What’s the Difference Between CO and WV Rafting

Whitewater Rafting West Virginia

New River White Water Rafting

Colorado and West Virginia are two of America’s best known rafting destinations. No matter which place you go you are going to have an amazing time. However there are some minor differences between the two. Colorado’s rivers are more numerous and certainly a bit colder, and West Virginia’s rivers are a bit more remote and wooly. With years of experience under my belt, here are some additional differences I have noticed that may be of interest to you:

Water Temperature:

You really, really, really don’t want to fall out of your boat in Colorado. That water comes from snow off the Colorado mountains. You’ve heard the slogan, “Cold as the Rockies,” right? Yeah, that water is. In West Virginia, the water temperature in the spring is fairly cold too, but the water is usually at least ten degrees warmer than the water in Colorado. And as the season progresses the water gets really warm.


You probably should be looking at the next big wave or rapid coming up rather than the sky, but there are some pretty amazing birds to see in the skies while you are white water rafting in West Virginia. You can see great blue herons, peregrine falcons, and even America’s national bird – the majestic bald eagle. In comparison, the birds you see while rafting in Colorado include golden eagles, ravens, and red-tailed hawks.

In Colorado you can see bighorn sheep, which are the state mammal of Colorado. Who knew state mammals even existed?  In West Virginia you may see a black bear on occasion if you look carefully. West Virginia also has an interesting opportunity to see another form of wildlife:  on Bridge Day in October you can see base jumpers soar overhead while you are rafting!


Colorado is full of rivers, over 158 of them, with 17 having a drainage basin of 10,000 square kilometers or more. West Virginia only has 46 named rivers. With rivers all over the place, the landscape while Colorado river rafting is pretty varied and pretty much covers everything. Colorado has canyons, some of the highest mountains in the lower 48, deserts, peaks, valleys, cliffs, and forests. In West Virginia, the landscape takes a more intimate approach. It’s common to hear people say in WV that they live in the mountains, not look up to them. West Virginia is green with vast deciduous forests, abundant with abandoned coal mining communities rich with history and steep cliffs making up some of the world’s best rock climbing. Not to mention, West Virginia is one of the best places on the planet to see the beautiful fall foliage.

River Rafting Companies:

In Colorado, there are still numerous small outfitters simply offering 1/2 day and full day rafting trips to their guests. However in West Virginia, most of the companies have merged to create comprehensive resorts offering one-stop vacation destinations with lodging, shops, meals and tons of activities from which their guests can choose.

Ultimately, you should go rafting in both beautiful states to really see the difference between CO and WV rafting. After all, these two states wouldn’t reign as the most popular rafting destinations without due reason. Whether you are new to the sport, or an experienced pro, each state offers a new experience to remember!

About the Author: Mike Kissack is an expert in rafting.  Mike owns and operates American Adventure Expeditions a leading Colorado whitewater rafting company.

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