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Arkansas River. Adrenaline-charging rapids range from Class II to Class V on Colorado's Arkansas River, one of the most commercially rafted and challenging rivers in the world. Among the most fabled stretches of the Arkansas are the Narrows, the Numbers, and Browns Canyon, but extreme paddlers tend to jump on trips through the Royal Gorge, which the river has carved out over eons. Plan your trip for the early summer snowmelt for the biggest thrills. Buena Vista, CO.
Independent Whitewater. This family-owned company has been running the Arkansas River since the 1980s. Groups are small, and the take-out is at a private area after running Seidel's Suckhole and Twin Falls on regular half-day trips. 10830 CR 165, Salida, CO, 81201. 800/428–1479 or 719/539–7737. www.independentrafting.com.
River Runners. This long-respected outfitter offers rafting trips on the Arkansas River, including the Royal Gorge stretch, which is classed expert, but there are other choices on the river for families who want a gentler experience. 24070 County Road 301, Buena Vista, CO, 81211. 800/723–8987. www.whitewater.net.