My first white water was Filter Plant run on the Poudre, although it could stand to be a bit easier for brand new boaters' first run.
At lower flows, ~100-150cfs, I think the Boulder Creek Whitewater park is a great place to teach basic theory, eddies, bracing etc. The pools are deep and calm.
Yarmony to State Bridge. Last I looked it wasn't as high as Filter Plant. You might swim for a while on FP while its 4' on the rock. There's certainly nothing technical on it, in fact it's washed out. It's just fast and may look intimidating for a newbie right now. Its a great newbie place when the water is lower. (All IMHO)
The Colorado from Dotsero up. Get off at the Dotsero exit just before Glenwood Canyon. There is an obvious take out at a bridge from there drive up the road as far as you feel like running. There are several established parking/river access spots along the way and the river is scoutable from the road the entire way as well.
I learned on the section we locally call the "Upper C", Rancho Del Rio to State Bridge on the Colorado, same as someone else said. Flows most of the year. I like it because I start newbies on flatwater, teach them strokes, get them used to their boats, etc. Then they hit short sections with small waves and holes. The last wave train has a huge eddy river left and flatwater afterwards. YOu can take more agressive 1st timers to try a surf or paddle back up to the top of the waves and eddy turn in to the current. (We call this little rapid re-run or re-wind). Worst that happens is thye swim into the lake-like eddy afterward which is also a good spot for roll practice.
Take out is free on river right at state bridge lodge through the fenced tunnel under the tracks, or "Toll Booth Willie" will clip you for a few bucks on river left at the obvious boat ramp area.
There are alternate put ins that allow for more or less flat water too. (The bridge downstream from Rancho has good access) Pumphouse to Radium upstream is pretty similar with a few slightly less forgiving rapids, but still beginner stuff.
Dotsero is a great stretch to teach/learn on. Closer to home ie front range i learned on the north fork of the south platt from just below the rock garden to the first harder drop 100 yards up stream from the road junction comming down from 285. there is a great area with two big boulders that causes a pinch with a deep channel and good eddies on both sides. I spent hours there going back and forth flipping swimming and learning. the whole run is maybe 2 miles and real nice. check it out.
The Deckers Chutes run is mostly 2/-3 due to the amount of maneuvering around all the rocks in the river with no huge major rapids, the only big slide/drop is the Chutes and its a 3+/4 depending on the flow but it has a nice pool at the bottom kind of like Union Chutes does, you can tell the Chutes by the big NO TRESSPASSING signs everywhere to keep swimmers and tubers out.
There are lots of PI/TO choices all up and down the road.It's all eazy to road scout and portage too.
Right now the section above the Chutes is an eazy run below the Chutes is a little more demanding.
Also here in town is the 470 to Bowles run on the S. Platte Lots of flat sections with a few little slides simalar to #4 at Union Chutes and you can eazily protage the 2 big ones behind Aspen Grove. It takes a couple of hours to float.
Add me to the list of people that found your post thought provoking and timely. I'm still feeling guilty over a swim I had in a run that I had no business being on. Friends and unknown friends had to pull me out. I hate to even think about it, I still feel like poop about it a year later. I'm gaining experience every year though and I have a much better idea of the things I won't do.
I want to have fun, not be scared for a whole run. Thankfully my boating buds dont' give me a hard time if I'm gripped and walk. Well, they might give me friendly shiat, but I know they're kidding.
I wish there was a rating system for experts and a separate one for newer, non-hair boaters. I now know that Tom Chamberlain's class II-III is my class III-IV. Does that make sense? The same goes for flow colors. Usually if its green, its big in my book. A whole other topic I suppose, but pertinent in that just going with the guidebook's rating can be misleading to us newer boaters at times.
There is a fairly calm section of water just after the Pueblo Resevoir. Up on top it has a few features to practice scouting, eddies, and just get some excitement up. The events - relatively mild are great for practicing and there is significant space in between in case recovery is necessary. The lower part has a LOT of flat water so it slows down a bit - but it's always a good spot to learn how to keep your boat going in a straight line or practicing T-rescues and rolls.
Nice thing is it's right next to the resevoir so you can practice flatwater stuff and move to moving water quickly.
I went through at <200 and it was SLOW - about 6 hours to run the length from the resevoir to the Nature Center. Ran it again at >600 and it was less than 4 hours.
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