Colorado Whitewater Rafting Through Dinosaur National Monument

Colorado whitewater rafting trips are more than just a chance to paddle through rolling waters. Lie under star-studded night skies next to a crackling campfire, hike through Native American cultural sites, admire red-rock geology or indulge in an icy bath underneath a waterfall.

Updated: February 20, 2024

Here to guide you on your excursion is OARS, a family-owned and -operated rafting outfitter with more than 50 years of experience in leading travelers through the wonders of Dinosaur National Monument — and who pride themselves on providing top-value outings that’ll make lifelong memories. Ranging from Class III to Class IV whitewater rapids, a trip with OARS offers excitement for the family amid breathtaking canyon scenery.

Yampa River Rafting

This four- or five-day Colorado rafting and camping trip along the Yampa and Green rivers offers an exciting journey through colossal rock formations as well as hiking to historical artifacts in Dinosaur National Monument.

The beginning of the Yampa River rafting trip promises peaceful, yet playful, Class III waves perfect for leisurely rafting among the desert-like landscape (keep an eye out for the bright-red flowers of blooming hedgehog cactus in early summer). This trip is ideal for less-experienced rafters. During high water — typically mid-May through mid-June — kids ages 10 to 12 are welcome to join; throughout the rest of the season, OARS requires a minimum age of seven.

As your guides steer you on this rafting trip, you'll spot sites that’ll convince you you’re on another planet. The Grand Overhang, for instance, is a giant rock face that looms regally beside the river in striking red, yellow and orange stone. Nearby is the Tiger Wall, which is just what you’d expect — streaks of black manganese oxide, also known as “desert varnish,” against beige sandstone, resembling the fur of the jungle dweller.

As the trip progresses to the confluence of the Yampa and Green rivers, your rafting guides will expertly maneuver you through challenging Class IV whitewater rapids — hold on tight for exciting turns, splashes and dips in these more turbulent waters.

Throughout the trip your OARS guides will slide the raft onto a sandy beach, so you’ll be able to soak in the sun, float on the water in an inflatable kayak or stretch your legs on a small hike. A walk to Stubs Cabin, a 1900s cattle homestead, will reveal remnants of Old West outlaws and the Yampa River’s cowboy history. Further down the river, you can hop out and trek to Fremont-era rock art and the ancient drawings of the Ancestral Puebloans — another window into the area’s fascinating past.

Guides are happy to stop and whip up a picnic lunch and hot dinner wherever the group decides to post up. As the days wind down, you can play horseshoes, throw a Frisbee or relax on the shore under the twinkling night sky. Gaze up and you’ll understand immediately why camping is so spectacular in Dinosaur National Monument — after all, it is an International Dark Sky Park.

Want to connect with nature, yourself and new friends among striking scenery? OARS also offers all-adult and mindfulness-centered versions of the Yampa River trip.

Green River Rafting Through the Gates of Lodore

This three-, four- or five-day Colorado whitewater rafting trip into Dinosaur National Monument features calm waters, streaming waterfalls and side hikes through historical landmarks.

The put-in on the Class III waters of the Green River places you in the heart of stunning red-rock canyons under vibrant blue skies. These rapids will keep you engaged with moderate waves and obstacles, but are perfect for beginners. Kids ages 10 to 12 are invited on this adventure during early season high water, and during the rest of the year, children as young as seven are also welcome aboard.

While your guides lead you through these waves, you can revel in the majesty of the Gates of Lodore, a deep valley that gapes open as the river curves, revealing more lofty rock walls and water edges speckled with juniper.

With frequent stops along the route, there will be many opportunities to swim, paddle in an inflatable kayak or enjoy a picnic lunch among the soaring rock formations. You’ll also have plenty of chances to explore the surrounding areas. Ever bathed in cascading spring-fed water? Get a freezing rush under Rippling Brook, a trickling waterfall waiting along a creek trail tucked in a side canyon. A drier experience awaits hikers at Winnie’s Grotto, a narrow path that zigzags through craggy stone walls, opening up to blue sky and an overlook of the pine-tree-laden ravine below.

OARS guides can also lead you through Echo Park, an open plot of standalone plateaus where you can admire Native American petroglyphs — drawings of humans, sheep, birds and other wildlife — from thousands of years ago. Or, hike to Whispering Cave, a short tunnel housed by a towering sandstone face that stretches seemingly forever as you look up; head inside the cave through tight paths and reach up to touch the low ceiling, which is millions of years old.

At the end of each day, guides will prepare a hearty meal to help stave the appetite you worked up, but you’ll have the freedom to roam before chowing down. Explore the land with friends, family or solo, and come back to camp to enjoy dinner and laughs by the campfire.

OARS offers all-adult and women's rafting trips on the Green River through the Gates of Lodore, so you can bond with others while adventuring through these jaw-dropping sights.

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