Get your helmets and life vests ready—this family-friendly rafting river serves up class I, II and III rapids as it winds through Colorado shrub land and downtown Durango. Calmer than its wild upper reaches in the San Juan mountains surrounding Silverton 48 miles north, Durango’s stretch boasts calm bends as well as several named rapids including “Smelter,” “Pinball,” and “Santa Rita Hole,” as it passes the fairgrounds and the buildings of downtown. Though it still can be a wild ride, most guided tours will take kids as young as five years old. Rafting adventures run from May to September.
In the height of summer when the river is warmest and lowest, tubing is also a popular past time. The city runs shuttles from the parking and take-out at 9th Street at Schneider Park to the put-in near the Recreation Center where there’s free air fills for tubes. South of town a four-mile stretch of river has achieved notoriety as an excellent fly-fishing spot for rainbow and brown trout.
If you’re in Durango in the off-season, you can still enjoy the river and its downtown views via the Durango River Trail. The walking path has pedestrian bridges and sculpture installations and follows the course of the river through the city.
More than a dozen commercial outfitters in downtown Durango offer rafting excursions. Most are half-day, professionally guided and include gear rentals. The put-in for commercial tours is at 33rd St. or 29th Street where they intersect with East 3rd Ave.
Additional thermal gear is recommended in the early season months of May and June.