Prepare now for August's 15th annual Big Gay Raft Trip

Morgan Tilton
The Big Gay Raft Trip brings in 300 folks from around the world for a Colorado raft adventure.(Photo by Big Gay Raft Trip.)

The Big Gay Raft Trip might be the single-largest, most popular annual whitewater raft trip in Colorado. The 15th annual, all-inclusive LGBTQ+ event brings together 300 travelers from across the country and world for a full day of rafting on the Colorado River through the sky-reaching red rock cliffs of Glenwood Canyon.

One day trip for 150 registrants occurs each June when the water levels are high, and a second trip for another 150 folks happens when the water goes down in August.

"We started with 32 people on one trip the first year…now we do two trips with 150 people each, and we could sell 300 spots per each trip if we had the capacity at the rafting company," said Ladd Bosworth, co-founder of the Big Gay Raft Trip.
The event is silly and fun said cofounder Ladd Bosworth.(Photo by Big Gay Raft Trip.)

The idea was born from necessity. Bosworth had just gotten out of a relationship, didn't have many friends, and said those friends were not very adventurous. His good friend and now co-founder Solomon Liston is a raft guide in Glenwood Springs, where Liston grew up.

"Solomon and I have been friends forever and that's how it all started. He kept trying to get me to come and raft and bring my friends. I couldn't get my friends to come, so I invited everyone on social media," said Bosworth. It worked. He put out an open invite in need of 7 people to fill a raft, and 32 people showed up. In the second year, the number more than doubled to 75 rafters.

The tone for the day is to have as much fun as possible and make new friends while exploring an incredible landscape and enjoying an exciting whitewater adventure.

"I hear over and over and over again that it is really social. A lot of people show up to raft and make friends, but because you're stuck in a boat with someone all day long, you're bound to make higher-quality friendships based on that time everyone spends together," said Bosworth.
The Big Gay Raft Trip typically takes travelers through Glenwood Canyon contingent on water level safety.(Photo by Big Gay Raft Trip.)

Inclusive event for LGBTQ+ and allies

Bosworth said the name is catchy and easy to remember, but he doesn't want the event to sound exclusionary.

"The 'LGBTQ+ Raft Trip' doesn't flow off your tongue as easy as the 'Big Gay Raft Trip,' so we are absolutely completely inclusive. Every trip we have a bunch of straight women and guys—allies can join, too— and members of the trans community. We include everybody, and the name is becoming more and more tongue-in-cheek," said Bosworth.

"As someone who grew up not having any gay characters on TV, or anywhere, I do want every group to feel included and represented," he said.
Water guns are an accessory on the Big Gay Raft Trip.(Photo by Big Gay Raft Trip.)

Folks join from across the country

Close to one-third of the attendees join the grassroots event from outside of Colorado, with zero marketing (Bosworth ran one Facebook ad five years ago).

"To bring in that many people to Glenwood Springs by word of mouth is amazing to me. It shows how much people want and are invested in coming to Colorado, but also if you offer something tailored toward them, they'll respond to it," said Bosworth.

The price for the trip is $139, including the guide, equipment, and lunch. Visitors stay in a hotel for two nights and dine out together. "We do try to keep the event as affordable as possible, so we can get big broad cross-section of people in the gay community," said Bosworth.

Over the past 15 years, people from all 50 states have participated, including Hawaii and Alaska. A traveler from New Zealand even amended his travel plans to be in Colorado for the rafting trip. Typically, a handful of visitors drive from Utah and California to participate.
A fun pool party kicks off the event prior to the day on the river.(Photo by Big Gay Raft Trip.)

What the event entails

The event starts with a pool party at the Caravan Inn, which is completely booked out for the attendees the night before the raft trip.

"Everyone is arriving, and the rest are in the pool. The hotel does an amazing job welcoming us with pool floats, appetizers, and jello shots. It sets the tone for the whole weekend because everyone is hanging out being social, silly, and fun. It's great to meet people and figure out who you want to raft with. What sets us apart is this is truly a weekend-long social event," said Bosworth.

The rafting day starts the following morning at 9:30 a.m. with a check-in and safety speech with Whitewater Rafting, LLC., the trip's long-standing partner and outfitter.

"Everyone that works there is so appreciative and welcoming of us and has been from beginning. The guides go above and beyond and over the top to dress up and bring props and confetti and everything to do whatever they can to make trip fun for us. It's kind of become like the trip all the guides want to be picked for," said Bosworth.
The raft guides of Whitewater Rafting, LLC love the Big Gay Raft Trip said cofounder Ladd Bosworth.(Photo by Big Gay Raft Trip.)

Everyone loads up on the buses to get transported to the put-in. The route is selected based on the day's water levels, which changes the conditions in the river.

Typically, each group covers 15 to 25 miles per day depending on how fast the water is moving, said Bosworth.

The trip's highlight is the Shoshone segment, which includes close to a two-mile stretch of Class III-IV (intermediate intensity) rapids.
The rapids range and reach up to Class IV on the Big Gay Raft Trip depending on the conditions.(Photo by Big Gay Raft Trip.)

Registration for August trip opens soon

The registration link for the August 2022 trip goes live at 10 a.m. MDT on July 1.

"The June trip sold out in 36 hours, and the August trip usually sells out faster," said Bosworth.

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Adventure journalist Morgan Tilton covers the outdoors with a focus on travel, industry news and human endurance. Featured in more than 70 publications, she’s a recipient of more than a dozen North American Travel Journalists Association awards.

Crested Butte, CO

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