Tens of thousands of people annually visit the water recreation areas in Larimer County.

We want everyone to consider the following suggestions when making plans to spend time near the water:

  1. Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return, and where and who to call if you don’t. If your plans change while you are traveling, put a note in your car on the driver’s side dashboard with the new plans.
  2. Wear a life jacket. Wear a properly fitting personal floatation device (life jacket) for all river activities. Don’t assume you have the swimming skills to keep you afloat - even the strongest swimmers can drown.
  3. Keep a close watch on children even if they are far from the water. Water safety for children is especially important as they can quickly enter the water and get in trouble when your attention is diverted for only a moment.
  4. Never walk, play, or climb on slippery rocks and logs near rivers and streams.
  5. Stay away from riverbanks during times of high flowing water. The banks may be unstable and give way underneath you.
  6. Never forget the power of the river especially when it is running high and fast from spring runoff or recent heavy rains. Waters in rivers exert very powerful forces against any fixed object and this force, once in place, remains constant.
  7. Check river and stream conditions before heading out at U.S. Geological Survey - National Water Information System
  8. Avoid Dams. Small low-head dams are responsible for over 8% of river fatalities. Most dams are much worse than they look! Know the location of dams before recreating on the river and avoid getting too close.
  9. Be aware of the limitations of yourself in the water. Even if you are a good swimmer, fast moving water and undercurrents can easily catch you off guard. Additionally, there are often rocks or other obstacles under the water that can knock you off balance even in shallow water depths.
  10. Watch your surroundings - including the weather. Be prepared for extremes in the weather, especially if more rain is predicted. This can alter the water flow and depth in a short period of time and also contribute to hypothermia. When your clothes are soaking wet hypothermia is a danger even in the summer.
  11. Carry a First Aid kit and know how to use it. Take a first aid course for CPR and basic medical assistance.
  12. If caught in a fast flowing river, rapids, or storm water, try to float feet first in a half sit position.
  13. Remember: Reach or Throw, Don’t Go. If someone is caught in fast moving water, reach out to them or throw a rope to the person in the water. Don’t go into the water yourself or you may also need to be rescued.


  • Call 911 immediately and first.  Conserving your cell phone battery is vital to your safety.  Calling friends/family may deplete your cell phone battery and prevent you from reaching emergency responders.
  • Follow directions provided by emergency dispatchers.  If you have cell phone service where you are, do not move unless told to do so by emergency personnel.
  • If calling 911 does not work, try texting to 911.  Remember - call if you can, text if you must.

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office reminds anyone engaging in activities along the rivers to use extreme caution. Depending on current water conditions, activities on all rivers in Larimer County are inherently dangerous.

If you wish to experience the river in a recreational watercraft, we suggest contacting one of the many local commercial rafting companies as they have qualified instructors, safety equipment, trained staff, and emergency protocols in place.

Recommended personal protection equipment includes a properly sized personal flotation device, a swift water helmet that allows water to drain from it, and a wetsuit when water temperatures are cold. Multi-chambered rafts are also recommended for use on the river.

These extra measures decrease, but do not eliminate all the risks.

Whitewater Scale

Whitewater is classified on a scale from one to six.

  • Class I: Easy, flat water. No problem.
  • Class II: Small rapids with clear, wide channels.
  • Class III: Good-sized rapids with waves and boulders. Chances of maneuvers inside the rapids are great.
  • Class IV: Intense, powerful requiring precise boat handling. Plan on maneuvers, hazards, big waves and tight boulders.
  • Class V: Intense and violent water. Unavoidable long rapids, drops, extremely tight channels and hazards.
  • Class VI: Virtually impassable. Don't do it.

As the above image depicts, the Poudre River varies from Class I to Class VI along its length through Larimer County.

The Poudre River through Fort Collins does not have as many rapids compared to the river in the canyon and is mostly classified as Class I to II Whitewater through town, but hazards still exist, such as diversion dams and strainers, which are trees and other debris that allows water through but can trap solid objects.