Clear Creek in Idaho Springs, CO is a magnet for whitewater rafting enthusiasts. You simply can’t beat the pristine, rushing waters surrounded by spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery. Adventure awaits just 40 minutes from Denver!
If you’re an experienced rafter, you may revel in the thunderous rapids pounding your raft as you and your friends navigate around tight turns and swift flows. But even if you’re a beginner or will be rafting with young children, Clear Creek has opportunities for you, too.
Are you heading out on your first-ever rafting trip this summer? Review these six essential tips for a safe and enjoyable journey.
Choose a Licensed, Professional Rafting Outfitter
Never go whitewater rafting without an experienced guide to show you the ropes. Hiring an outfitter is the best way to stay safe and make sure everyone follows the rules. Numerous companies operate on Clear Creek, so ask each one questions about their CPR and first-aid training, permits, years in business, and other qualifications.
Wear the Right Gear
Make sure you don the right equipment before stepping foot on the raft. Here’s what you need for safety and comfort:
- Life jacket: For a personal floatation device (PFD) to do you any good, you have to wear it correctly. The trick is to tighten the jacket so it can’t be pulled over your head. Ask your guide to help you put on your PFD to ensure a proper fit.
- Helmet: Whether you’re going on a high-octane thrill ride or a leisurely float down Clear Creek, always wear a helmet.
- Proper outerwear: For the most comfortable trip in chilly weather, plan to wear a wet suit and splash jacket. At the height of summer, quick-drying polypro clothing may be more appropriate. No matter the season, be sure to wear river shoes, sunglasses (with a strap so you don’t lose them), and sunscreen. Your outfitter should have the gear you need available for rent.
Pay Attention During the Safety Orientation
Your guide will offer a safety talk before the trip begins. This experienced rafter knows exactly how to handle any situation that might arise on the water, so put away your phone, stop daydreaming, and pay attention. You’ll have a chance to ask questions at the end if your guide fails to address any of your concerns.
Hold Your Paddle Properly
Your guide will explain how to hold your paddle during safety orientation. In short, place one hand at the base of the shaft and the other hand over the T grip at the top of the shaft. If you ever need to take one hand off the paddle, release the base of the shaft, not the T grip. Ask your guide for more details about the proper paddling technique.
Know the Commands
You’ll learn about these verbal commands during the safety orientation:
- Paddle forward: Everyone paddles in sync with the guide to lead the raft forward.
- Paddle backward: Everyone switches to a backward paddling motion to slow down the raft.
- Left back: People on the left side of the raft paddle backward while those on the right paddle forward to rotate the raft to the left.
- Right back: People on the right side of the raft paddle backward while those on the left paddle forward to rotate the raft to the right.
- Stop: Everyone stops paddling and lifts their paddles out of the water.
- High side: After hitting a rapid or other obstacle, everyone moves to the side of the raft that has lifted into the air to keep it from flipping over.
- Lean in: A rapid or steep drop is approaching, so everyone needs to lean in and place the paddle’s T grip on the floor of the raft. Keep your hand over the grip to prevent losing control if the rapids jostle you around.
Know What to Do if You Fall Off the Raft
First of all, don’t panic. Your life jacket will keep you on the surface, so your job is to find the boat, swim to it, and grab it as quickly as you can. Your fellow rafters can help you climb back in and continue on your adventure.
The best swimming position to catch up with a raft downriver is to float on your back with your head lifted so you can see where you’re going. Point your feet downstream, bend your knees slightly, and hold your arms out to act as rudders. Pro tip: To avoid bumping into rocks, don’t let your rear-end sink too low.
If you pop up far away from the raft, consider swimming to shore. Make sure you wait until the water is less than knee-deep before you stand up to avoid “foot entrapment.” From there, you can run ahead while the rafters slow down the boat, hopefully allowing you to climb back in.
Stop by Black Hawk After Your Rafting Adventures
Whether you choose a beginner’s route or try a more advanced excursion, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable experience rafting on Clear Creek. For a completely different kind of rush, stop by Black Hawk, just 10 miles north of Clear Creek on CO-119. You’ll find numerous restaurants, rooftop hotel pools, luxurious spas, and over a dozen casinos where you can try your luck at the slot machines, video poker, or blackjack tables. Come see for yourself why Black Hawk is one of Colorado’s top destinations!