The Roaring Fork River begins in Pitkin County high in the San Isabel National Forest and flows to the northwest through Aspen, Snowmass and Glenwood Springs to its confluence with the Colorado River. The Fryingpan River Flows into the Roaring Fork just below Snowmass, and the Crystal River joins the Roaring Fork at Carbondale. Its headwaters are between Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest peak at 14,443 feet msl and Independence Pass at 12,095 feet msl. SH 82 parallels the river in very close proximity along most of its run.
The Cemetery run, as this is sometimes called, sounds scary but it is actually the least demanding and easiest section of the Roaring Fork River. Starting just above the town of Glenwood Springs, this a is 9 mile, class II+ to III whitewater run with a gradient of only about 29 fpm. Paddlers also have an option to paddle to the confluence with the Colorado River, then down the Colorado to any available take-out if a longer trip is desired. About 7.3 miles into the run is Cemetery Rapid, the only Class III drop on this section, and it is not technically difficult.
On this section the canyons are gone and surrounding land is much flatter. Ranchland is adjacent to the river outside Glenwood Springs, a small community of about 7,000 people north of Carbondale and just south of the Colorado River. The Cemetery section is an excellent novice whitewater run that can be fun, though not really challenging, for whitewater paddlers with intermediate or higher level skills. In aerobatic terms, this is a barrel roll rather than a snap roll.
Alongside SH 82 at Carbondale down to Glenwood Springs in Garfield County of westcentral Colorado. The White River National Forest is a short distance away on both sides of the river, and the Fryingpan and Crystal Rivers flow into the Roaring Fork at either end, respectively.
Durango 265 miles; Grand Junction 95 miles; Denver 165 miles; Salt Lake City 380 miles; Albuquerque 525 miles; Phoenix 678 miles; Oklahoma City 790 miles; Dallas 949 miles; Austin 1,140 miles; San Antonio 1,113 miles; Houston 1,200 miles; Little Rock 1,106 miles; Kansas City 771 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
The water in the Roaring Fork River flows clean, clear and cold, but is not drinkable without purification. The cold water and moderate elevation make it necessary to wear wetsuits or water-repelling garments to prevent hypothermia. Neoprene glove and hard-soled river boots are also recommended, but not absolutely necessary.
The prime season for the Cemetary run is April through August, depending upon upstream diversions, winter snowpack and spring rainfall.
There are no significant hazards other than cold water temperatures on this section of the Roaring Fork River.
Put in at the SH 133 bridge off SH 82 near the confluence with the Crystal River at 0.0 miles. Take out Veltus Park in Glenwood Springs, near 8th Street and Grand Avenue, at about 9.0 miles. Additional takeouts are available on the Colorado River for those who want to continue past Veltus Park on a longer trip.
There are at least 3 campgrounds on the Fryingpan River just a few miles to the north and above its confluence with the Roaring Fork near Snowmass. No campgrounds are known to be available on Castle Creek itself. There are accommodations available in surrounding ski resort towns near the river, but expect to pay a pricey rate, even in the skiing off-season. Some resort facilities may be closed during river running season.
At least three commercial outfitters offer rentals, shuttles, guided trips and/or river information on the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers.
The Cemetery run, as it is sometimes referred to, is an easy whitewater paddle trip that almost anybody with at least intermediate whitewater skills can enjoy from April through August. The run starts near the confluence with the Crystal River, then continues about 9 miles to Veltus Park in Glenwood Springs. It is a somewhat scenic run, though bordering lands are mostly cattle ranches with rolling hills. It is very convenient because of the local availability of everything paddlers need. It is a popular run because of the longer season and its close proximity to Glenwood Springs, so expect to paddle with others when you make this run. If you reach Veltus Park and want more river time, then continue down the Colorado River to any of the take-outs there.