Dip into Colorado’s flow
Krista Martinson has navigated the same sections of rivers for seven years as a rafting guide, but she still gets butterflies and adrenaline rushes.
The challenge of ever-changing water flows and patterns keeps her coming back for more. She fell in love with rafting as a child and learned not to fear the rapids on family trips.
“I swear, my mom would always be the one who fell out, so I had no fear; it was, ‘mom’s in the water,’ and she’d get pulled back in the boat,” Martinson said.
Since then, rafting has become safer; people don’t straddle the outer tubes of the boat, which made guests more vulnerable to falling in.
“Generally, rafting is safer than driving ” statistically,” she said.
Yet, she and other trained guides always prepare for the worst. They spend hours learning how to read the water, how to maneuver rafts, how to use the water to their advantage while navigating and how to perform swift water rescues. During training, they swim cold rapids every day and practice flipping rafts over, pulling themselves in the boat and rescuing others.
“It’s scary at first, to think about timing your breaths when that big wave is coming over your head and putting your feet first and navigating yourself,” she said.
She trained eight years ago, when men outnumbered women, and women had to prove themselves a bit more. She still works out at the gym to keep her upper body strong, saying that men have a natural edge when it comes to upper body strength.
But all of her work pays off. She volunteers with a Lakewood organization to take high school seniors on a five-night rafting trip and watches the impact it has; they learn about preservation, conservation, environmental impacts and the fact that “there’s more to life than clubbing.”
She also enjoys watching the guests she takes out become enamored with the scenery.
“Just a few miles off of the highway, there are these beautiful canyons that are so accessible, but yet most people who come to Colorado won’t get the opportunity to see them unless they go down a river, or backpack,” she said.
To her, the best sound in the world is one of a flowing river.
“It makes me feel at home. I feel that peace,” she said. “When the cool breeze comes across the river, everything is fresh and alive, and everything seems to be functioning just the way it should be.”
Five rafting companies work out of Summit County. Guides rate the flow of water on a scale of one to six, one being a float trip and six being life threatening ” and probably impossible.
– Colorado River: a gentle float trip through granite and red rock canyons with dinosaur tracks. It’s perfect for young children ages 4 and older.
– Clear Creek: ranges from class II to IV. The river bends through the historic mining town of Idaho Springs.
– Blue River: the closest river, which meanders through the Arapahoe National Forest, beginning in calm water and ending with class II or III rapids.
– Arkansas River: Brown’s Canyon is one of the most popular runs in the world. It begins with views of the Collegiate Peaks and class II rapids, then drops through the Canyon Doors into rapids with names such as Zoom Flume and Widowmaker. The Royal Gorge, also in the Arkansas River, takes boaters on a white-knuckle ride through Boat Eater and Wall Slammer routes, plus it cuts through 1,500-foot-high granite, schist and gneiss canyons and boasts the world’s highest suspension bridge. The Numbers runs through seven rapids in seven miles ” a challenge for even the most physically fit.
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