I'm in boulder. I've been kayaking a few times, definately a beginner. Looking for people to go with on the weekends and possibly weekdays after 6. Would also like advice on where would be a good place to put in with the water as high as it is now.
Your best bet to get some worthwhile "beginner level" experience & practice with other boaters around is probably to run the Golden whitewater park as often as possible. Then step into other runs when you have someone to go with. At Golden, even at relatively high flows, you just need to put in a solid forward stroke at the bottom of each drop and you probably won't flip, but if you do, you should be working on your rolls anyway, and if you fail to roll, swims aren't too bad there (or, at least, you won't find any friendlier place to swim in whitewater in the area)... you may have to chase your boat further during high water. I would park at the standard parking lot on 10th street across from Lions Park, hike upstream as far as you want, find a good put in, and get some practice. Repeat. There will almost always be other boaters running it, and you can meet other folks there if you're friendly.
Deckers is also good for beginners, as mentioned. Be sure to scout "the chutes" ahead of time and have a plan. Needless to say, its best to not go alone, post on the Trip Planner forum to find when others are going.
Filter plant run on the Poudre in Fort Collins is also a standard, fun beginner run if you don't mind driving about 70-90 minutes. Milk run (and eventually Browns) on the Arkansas are another weekend option. The Colorado from Grizzly Creek through Glenwood Springs and Cemetery Run on the Roaring Fork are good beginner options in Glenwood Springs (~2.5 hours from Boulder).
Colorado Whitewater (coloradowhitewater.org) does a several river cruises and weekends a year, some of which are beginner friendly. Definitely worth attending if possible, you'll meet people to boat with and learn from others. You missed the training camp last weekend, but there's still several events through the summer.
Filter Plant on the Poudre is sort of huge right not and not probably super friendly for a new beginner. The river is really wide, the mid-river rocks are all under water and eddies in a lot of places have to be caught by shooting in between trees or willows. It will come down but the Poudre is running really high right now.
I second the Deckers recommendation and you can also run what we call "the football field" below the Boulder gardens on Foxton to the stop sign which is class II/III. Make sure you scout and are in the right area, below the stop sign is solid class III.
Don't leave out lake paddling, you can work on your roll and paddle strokes and get conditioned for when the water comes down. We used to hit up the lakes a lot when we were learning during high water, we were always stronger for it.
Yeah I didn't really have the epic high water in mind so much when recommending Golden--good point about a boat going into Coors--not a good scenario. I haven't run it since its gone above 800 and there has always been a semi-lake before Coors but it sounds like everything's just barreling through there now.
Confluence park in Denver may be another option for class II paddling while Golden is above 800 or so.
I ran Apple Valley on the North Saint Vrain yesterday and its almost beginner friendly, but since the flood, there are enough trees and root balls (strainers) blocking half (or more) of the creek that I wouldn't really recommend it for beginners.
Deckers is running at a very beginner friendly 500 cfs - use the FLOWS tab - the Deckers run flow falls under the South Platte "Deckers to confluence with north fork". Flows vary wildly sometimes as this run is used to moderate flows in conjunction with the Roberts tunnel which brings water from the Dillon reservoir - so check before you go.
Deckers also has road access along it's entire length, a walk around the hardest drop - but why walk when there's a giant pool at the bottom ready to accept and (usually) retain any gear that might become separated from the boater whilst running the drop?
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