Rafting companies flush with runoff
June 8, 2010
Local rafting companies are having one of their best springs in recent years, thanks to all the spring snowmelt gushing out of the mountains into area waterways.
“The water levels are wonderful,” said Helena Powell, one of the founders of Adventures in Whitewater, which runs river trips on Clear Creek and the Upper Colorado. “It’s nice to see an endangered river so full of water right now,” she said.
A series of snowstorms in late April and early May helped turn the season around for raft companies.
“If you’d told me at the beginning of April that the water would be this fantastic right now, I never would have believed you,” Powell said.
This time of year, Adventures in Whitewater guides commercial rafting trips on a section of whitewater southwest of Kremmling, below Big Gore Canyon. The popular run stretches from Pumphouse on the Trough Road to Rancho del Rio, near State Bridge.
As of Tuesday morning, nearly 5,900 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water was running through that section of the river.
“It’s by far the highest level the river has seen this season, and it’s probably close to peaking,” Powell said.
Powell, who has been a raft guide for more than a dozen years, said the flow right now, “is reminiscent of 2003, but it still doesn’t compare to 1997-98, when it was running at 10,000 cfs.”
That much water can sometimes flush out a rapid, Powell said, and in some cases it make the rapids better. Needles Eye Rapid, for instance, sticks out of the water at 1,000 cfs. At 5,900, water pours over it.
Above that section of river, “Gore Canyon is burly right now,” Powell said.
Commercial raft companies will avoid it until flows drop down to about 1,500 cfs, she said. Some expert kayakers, however, are venturing out on that part of the river right now, Powell said.
Even the Fraser River is somewhat runnable right now, she said. Over the weekend, local raft guides took a few private trips down that part of the river.
“It was running at a great level,” Powell said, adding that while the gauge is broken in the canyon between Tabernash and Granby, estimates are that it’s flowing at about 1,300 cfs. “It’s a super fun level,” she said.
But by Monday, June 7, the Fraser River had crested its banks, and even expert boaters were avoiding it.
Powell warns that novice boaters should not go out by themselves right now, with the river running so strong.
“Even just in town in the Fraser River and creeks,” she said. “The water is moving faster than you think. As a mother, I recommend keeping kids away from moving water. Wear life jackets. If boating, make sure you know what you are doing. It’s not a good time to go tubing without a life jacket – actually, it’s never a good time to go tubing without a life jacket.”
If you want to get out on the river, take a licensed professional, Powell added: “That’s what we are here for.”
Powell said it’s hard to predict just how long the spring runoff will last.
The Upper Colorado is tightly controlled by dams, and Denver Water can make a call that will change the flow overnight, she said.
The good news for rafting companies is that pre-bookings are up from this time last year, Powell said, adding that rafting trips aren’t only fun for tourists. She encouraged local residents to take advantage of specials deals and the high water this month as an opportunity to get a different perspective on the place they live.
– Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610 or email@example.com.