Now that the winter snows are melting and only one in-bounds place still open upon which to place skis, it’s time to think about liquid. The Gunnison-Crested Butte area is a gusher of liquid-oriented recreation, and here’s what you can expect this summer in the area…
The area is well known for outstanding rafting and kayaking, ranging from scenic Class I to fast-paced whitewater Class IV on the Gunnison and Taylor Rivers. There are also various options for boating on Blue Mesa and Taylor Reservoirs, trying tricks at Gunnison Whitewater Park, and taking part in the action during Gunnison River Festival.
Consistent snowfall and rain in May have outfitters enthusiastic about the upcoming season. “We are looking forward to a great season with fun-filled rafting. Releases out of Taylor Reservoir will be strong through the end of September,” says Mark Schumacher, owner of Three Rivers Resort & Outfitting in Almont. “There will be peak flows in the middle of summer and good flows for float fishing until the end of the season, so it will be much better than last year.”
To help make it easy to plan a trip that includes water fun, local businesses are offering several unique packages well-suited for couples, individuals, families or groups of friends. Among the offerings are a dinner float trip; rafting and rock climbing adventure; two nights lodging and a raft trip for $100 per person; and a horseback riding, rafting and lodging combo available through a luxury bed and breakfast.
Gunnison River Festival, June 19–23
The event kicks off on Wednesday, June 19 with a River Film Event hosted by Crested Butte Film Festival at I Bar Ranch, located adjacent to Tomichi Creek in Gunnison. Several short films and a feature film will be shown in the ranch’s open-sided, covered barn. Tickets will be sold at the door for $5. Dinner and beverages also will be available.
On Thursday morning, the Gunnison River Festival will take a group to nearby Curecanti National Recreation Area for a ranger-led Morrow Point Boat Tour of Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Transportation will be provided to and from the Gunnison Community Center, with a departure time of 8:30 a.m. and return time of approximately 1:30 p.m. The cost is $12 per person with pre-registration required due to limited seating. Contact the Gunnison Community Center at 970-641-8060.
The festival continues with the Gunnison River Festival Extravaganza on July 21 at Legion Park, starting at 6 p.m. Registration, information about the weekend, a beer garden and live music for the public will usher in the water activities for the weekend. Local band Rx Flannel will open the music set followed by Fort Collins-based, blues-fusion band Musketeer Gripweed taking the stage during the Summer Solstice sunset.
For a full slate of river activities, head to Gunnison Whitewater Park on Saturday starting at 9 a.m. A fly casting accuracy challenge, competitive down river raft race, community float, canine big air competition, kayak competition, boater cross, inflatable rodeo, and hooligan build-your-own boat race are planned. There also will be a kids’ zone with entertaining and educational options. The community float is another great chance for all ages to get on the water.
On Sunday, the festival moves to nearby Curecanti National Recreation Area for flat water action starting at 8 a.m. A stand-up paddle board race, kayak/canoe flat paddle race, one-mile open water swim competition and canine paddle are all on tap. For more information, registration and a schedule, visit www.gunnisonriverfestival.com or call 970-901-6215.
Rafting & Kayaking
Whitewater enthusiasts have been floating local rivers and streams in Gunnison and Crested Butte for years with the upper and lower Taylor River offering I to IV class waters and the Gunnison River providing class I to III options.
Various types and lengths of trips on rafts, kayaks and Duckies are offered by two experienced area outfitters: Three Rivers Resort & Outfitting (www.3riversresort.com) and Scenic River Tours (www.scenicrivertours.com). Fishing, zip lines, rock climbing and lodging are additional options offered by these outfitters.
Sail Western Colorado offers sunset sails, afternoon sailing excursions, instruction and certification on Blue Mesa Lake, Colorado’s largest body of water and part of Curecanti National Recreation Area. On sunset sails and excursions, learn some basics about sailing or sit back and enjoy the ride and a stop for a quick swim.
Sunset sails include wine, artisan breads, meat, cheese and olives. Consistent southwesterly winds that begin building in the morning provide ideal sailing conditions on this picturesque mountain lake that has 96 miles of shoreline to explore and encompasses 41,972 acres. Visit www.sailwesterncolorado.com or call 970-901-5360.
The marinas at Blue Mesa Lake offer pontoon boats, aluminum fishing boats, kayaks, standup paddle boards and fishing gear to rent. Make sure to take time and enjoy a meal or snacks on the deck of Pappy’s at Elk Creek Marina, which overlooks Blue Mesa. Go to www.bluemesares.com or call 970-641-0707. Also check out the campsites operated by Curecanti National Recreation by visiting www.nps.gov/cure.
Let someone else do the driving on a Morrow Point Boat Tour, a one and a half hour journey on the Gunnison River past waterfalls, stunning spires and the dramatic cliffs of Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The tour guide is a national park ranger who shares interesting history and facts about the area. Tours on the 42-passenger pontoon run twice a day, 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., every day except Tuesdays from early June through Labor Day.
Reservations and prepayment are required by calling 970-641-2337, ext. 205. Participants must be able to walk up and down a long flight of 232 stairs and take an easy, flat hike (3/4 mile each way) on a wide trail that borders the Gunnison River and leads to the boat dock. Visit www.nps.gov/cure.
Located at an elevation of 9,300 feet, Taylor Park Reservoir is a quiet and beautiful paradise for fishing, boating and camping. Taylor Park Marina has a fleet of 20- to 26-foot pontoons and 14- to 16-inch fishing boats with motors. The marina also has fishing tackle, provisions, a deli and grill, and more. Go to www.taylorparkmarina.com or call 970-641-2922. There are cabins and camping and RV sites in Taylor Park or stay in lodging properties in the Almont area.
Lodging, Adventure & Dining Packages
Scenic River Tours is offering an Inflatable Kayak & Rock Climb package that includes a two-hour class III inflatable kayak trip with one and a half hours of climbing instruction for only $100. For more information and reservations, call 970-641-3131 or visit www.scenicrivertours.com.
Visit early or late this summer and save big with Three Rivers Resort’s Rafting and Lodging for only $100 deal. From May 1 through June 13 or August 16-29, enjoy two nights in a lodge room or a small one-room cabin and one Upper Taylor River whitewater raft trip for $100 per person (total, not per night) based on double occupancy.
This deal also is available for a family of four with kids 12 and older staying in standard mountain chalet. Lower Taylor float trip can be substituted for families with kids under age 12. This package is not valid with any other offers or existing reservations, and lodging taxes are additional. To book or inquire about custom packages that feature other types of lodging and additional activities such as fishing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding, call 888-761-3474 and visit www.3riversresort.com.
Enjoy the area’s only Rocky Mountain dinner cruise where experienced guides row diners on a gentle, 10-mile route down the scenic Gunnison River from Three Rivers Resort in Almont to fine Italian cuisine at Garlic Mike’s restaurant in Gunnison.
The total time required is approximately three hours, and the trip is available seven nights a week during the summer and early fall (water levels permitting) with at least 24 hours notice and a minimum of four people signed up. Call Three Rivers Resort to book at 888-761-3474 by asking for the Float ‘N Dine package. One fee includes the float trip, vehicle shuttle and a voucher for Garlic Mike’s.
The Ruby of Crested Butte’s Raft, Ride and Reconnect Retreat adds a horseback riding element to the mix and is perfect for a family of four, two couples or a group of girlfriends. Stay three nights at The Ruby in June, July or August (based on availability) and enjoy a guided rafting trip on the Taylor River, a horseback ride through the wildflowers with Fantasy Ranch Horseback Adventures and daily organic hot breakfasts. Package prices start at $1,595 and are for up to four people. Visit www.therubyofcrestedbutte.com or call 800-390-1338.
Vacation Packages & Visitor Information
To save on flights, hotel rooms, vacation packages, car rentals and more, call the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association reservation hotline at 888-559-0841 or go to http://book.GunnisonCrestedButte.com. For destination information, call 800-814-8893 or visit www.GunnisonCrestedButte.com.