Staff Picks

Spotlight: The Arkansas River

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We’ve mentioned it in more than one post, whether to soar above it suspended from the Royal Gorge Bridge or to splash in it amongst its whitewater rapids. But now, we’d like to take a few lines just to tell you more about the river itself. We hear more often about the Colorado River, or the Rio Grande, but the Arkansas River is a bit of an unsung force. We think it’s worth celebrating. 

The Arkansas River starts high in the Rocky Mountains near Leadville, Colorado, and stretches all the way to eastern Arkansas. Within the state of Colorado, and right in the Pikes Peak region, there are 152 miles of whitewater– from Granite to Cañon City– that draws more than 175,000 guests every year. It’s all within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA), managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management. This is a pretty cool feature of the river since it benefits from what’s known as the Voluntary Flow Management Program, a program that works to maintain summer flows between July 1st and August 15 to support boating and trout fishing.

The Upper Arkansas River valley offers endless Colorado outdoor fun and recreation. So that after any whitewater rafting or kayaking trip visitors get to enjoy excellent fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, zip-lining, camping, backpacking, and more.

The long and winding natural treasure is also a cultural gold mine, too, with hubs along the Upper Arkansas River in the mountain towns of Buena Vista, Salida, and Cañon City where visitors can enjoy restaurants, museums, shops, galleries, spas, festivals, ghost towns, hot springs, and other unique attractions. The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park that spans the river is Colorado’s most popular tourist attraction. Of course from that height, what you can’t see, are the details. Fortunately, in 2015, President Obama designated 21,586 acres of those incredible details (pristine canyons, rivers, and backcountry forests in Colorado) as the Browns Canyon National Monument, thus protecting them from any land development or destruction. The former President designated the monument using the Antiquities Act of 1906, which protects “objects of historic or scientific interest.”

Browns Canyon includes 11,836 acres of the San Isabel National Forest and 9,750 acres of Bureau of Land Management land. It stretches between the communities of Buena Vista and Salida in Chaffee County, Colorado with elevation ranges from 7,300 feet to 10,000 feet that offer a backdrop for stunning views of the Arkansas River Valley and the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. The range formed more than 70 million years ago, is home to some of the highest peaks in the region, towering more than 14,000 feet in elevation. In fact, fifteen of Colorado's 58 14,000-foot peaks are located in the Upper Arkansas River region.

The natural resources star on the monument is the Arkansas River, which provides recreational activity on the river and along the shoreline. The monument area is a recreationist’s dream with plenty of opportunities to raft, kayak, bike, horseback ride, hike, nature watch, photograph, and stargaze.

See? We’re not the only ones who think it’s special. The Arkansas River is a national treasure, and when you visit the Pikes Peak Region, it’s yours to explore. Stay with us at Cheyenne Mountain Resort and enjoy the privilege of its waters, practically in your backyard.