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Guide To Water Adventures In Colorado

by Mark Armstrong, Editor, Kayak Guru

What a Rush! Water Activities to Do at the Heart of Colorado’s Historical Gold Rush

Idaho Springs, a much-frequented stop on the I-70, has a similar history to its neighboring towns. It started out as a mining colony in the late 19th century and gradually, it developed into the bustling tourist destination it is today. The summer and fall months provide exceptional conditions for all kinds of water-based activities, while winter gives way to skiers and snowboarders.

This historical location is ripe with fascinating history from the fabled gold rush, as well as adrenaline-inducing outdoor adventures. As such, both adrenaline junkies and history buffs alike will find plenty to occupy themselves here.

The outdoor activities are not, however, strictly limited to the hair-raising variety. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the scenic wilderness that don’t involve plunging down rapids. Clear Creek, the river that runs through the old mining town, plays host to several wonderful activities for people of all ages.

Read on to discover just what Idaho Springs can offer you, your friends, and family.

Whitewater Rafting

Clear Creek boasts exceedingly exciting and diverse rapids. You can easily find a rafting adventure suited to your level of experience, from absolute beginner to advanced. There are a variety of class rapids, with easy, free-flowing sections and technical routes that will challenge even the most seasoned rafters.

The renowned river offers multiple access points and varies in intensity—from Class I-V—making it a simple matter to tailor your adventure to fit your group. If you are a fan of epic river adventures, there’s nowhere better to sate your enthusiasm than Colorado. The Rocky Mountains are famous for producing some of the most thrilling whitewater routes in North America.

From Dumont to Lower Clear Creek, there’s something for everyone. From the more commercial, less demanding routes, to the intimidating Black Rock section, you will be hard-pressed to find someone who will not relish an experience on the narrow, winding Clear Creek.

Because of the high interest level in Colorado rafting, there are several highly qualified and professional guides to choose from. They’ll know exactly where to take you to give you and your group the ultimate whitewater rafting experience. They are all highly trained and experienced, so you will be in safe hands as you brave the rushing waters of Clear Creek.

Hot Springs

For those who prefer a more sedate and relaxing experience, the Indian Hot Springs are the ideal destination. This popular location boasts a naturally heated swimming pool, cave systems to explore, private natural baths, and several other tempting amenities. Their full-service spa will see you floating back to your accommodation on Cloud 9.

As the name suggests, the hot springs originally fell under the territory of two Native American tribes—the Ute and the Arapaho. They were often in conflict, but shared the therapeutic waters of the hot springs without coming to blows. Perhaps the nature of this ancient truce fuels the peaceful and healing properties of the temperate waters.

There are both family-friendly and adult-only facilities available at the Indian Hot Springs. The mineral water swimming pool is open to all and clothing is a requirement at all times, whereas the geo-thermal cave pools allow those above the age of 18 to enjoy the soothing hot springs au naturel.


Clear Creek is a hotspot for avid fishers, as the central river provides some of the best trout fishing in the country. There are plenty of quiet, isolated pools along the winding length of the creek that are teeming with fat, brown trout.

Certain sections of the river closest to Idaho Springs may yield rainbow and cutthroat trout, but brown trout is the prevailing species in the area. You can sometimes even find small concentrations of brook trout in the North Fork of Clear Creek.

Many fishermen have inadvertently missed Clear Creek on the way along the I-70. This is a dire mistake, as the creek provides excellent trout fishing conditions and incredible scenery. Load up your rods, tackle-box, and waders, and head on up to Idaho Springs for an unparalleled trout fishing experience.

Echo Lake

If what you seek is a tranquil and idyllic setting for water-based adventures, Echo Lake Park is the place for you. Nestled at the base of Mt. Evans, the picturesque lake offers stunning trout-fishing for mom and dad while the kids splash and play in the calm waters.

Bring a tube or inflatable kayak along, and spend the afternoon taking in the refreshing scent of the surrounding pine forest while exploring the surface of the lake at your leisure.

Upper Colorado Rafting

The Upper Colorado rafting experience is a less intense alternative to whitewater rafting. You and your group will be guided along placid sections of the Upper Colorado River, traveling at a gentle pace. The experience allows participants to take in the picturesque views of the mountainous wilderness and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Groups will also have the option to pause and take a dip in the natural hot springs.

The route is rich with wildlife, such as the Rocky Mountain Elk and North American Beaver. Bird-watching enthusiasts will want to bring their binoculars for a chance to spot indigenous species like the Belted Kingfisher and the Golden Eagle.

For those who want a fully immersive experience, there are one or two-night rafting/camping trips available. On these trips, groups will spend the bulk of the day rafting and swimming in the idyllic surroundings, setting up camp when it’s time to rest for the night. You don’t have to worry about food and tents—all you need to bring are your personal effects, clothes, a towel, and basic camping supplies such as bug repellent, water bottle, sunscreen, etc.

Idaho Springs has plenty in store for outdoor enthusiasts or those who are still finding their feet in the great outdoors. Whether you want to test your limits as an adventurer, soak in the mineral-rich hot springs, enjoy some prime trout fishing, or simply relax in the unspoiled wilderness, you will undoubtedly find an activity that appeals to you.