Colorado ground sports—hiking, mountain biking, climbing—are fun, but water (especially whitewater) sports are even better. And what could be more fun than paddling on a the liquid version of the substance you recently skied on? We have dozens of paddle-worthy bodies of water in our state, so, this summer, get on the whitewater wave train by learning how to raft, kayak, or standup paddleboard with one of the following quality-controlled outfitter-instructor-operators.

4 Corners River Sports

Colorado’s Largest Paddlesports Store

Located on the banks of the Animas River in the southwestern Colorado town of Durango, 4Corners River Sports has been helping folks enjoy their local waterways for more than 33 years. One of the oldest paddling stores and instructional centers in the state, it offers a full-service paddlesports retail store, paddle school and rental center. It also o ers outfitted river trips through an a liate guided whitewater rafting company. It strives to provide the highest quality of service, information and education for all types of paddlesports, whether it’s Class V whitewater kayaking, flatwater SUP touring, desert raft floats, kayak or canoe fishing and everything in-between.

Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center

Teaching Raft, Kayak and SUP Skills on the Arkansas River 

The big news for the 34-year-old RMOC is that they’ve moved from Salida to riverfront property in Buena Vista. The school runs instructional trips on the Arkansas River and all its instructors are American Canoe Association certified. They teach everything from basic strokes and balance techniques to safety and rescue to professional instructor/guide training. Plus, access to whitewater parks in Buena Vista and Salida provides world class educational venues. With over 100 miles of river, RMOC caters to all abilities, from mild to wild!. Sign up for a group half-day lesson ($75) or an all-day private one ($300).

Colorado Whitewater 

Promoting Paddling and Conservation Since 1954

Established in 1954, Denver-based Colorado Whitewater (CW) is one of the oldest and largest whitewater clubs in the country with over 600 active members. CW is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that promotes whitewater sports like kayaking, rafting, and SUP in the Rocky Mountain region. They teach paddling techniques and swiftwater safety, offer free river cruises for members, support river competitions and events and organize off-river events such as dinners, happy hours, and movie night throughout the year. Colorado Whitewater also strives to help resolve problems with river access, conservation and other issues concerning rivers and wilderness. Come join the club!

Western Slope SUP

Stand up paddle adventures in the North Fork Valley

Western Slope SUP benefits from two outstanding factors: They’re located in the North Fork Valley—gorgeous, unpopulated, and far, removed from the Front Range crush—and they’re in the heart of Colorado wine country. A typical SUP lesson here includes “getting to know your paddle board,” which can feel dicey for beginners. But founder Daniel Roman says, “SUP takes something that might be run of the mill—paddling glassy water with minimal rapids in a kayak—to something really exciting.” Learn stand-up paddleboard basics in a beginner lesson in Crawford State Park (half day; $45) or leap into river boarding in an half-day lesson on the Gunnison River for $65.

Rocky Mountain Paddleboard

Dedicated to the sport, lifestyle and commuity of stand-up paddleboarding

With three locations on the Front Range—Boulder, Longmont and Denver—Rocky Mountain Paddleboard offers rentals, beginner instruction, SUP Yoga, youth camps, river instruction and private-group catering. If you have never tried SUP, start here: Their goal and passion is to help first-time paddleboarders discover a new sport. New paddlers will overcome fears, embrace challenges, build community and engage with Colorado’s beautiful surroundings. Visit their retail store headquarters at Union Reservoir in Longmont for all your gear needs, including a large selection of new and used boards, or join the fun at the Paddle the Rockies SUP Classic + Paddle Festival and/or the five-year anniversary party.

Paddling Facts


Epic guidebooks created to document the state’s whitewater. The first, Colorado Rivers and Creeks, was released in 1999 (second edition). Whitewater of the Southern Rockies was
released in 2007, it includes more rivers descriptions (and river tales) while also covering the
surrounding states.


Number of Colorado rivers with Wild & Scenic designation. That would be the Cache la Poudre near Fort Collins.


The year FibArk, which reigns as America’s oldest river festival, got its start after two friends bet each other on a paddle race from Salida to Canon City. The festival, held the third week of June, now draws some 10,000 people each year. Meet up with the EO Live Outside and Play Road Show there this year!


Miles of the Colorado River as it winds from its central Colorado headwaters, through Arizona and the Grand Canyon and into Lake Mead. The iconic river system has long been diverted for power use, irrigation and drinking water. In fact, according to the Conservation Lands Foundation, some 30 million people in seven states use it as their primary source for municipal water needs.