This whitewater rafting company has a riverside bar and grill

Just outside of the tiny town of Buena Vista, in central Colorado, a rafting company offers cold drinks and hot eats to travelers on their way down the river. 

Rafters pulling up to the beach

Rafters and kayakers can pull up to the beach for refreshments before continuing on. Image by Catherine Eichel Photography

Launched in the early 1990s on the Arkansas River, with a private put-in for Browns Canyon National Monument, River Runners is a popular summertime spot, taking thousands of people on guided rafting trips over the course of the season. That could have been enough, but in 2005, the current owners opened the Riverside Grill, and a local attraction was born. 

view of the beach as you come down the river

The restaurant comes into view as you float down the river. Image by Catherine Eichel Photography

With local beer on draft and simple bites on the menu (think: fish tacos and veg quesadillas), plus a handful of picnic tables by the water’s edge and a beach that’s easily accessible for the rafters and kayakers floating by, the restaurant appeals to locals and day-trippers alike. “We can see several hundred people pass through the grill on a busy summer day,” says River Runners general manager Travis Hochard. “About half went rafting with us, some are on a private rafting trip, and a good amount of locals or travelers are just stopping in for lunch on the river.”

A pint of beer from TKTK brewery in Buena Vista.

River Runners reps local favorites like Buena Vista's Eddyline Brewery. Image by Catherine Eichel Photography

Throughout the summer, the site also plays hosts free family-friendly concerts on the beach, with artists as varied as Bermudan reggae artist Mischka and Colorado-based Americana/Newgrass band Coral Creek on the bill. Dogs are welcome, as long as they’re leashed, and tent camping by the water is only $5 per person. In the afternoon before each performance, a free shuttle runs upriver to the put-in for the company’s family float trip – an easy stretch that sees just enough splash action to be interesting – so guests can make their way down to the show in relaxing fashion. 

River Runners Bar & Grill

The grill serves straightforward bites like tacos, burritos, and pulled pork sandwiches. Image by Catherine Eichel Photography

For a more immersive experience, look to the second River on the River, a rafting, camping, and music festival that takes place August 9 to 11. Tickets for the whole shebang, including half a day rafting in Browns Canyon, go for $100 apiece, but the music portion alone costs only a fiver, which should leave funds left over for a beer and a bite. 

River Runners chalkboard

Cold beer on draft and basic bites on offer. Image by Catherine Eichel Photography

And since River Runners will be donating 10% of the grill’s gross revenue during the event to the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association, a regional organization dedicated to conservation and sustainability, there’s even more reason to order a pint or two. 

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