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Get to Know our Local Rivers

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When you think of river running destinations in Colorado, towns like Salida, Durango or Glenwood Springs come to mind. Classic runs like Browns Canyon, Shoshone, and the Royal Gorge have been taking clients to the edge for years. “Sledgehammer” (IV/V), “Raft Ripper” (III/IV) and “Upper Death” (VI) are etched into the minds of river running enthusiasts around Colorado. But who has ever heard to “The Ledges” (III) or “Paul’s Falls” (III)? Who has ever heard of Anthracite Creek?

The little town of Hotchkiss, Population 907, is relatively unknown outside of Colorado’s Western Slope. But as traditional vacation destinations around Colorado are becoming busy and crowded, more people are discovering our small, sunny town. One thing they are discovering here are the rivers: The Gunnison, North Fork of the Gunnison and Anthracite Creek. These three rivers offer the full gamut of experiences that river runners seek. From heart pounding whitewater on Anthracite Creek, to beginner level rapids on the North Fork, to a lazy float through the Canyons of the Gunnison, Hotchkiss has it all.

So far this year, Western Slope SUP has helped over 360 first timers discover these local rivers. The consensus is unanimous. There are some real gems here in Hotchkiss. Here are their bios:

The Gunnison River: The ultimate “not-so-lazy” river cuts an 8 mile desert canyon below the town of Hotchkiss. The water is predominantly calm and smooth, with a few fun splashy class I/II rapids thrown in. Fishing, tubing, kayaking and now stand up paddle are become popular in this natural playground.

Our stand up paddle tour on the Gunnison River. Great for first timers!

Our stand up paddle tour on the Gunnison River. Great for first timers!

North Fork of the Gunnison: This 33 mile long river begins in the pine forested West Elk Mountains and ends in spectacular desert canyons. It flows through the towns of Somerset, Paonia and Hotchkiss. Along the way it features continuous gradient, which means exciting class I-III rapids from start to finish, including the half mile long “Ledges” section between Paonia and Hotchkiss. The scenery in the North Fork Gorge, below Hotchkiss cannot be beat. The gorge is home to dripping springs, waterfalls and fascinating geologic formations.

High water on the North Fork of the Gunnison River

High water on the North Fork of the Gunnison River

Anthracite Creek: This raging creek is a tributary of the North Fork. The six mile section which we raft, features continuous class II/III whitewater. There is no adventure in our area, on or off the river, more extreme than a raft trip on Anthracite.

A wild ride on Anthracite Creek.

A wild ride on Anthracite Creek.

Western Slope SUP offers guided tours on all three of these local rivers. The North Fork and Anthracite Creek generally run during the months of May and June only, while the Gunnison is boatable every day of the year. Though our tours are suitable for beginners, only experienced, highly competent boaters should attempt to run these rivers without a guide. Want to learn more about our rivers? Call or email WSSUP any time!

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