Kayaking & Rafting

kayaker paddling on calm river water with dark canyon walls on both sides
Only expert whitewater kayakers should attempt to paddle through the Black Canyon.

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Expert kayakers find the Gunnison River through the park an arduous challenge. This stretch of the Gunnison is for only the most experienced and well equipped kayakers; rafting is not possible in the canyon. The rapids within the park are considered Class V and some sections are unrunnable. This is a very technical paddle and includes numerous long, difficult and dangerous portages.

Kayakers run the river at their own risk. The Gunnison River through the park has claimed the lives of even the most experienced, respected kayakers. The river's hydraulics can make self-rescue or rescue by others impossible.

General Water Flow Guidelines

  • 750-950 cfs: Minimal hydraulics
  • 1200-1500 cfs: River is "pushy" with major hydraulics.
  • 1500-3000 cfs: River is very "pushy" with extreme hydraulics.
  • Above 3000 cfs: Kayaking should not be attempted even by experts, portages disappear, death is probable.

These are general water flow guidelines only. Local kayak experts suggest the unique hydraulics of the Gunnison River through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park make kayaking even more difficult than the above ratings.

Water temperatures are cold year-round, usually around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Swimming or wading is not recommended. Poison ivy is nearly impossible to avoid, and can be found growing 5 feet tall along the river.

Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area

Boaters traveling through the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness need to register and pay Gorge user fees. Gorge takeouts include Chukar and Gunnison Forks. Contact the Bureau of Land Management for information.

Last updated: May 20, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

102 Elk Creek
(GPS/physical address = 9800 Highway 347, Montrose, CO)

Gunnison, CO 81230



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