The Adventure Company

Browns Canyon National Monument

3 of Colorado's Best Whitewater Rafting trips browns canyon national monument whitewater rafting

History of the Upper Arkansas River

This history of the upper Arkansas Valley in Leadville, Buena Vista and Salida lies an incredibly rich history. From massive glacial formations to early settlers and gold miners, you can see the history through mining cabins, old artifacts, and glacial moraines at every turn. When European settlers arrived in the 19th century, the area became a corridor of untapped discovery. Trappers, traders, miners and pioneers were drawn here by the promise of untold riches. 

In the late 1800’s the valley transformed into a bustling area for mining gold, silver, and other precious metals. Leadville (where the Arkansas River begins) was home to over 30,000 people who were here to strike gold. Today the city of Leadville is home to around 3,000 people. 

For a full history of the valley, please continue reading

history of browns canyon national monument
Photo from Western Mining History Facebook

Browns Canyon National Monument

On February 19, 2015 President Barack Obama designated 21,589 acres of land and river as Browns Canyon as a National Monument. The promise of future generations getting to enjoy this canyon the way we do today is a huge triumph. 

The Arkansas River runs through Browns Canyon. The headwaters is located in Leadville, CO – just a 30 minute drive from Buena Vista.

 The snow melt from Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive are stored in a reservoir in Twin Lakes, CO.  The water is carefully measured and released, giving us a consistent flow all summer long, for world-class rafting!

Stretching between Buena Vista and Salida, the preservation of this canyon provides a remote feeling with convenient access and close proximity from town. With tons of wildlife, splashy rapids, and remote camping sites – the canyon is not one to be missed. The land is jointly managed by BLM and the Forest Service. 

Enjoy whitewater rafting, camping, hiking, and gold medal trout fishing throughout Browns Canyon. The easiest way to access the national monument is via boat with The Adventure Company.  Discover the ecological importance of the area, home to diverse flora and fauna, and understand the delicate balance between preservation and recreation that defines the monument today.

What is a National Monument?

National monuments are nationally significant lands and water set aside for permanent protection. It is owned and protected by the national government because of its natural beauty and it’s importance to history and science. 

browns canyon national monument Buena Vista & Salida Whitewater Rafting

Where is Browns Canyon National Monument?

Browns Canyon National Monument is located just a few miles south of Buena Vista, Colorado. 

When you come raft Browns Canyon with The Adventure Company, we will take the 5-10 minute drive and put our rafts in the river at Fisherman’s Bridge. We will raft for a few miles before we hit the official entrance to the National Monument. Your guides will show you where it begins! 

browns canyon whitewater rafting drone footage

How many people raft down Browns Canyon each summer?

A rough estimate of ~300,000 people raft down Browns Canyon each summer. That number consists of commercial and private boaters. It is one of the most popular stretched of river in the country, for good reason!

browns canyon rafting national monument whitewater rafting near breckenridge

Wildlife in Browns Canyon

Browns Canyon is home to a number of different wildlife species, including mountain lions, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, bobcat, red and gray fox, black bear and coyote, among others. The canyon cliffs provide excellent habitat for peregrine falcons, prairie falcons and golden eagles. (

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Buena Vista, CO
1:51 am, February 24, 2024
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Sunrise: 6:44 am
Sunset: 5:51 pm
Breckenridge, CO
1:51 am, February 24, 2024
weather icon 13°F
L: 5° H: 26°
clear sky
Humidity 62 %
Pressure 1023 mb
Wind 12 mph SW
Wind Gust: 0 mph
UV Index: 0
Precipitation: 0 inch
Visibility: 10 km
Sunrise: 6:45 am
Sunset: 5:50 pm