Big Thompson River Kayaking

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When the dams open, the Big Thompson River roars to life. Kayakers, grab you paddles and get ready to test your meddle with The Big Tommy, a short but technical run.

Written by

James Dziezynski


0.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

27.8 miles


4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 hours



Spring and Summer

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




The Big Tommy run on the Big Thompson River near Estes Park has a split personality. Since it is entirely dependent on a dam release, it can flow as a trickle or rage at high volume. There are class II sections linked to wild class V drops and slides. Even though it is only 1.1 miles long, it runs alongside a road so it is easy to lap. It’s a rocky run with some fast drops, big holes and enough wood debris to get your attention. There are three drops that give the run its class V/V+rating, to only seasoned paddlers should give this run a go.

What Makes It Great

When the water runs high, Big Tommy is challenging but offers clean lines for those bold enough to take it on. It’s a fast mile but it packs in a lot of action in that distance.

Hitting the three big drops without bruising yourself silly is a major accomplishment -- the drops are tight, rocky and ready to churn any paddlers who engage the wrong line.

Who is Going to Love It

Advanced kayakers will get a kick out of the non-stop action, especially during a higher flow.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

There are no fees to paddle the Big Thompson. Along Hwy 34  go 2.5 miles west of Drake or 8 miles East of Estes Park. You put in a couple of hundred yards down from the handicapped accessible fishermen's pier. You take out about a mile down Hwy 34 from the put in.

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Big Thompson River Kayaking

Estes Park, CO,
40.367653, -105.5345

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