From flat water paddling on a local lake to rafting or kayaking world class white water, the Pikes Peak Region offers an abundance of water activities ideal for a variety of activities and skill levels.

Just one hour from the Colorado Springs area, rafters and kayakers will find some of the best white water in the country on the Arkansas River. With over a hundred miles of river and rapids ranging from gentle class I to adrenaline-pumping class V rapids, you’re sure to find the perfect level to get out and explore the river.

For water enthusiasts who prefer a calm lake rather than moving white water, you’ll find a series of high mountain lakes boasting incredible mountain vistas of Pikes Peak just west of Colorado Springs. Several paddling options are also available within Colorado Springs where you can practice your kayak roll or try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding.

Before You Get Started

Daily park passes are required for private rafting and kayaking in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area – this includes the popular Royal Gorge and Browns Canyon sections of the Arkansas River. Fee information can be found here.

For those paddlers choosing to utilize a commercial outfitter for their river adventure, the cost of your trip will include all necessary park use fees.

The North Slope Recreation Area includes North Catamount, South Catamount, and Crystal Reservoirs and is accessed off Pikes Peak Highway. There is a $5 fee per person (16 years and older). Children under 16 are free. Be sure to tell the toll gate attendant you are only accessing the reservoirs to avoid a higher toll rate fee. If you plan to fish as well, a Colorado fishing license is required for those age 16 and older. Use fees are required at some city park reservoirs including Prospect Lake and Quail Lake. Rampart Reservoir is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and requires a $6 fee for day use.

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The Leave No Trace Seven Principles for River Corridors

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Learn about river-specific issues, regulations, and permits.
  • Use a river guidebook and map to plan your trip.
  • Schedule your trip so that you encounter appropriate river flows for your group’s ability.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use; visit in small groups.
  • Repackage food to minimize waste.
  • Know river skills and carry the necessary equipment to minimize your impact.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include rock, gravel and sand.
  • Focus activity where vegetation is absent.
  • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
  • Select a campsite large enough for your group.
  • When on day hikes in the river corridor, walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when muddy.
  • In pristine areas, disperse use to prevent creation of new campsites and trails.
  • Leave campsites clean and natural looking.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Pack it in, pack it out.
  • Use a washable, reusable toilet or other approved method to pack out human waste, toilet paper and tampons. Check local regulations.
  • Liquid wastes can be dumped into main current in many high volume (over 500 cfs) rivers. In low volume rivers, scatter liquid waste 200ft from water, away from camp and trails. Check local regulations.
  • Urinating directly into the river is often the best option. Check local regulations.
  • Use a tarp in the kitchen to catch food and trash, which attract unwanted animals.
  • Pack out all small food particles and small pieces of trash.

Leave What You Find

  • Appreciate ancient structures, artifacts, rock art and other natural objects, but leave them undisturbed.
  • Do not build structures or dig trenches in campsites.
  • Avoid introducing non-native species, including live bait, by cleaning equipment between trips.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Minimize campfire impacts by using stoves.
  • Use a fire pan or designated fire ring for open fires and charcoal.
  • Elevate fire pan and use a fire blanket to catch embers.
  • Use dead and downed wood no larger than an adult’s wrist to keep the fire small.
  • Consider bringing your own firewood or charcoal.
  • Burn all wood and charcoal to ash. Carry out ash with other garbage.

Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed wildlife; it damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife by storing food and trash securely.
  • Control pets or leave them at home.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, or when food is scarce.

 Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Communicate with other river visitors about your floating and camping plans.
  • Leave larger camps for larger groups.
  • Avoid camping or eating near major rapids where scouting and portaging take place.
  • Non-motorized crafts usually have right-of-way over powerboats; slower boats should keep to the right.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail.

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles are reprinted with the permission of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. For more information, visit www.LNT.org.



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The content on this page was provided by SUP Colorado Springs