Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT DO THE CLASS OF RAPIDS MEAN?
Most rivers in the world are rated on the International Scale of Whitewater I – VI.
Class I: “moving water”
Class II: “splashes”
Class III: “wet and fun”
Class IV: “big drops”
Class V: “violent rapids”
Class VI: considered “unrunnable”.
The Upper Piedra ranges from class II to IV depending on the water flow.
WHEN DO WE NEED TO MAKE RESERVATIONS?
Many of our trips book out so make your reservation as soon as you have chosen a trip and date. Feel free to call us, or book online!
HOW DO I TIP MY GUIDE AND HOW MUCH?
We cannot run tips on our credit card system, so please bring cash or get your guide’s digital wallet info (Venmo, Zelle, etc.) after your trip. Between 10% – 20% of your total trip cost is typical.
River Related FAQ
WHERE IS THE MEET LOCATION FOR THE UPPER PIEDRA RIVER?
If you make arrangements in advance, you can meet at our office in Durango in the morning to be shuttled to the put-in. Otherwise, here’s how you get there!
Google Maps Directions to Piedra River Put In
From Durango: Leave town on U.S. 160 East for approximately 40 miles, you will cross the Piedra River and turn left on Forest Rd. #622 (First Fork Road). Drive down this dirt road for one mile. Pull out on the left.
From Pagosa Springs: Leave town on U.S. 160 West for approximately 20 miles, just as you reach the Piedra River (do no cross the river) turn right on Forest Rd. #622 (First Fork Road). Drive down this dirt road for one mile. Pull out on the left.
IS ORIENTATION REQUIRED? WHAT’S INVOLVED?
Orientation is held the evening prior to your trip, and is totally optional. It includes a wetsuit fitting and a brief safety video for rivers of this nature. If you’re unable to make it, we’ll select a wetsuit based on the sizes you gave us, and give you more of a rundown of the paddling techniques before we hop on the river.
DO I HAVE TO WEAR A WETSUIT?
You sure do! The Piedra River is one of the coldest rivers in Colorado, and hypothermia is not on the agenda for these trips. Our neoprene wetsuits are 3-5 mm. If you prefer to wear your own wetsuit or drysuit, go for it! Just let us know its specs in advance.
DO I HAVE TO HAVE RAFTING EXPERIENCE?
You don’t necessarily have to have rafting experience for the Upper Piedra River, but you do need to know how to swim and have plenty of stamina. This is a very technical river, so be ready to paddle it up!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO RAFT THE UPPER PIEDRA RIVER?
The Piedra River is fed by the snowmelt of isolated basins in the San Juan Mountains, so its season is pretty brief, typically lasting from mid-May to mid-June.
It usually hits peak flows either the last days of May or first days of June. But as the weather is always a-changin’, keep an eye on the forecast for when it starts warming up, and keep in contact with us so we can let you know when it’s going to rip.
WHAT ARE RAPIDS LIKE ON THE UPPER PIEDRA?
The Upper Piedra fluctuates A LOT, but with that said, its rapids regularly churn out II, III, IV’s. The waterway is narrow and fast moving, so there will be some spots where you’ll need to be on point with the paddle commands as you shimmy between the canyon walls and the boulders.
The class IV’s come in the shape of pool drops throughout the run, which can be simple manuevers during low flows, or pretty rowdy when the water’s high. The Upper Piedra also sports great waves trains that send the raft bucking whilst bounding downstream. Luckily, there are some calm sections strewn throughout that give you a little time to in the scenery.
WILL WE SEE HOT SPRINGS ON THE TRIP?
Unfortunately, this section is not where the hot springs emerge along the river banks. If you feel so compelled before or after your trip, you can take the short hike to them. Check out the trail details here.
WHAT’S THE RAFT SETUP?
At high water, we use 16 foot rafts with oar frames on our Piedra trips. This allows the guide to have more control as they navigate the various obstacles along the way. Don’t worry though— you’ll still be paddling your butt off. During low water, we take the oar frames off to make it a paddle raft since the river is more manageable (and shallow).
HOW LONG IS THE SHUTTLE FROM THE TAKE-OUT BACK TO THE PUT-IN?
About 35 minutes.
MOST IMPORTANTLY— WHAT’S FOR LUNCH?
We use our favorite local deli for our lunch spreads, with vegetarian and gluten free options available.
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If you have more questions for us, bring ’em on!
Call us at 970-247-4789, or 800-567-6745
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