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Colorado Rafting Watered Down, Family-Style

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So you love whitewater and crave some time on the river but can’t bear to leave your young ones at home? Rejoice, there’s definitely hope. Sure, you’ll want to find a babysitter for the really little tots but for those 4 and up, there’s a surprisingly good selection of family-friendly options to consider when you get to dreaming of a Colorado rafting adventure.

With a season that runs from April to September, the Lower Animas River (near Durango) is at its mildest during period of low water, when rapids range from gentle Class I to relatively mild Class II riffs. Local operators typically offer half and full day trips on this one, and anyone 4 or older is welcome to ride.

For multi-day Colorado rafting, put the Dolores River, also in southwestern Colorado, on your list of possibilities. Your offspring need to be at least 10 to tackle this one, but provided everyone meets the age requirements you can plan to spend three or more days riding an uncrowded stretch of river during the months of April and May.

Good pretty much for all ages (as long as they are old enough to walk) is a half or full day run down the Gunnison River in west-central Colorado. Rapids are mild, swimming is encouraged and there’s plenty of wildlife to see along the way; with time to spare either side of the rafting trip you can do some sight-seeing in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

If you want just a little more action than the Gunnison has to offer, head for the Taylor River. Though the Upper Taylor can see a fair amount of white water action that isn’t necessarily kid friendly, a half-day float down the Lower Taylor offers rafters 8 and older a taste of foam without getting into frothing Class III territory.

And finally, a stone’s throw from Lake City there’s the Lake Fork River. Since the Lower Lake Fork can get a little hairy, you’ll want to take your children ages 7 and up on the Upper Box Canyon run. The scenery is good, the rafting is an entertaining Class II+ and with about three hours on the water you’ll find it just the ratio of rapids to energy levels.

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