
Whitewater parks, also known as kayak parks are dedicated areas on rivers constructed with boulders or man-made features to create waves, holes and eddies that allow boaters to hone their boating skills while having fun. Whether you enjoy kayaking, rafting, canoeing, SUP, packrafting, fishing, swimming, tubing, picnicking or just spectating these whitewater parks offer tons of recreational opportunities throughout the summer months.
Whitewater parks in Colorado are generally open from May though September but the actual season is dependent on the weather, the spring snow melt-off and the daily water flow of the river. Some park features may become too powerful to safely paddle during really big waters in the spring, likewise, if we have a very dry winter, the rivers may be too low by August to support boaters.
Whitewater parks in Colorado sit at high elevations, usually above 7,000 ft. and rivers running with freshly melted snow are very COLD. You must dress accordingly, wear a wet suit, a dry top, river shoes, and gloves to maintain body heat. In many places, you will need to wear these items into July or even August.
There are no fees or drop-in usage costs but paddlers use these areas at their own risk, as all parks are unsupervised. Helmets and personal flotation devices are required for safety. Also remember, during the spring run-off these rivers can be BIG and the river class increases. Make sure your abilities are equal to the class of river, or section of river, you are planning to run.
Whitewater parks are a great place to relax by yourself or with family, friends, kids and your favorite pooch. Well-behaved dogs on a leash are generally allowed in park areas but if you’re boating with your kids or dog, don’t forget a pint-sized PFD and a doggie life vest to keep them safe.
Check water levels and water flows before hitting these water parks so you know what to expect. You can monitor water flows by visiting the USGS website.
Completed in 2010, the Vail Whitewater Park is located in the heart of Vail Village, near Checkpoint Charlie where the International Bridge spans Gore Creek. This innovative park features an inflatable system designed to read the daily water level and automatically adjust to create an optimal wave for playboating. This makes the perfect wave for kayaks to surf in the spring and summer.
The whitewater park is bordered by the lovely Gore Creek Promenade, a grassy area and pedestrian walking area that is lined by restaurants, galleries and boutique shops and runs along the banks of the creek. This scenic, relaxing setting provides an ideal viewing spots for spectators and picnickers who want to watch all the action.
The Avon Whitewater Park was built in 2006 and creates a challenging, fun play area for all types of boaters on the Eagle River in Avon, CO. The park boasts three river features that perform optimally at different water levels so that boaters can play throughout the spring and summer. The water features are Baby Bob, Bob Jr., and Bob Sr. Whitewater Park and offers beginning, intermediate, and advanced paddling opportunities. Beware, in big spring runoffs the Bob Sr. wave can get very sticky and dangerous so be aware what the water level is and what your paddling abilities are before you tackle this one.
Whether you are a rafter, kayaker, canoer, paddle boarder or fisherman, this exhilarating section of river offers something for everyone throughout the season.
The Eagle River Park is the newest whitewater park in the area completed in 2019. It is a lovely 4.3-acre park that features two main components; the in-stream design and construction of a new world-class whitewater park and the Upland Park on the north side of the Colorado River. The park wraps along the Eagle River near the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo Grounds and Chambers Park in Eagle, CO.
This world-class whitewater park boasts four in-stream features for lots of fun and challenging play-boating. There is a beginner and intermediate wave features that is perfect practice for kayakers and paddle boarders. There is also two other more powerful and challenging waves for experienced boaters and a bypass chute, just in case you realize last minute that this is not for you! These bigger waves are perfect for loops, cartwheels and other freestyle tricks.
Eagle River Park is the first park in the world to use Rapid Bock pads to adjust the feature drops, waves and pools as needed by adding or removing blocks. It features waves, eddies, chutes, and drops that are fun to tube and float during low water times, but increase in size and power as the spring run off flow increases.
Since 2008, the Glenwood Whitewater Park with its main attraction, the G-wave feature, has been the perfect place for kayakers, stand up paddle boarders, and other boaters to show off and practice their skills.
Depending on the time of year, flows can range from 4,000 to 22,000 cubic feet per second. The park has 4 features including a large standing wave, a hole on river left, a smaller standing wave on river right and learning pools for practicing skills. During spring run-off when water levels are at their highest, the features blends to form one very wide wave. You can bypass these features and maintain stream navigability at all flows by using bypass area on far river right.
This innovative park boasts the distinction of being the first park to have a whitewater feature built on any stretch of the Colorado River
One of the longest established whitewater parks in the area, Clear Creek Whitewater Park opened in 1998 and is one of Golden Colorado’s most unique recreational areas. The park offers a 1/4 mile competitive course of exhilarating, splashing fun and seven city blocks of whitewater activity on Clear Creek, this whole section is ideal for kayakers, rafters, canoeist and experienced stand-up paddle boarders.
Clear Creek Whitewater Park is divided into three sections. The entire course is 800 ft in length and built with natural boulders and offers fast moving, cold water challenges. The top section is a series of drops and pools of different experience levels with some fast eddies. Farther on, the middle section features flat, broad, shallow surf waves with huge random boulders and the final bottom section offers advanced paddlers with more extreme surf and wave drops.
Thanks to the beautiful Arkansas River, Buena Vista boasts one of the finest whitewater parks in Colorado. The riverside park is over a 1/2 mile long and includes five (5) water features and numerous eddies and is a popular destination for amateur boaters and professional whitewater competitors alike. The features consist of the Uptown Wave, the Downtown Feature, and the LoDo Wave. These man-made artificial waves are perfect for beginners, intermediates and expert kayaks and stand-up paddle boarders. Small play boats can ride a wave or cavort in a hole all day long and entertain spectators who watch and cheer them on.
These water features work well in a wide range of river flows, so the park can enjoy a longer season.
The Salida Whitewater Park was created in 2000 and boasts several man-made waves and holes that will please any paddler from the beginner to the expert. This park is made up of four (4) world-class waves, a slalom course and is one of the best kayak surf and rodeo parks in the country. It is the ideal spot on the Arkansas River for kayaking, rafting, paddle boarding and tubing fun!
We hope you found this article about whitewater parks near Vail, Colorado helpful. Have you visited any of these whitewater parks? Which was your favorite and why? Do you usually come to the park with family and friends? Where is your favorite place to boat? What is your favorite feature of a whitewater park? Do you have any great stories about paddling in a whitewater park? We would love to hear your experiences. Thank you for your thoughts, comments and thanks for reading.