Santa Rita Whitewater Park

Rafting can be some of the most adrenaline-inducing, adventurous experiences in watersports. But there are only so many ideal rafting spots that form naturally. 

The Animas River is one of the best rafting locations in Colorado and brings in nearly 10% of Colorado's rafting revenue. Like all rivers, however, the Animas have stretches of water that could be better for rafting.

In Durango, the Santa Rita Whitewater Park is an artificial, designed area of rapids in the Animas River with a viewing area, open spaces, and more. The natural banks and rocks have been shifted just enough, alongside some added permanent water features, to give an ideal rafting experience at nearly any water level for the experienced rafter. 

With a series of waves and pockets designed for those with extensive experience, the Santa Rita Whitewater Park is not for beginners at rafting and kayaking. 

Those with the proper experience are still recommended to scout out the path and current conditions beforehand for safety. But if you have that experience, the permanent slalom course, alongside those added water features, makes an excellent time for anyone interested.

Things to Do at Santa Rita Whitewater Park


Kayaking on the Animas River During Spring at Santa Rita Whitewater Park

Kayaking provides a notably different experience going down a set of rapids than rafting in a raft. It can provide more control to the individual pilot over the team experience than traditional rafting. 

Kayaking down the Santa Rita Whitewater Park gives you a chance to put your kayaking skills to the test truly.

Whitewater Rafting

Going through exhilarating rapids designed intentionally to have some of the ideal waves and pockets is the dream for many whitewater rafters. 

Creating a haven for whitewater rafting was the original goal of the Santa Rita Whitewater Park, and as the seasons change, it will likely remain as such.

SUP or Kayak Surfing

River Surfing During Animas River Days During Spring

Kayak surfing and stand-up paddle boarding (SUPing) down whitewater rapids are the closest we can get to actual surfing in a landlocked state like Colorado. 

The Santa Rita Whitewater Park provides the chance to try either one or both extreme sports for the experienced adventurer. 


Walking and Hanging Out at Santa Rita Park and the Animas River During Summer

Sitting near the water, watching people swoop by while you munch on a sandwich and some grapes, is a great option with the picnic tables near the Santa Rita Whitewater park. 

Whatever your dietary choices, it gives you a chance to see some of the park firsthand and have an exciting lunch. 

It is not recommended, however, to attempt to picnic on the rapids themselves.

Bird and Wildlife Watching

Rivers, lakes, and water, in general, are a center for wildlife in any part of the world. The Animas River, and by extension, the Santa Rita Whitewater Park, hosts much native wildlife ranging from birds to fish.

Wildlife watchers can see this variety of life from the whitewater park anytime, including hawks, ospreys, eagles, deer, elk, and the ever-famous Peregrine Falcon.

Maps and Site Resources

Official Parks and Recreation Page

List of Rapids on the Animas River

Mountain Town Magazine Article on the Whitewater Park

American Whitewater Animas Page

Maps, Footage, and further information on the Whitewater Park

Travel Tips for Santa Rita Whitewater Park

  • Going down sections of the whitewater park can be difficult even for highly skilled rafters. Scout your paths ahead of time and if you are unsure of your ability, seek help from someone who is.

  • Bring and use the proper safety equipment. Life jackets are of course, highly recommended pieces of equipment.

  • The water is mostly snowmelt, so it will be cold. Prepare a dry set of clothes for whenever you are ready to get out of the water and warm up.

  • Bring water and snacks to keep you energized and hydrated throughout the day. Do not drink the water from the Animas River.


Accessibility Information

  • ADA accessible restrooms and changing area located at the Water Reclamation Plant 

  • Handicap parking spots

  • Paved walking trail with views of the river from the walking trail

  • River access at Whitewater park is not accessible depending on the water level


Care for Durango

In order to protect the Animas River and ensure its continued importance to our community, we suggest you take the following actions to help protect our water and the riparian environment around the river.

  • Be thoughtful about the amount of water you use.

  • When recreating in or near the river, be sure to clean up after yourself and pack out any trash.

  • Respect private property rights by not trespassing on land adjacent to the river.

  • Help control noxious weeds along the river and in riparian areas.

  • Join a local river group or volunteer for river cleanups.

  • Support businesses that are good stewards of the Animas River.

  • Speak up when you see something that could harm the river or its environment.

  • Educate yourself and others about the Animas River and its importance to our community.

  • Do not adjust the White Water slalom gates along the course

  • Practice Leave No Trace Principles

By working together, we can all help protect the Animas River and ensure its environmental sustainability for future generations.

Pledge to Care for Durango