The Eagle River: Exciting Early-Summer Colorado Rafting

The Eagle River is the closest river to Vail, Colorado, and its Dowd Chute / Upper Eagle and Lower Eagle sections are usually prime for Vail rafting beginning in mid-May to late-May. Since the Eagle River is not dam fed or dam controlled, these early-summer snowmelt classics can only be rafted during a short window, which usually closes by the end of June. But then, of course, it’s still possible to go Vail rafting with Timberline Tours on the Colorado and Arkansas Rivers for the remainder of the summer season.

Read on to find out how you can make the most of Vail’s Eagle River rafting season with an overview of this river’s seasonality, trip options, age and weight limitations, and more:

The Eagle River: Setting and Overview

A rafting trip on the Eagle River begins when Timberline Tours picks you up at your Vail accommodation and brings you to its boathouse or riverside put-in, where you will get outfitted with the essential rafting gear you’ll need for the trip, including personal floatation devices (PFDs), helmets, and paddles.

Once you’re all geared up for the trip, Timberline Tours will take your group to the rafting put-in location on the Eagle River, and your guide will lead an interactive discussion that highlights tips for paddling, common rafting paddling commands, and essential rafting safety advice. Then, you’ll push out onto the river for an amazing rafting adventure on the Eagle River, where you’ll encounter exciting rapids and scenic views that show off the best of Colorado’s river and mountain scenery.

Whitewater Rafting on the Eagle River Colorado

Deer, moose, bald eagles, bears, and bear cubs have all been sighted along the Eagle River during rafting trips. Other wildlife that make the Eagle River watershed their home include beavers and many different bird species. Timberline guides love to share knowledge of this river’s flora and fauna in addition to local history along the way. After your rafting trip on the Eagle River, you’ll have light refreshments riverside before Timberline Tours returns you to your Vail accommodation.

Eagle River Rafting: Trip Options

The Eagle River is the longest free-flowing river in Colorado, so since no dam controls its flows, snowmelt largely determines which sections are open for rafting. Guides oftentimes need to make decisions about which section is run based on group safety and river dynamics on the morning of a trip, and these decisions usually determine whether it is possible for the Dowd Chute and Upper Eagle sections to be run together, or whether it is best to run one or the other on that day. The Lower Eagle section would not be upgraded to a more difficult section of river, but sometimes guests who request the Lower Eagle River rafting trip may be asked to choose another comparable river section due to water level changes.

Dowd Chute / Upper Eagle River:
The Dowd Chute / Upper Eagle rafting trip is one of the most exciting early-season trips that Timberline Tours offers. The Dowd Chute section of the Eagle River contains Class IV rapids that are a good fit for athletic paddlers looking for an intense rafting experience. Dowd Chute is characterized by rapidly flowing water, as the Eagle River and Gore Creek come together in this area that also constricts tightly and has a steep gradient. All of these factors make it necessary for Dowd Chute paddlers to be in excellent physical condition and also be strong swimmers.

Dowd Chute rafting video overview:

Dowd Chute rafting is limited by commercial water level cut-off limits and guide discretion in order to protect the safety of each person in the group. When the Upper Eagle section of the Eagle River (also Class IV) is run in lieu of Dowd Chute, it is usually just as exciting due to its rapid current, technical level, and steep gradient.

Lower Eagle River:
The Timberline Tours Lower Eagle River rafting trip offers scenic intermediate-level, family-friendly rafting in the Vail area. This classic Class III stretch of the Eagle River is best for adventurers who like paddling through moderate rapids and enjoying beautiful Colorado scenery while floating through a few quieter stretches. Colorado wildlife sightings are also common along this stretch of the Eagle River that’s close enough to both Vail and Beaver Creek that it’s possible to choose from a morning or afternoon trip and save some time for other adventures.

Lower Eagle River rafting video overview:

Eagle River Rafting Age and Weight Minimums

The minimum age for the Lower Eagle rafting trip is 8 years old and at least 50 pounds; the minimum age for the Dowd Chute / Upper Eagle rafting trip is 16 years old and at least 100 pounds. Note: These age and weight minimums can vary depending on water level. Please call our offices to discuss age requirements closer to your trip date.

Please give us a call at any time if you have questions or if you’d like some help deciding what trip is best for your group: (970) 476-1414. If you know you’d like to book a Lower Eagle rafting trip, you may also go directly to the Lower Eagle River rafting trip page, where you can reserve guided morning or afternoon rafting trips on this river section with Timberline Tours. The Dowd Chute / Upper Eagle rafting trip is available by phone booking only due to its Class IV rating, so give us a call to book. Finally, be sure to check out our “What to Wear Rafting” advice ahead of time to know what will increase your personal comfort and safety on the trip.


Timberline Tours is the Vail-area’s premier whitewater rafting and backcountry jeep tours outfitter, also offering stand up paddle board (SUP) and duckie river trips on Colorado’s Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas Rivers. All of our guided trips are open to Vail, Colorado visitors, locals, families, and corporate groups.

To book your Vail, Colorado adventure, call Timberline Tours at (970) 476-1414, or email us at