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Float your boat

Bob Berwyn
summit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk
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Soon after the snow begins to melt off the slopes and the last of the moguls have been stored away in giant freezers for the summer, a new season begins in the High Country.

All that fluffy white stuff turns to crystal clear, bubbly H2O, and as local waterways fill with runoff, the focus changes from sliding down frozen slopes to floating, fishing and sailing on local lakes and streams.

It’s time to play on the water. Instead of skis and snowboards, Subaru station wagons and assorted pickup trucks are loaded up with kayaks and paddles as whitewater enthusiasts head for the river. At the same time, anglers looking for feisty rainbow trout and crafty cutthroats head for their favorite fishing holes.

The opportunities for water-based fun in Summit County are endless. Marinas in Dillon and Frisco, on the shores of Dillon Reservoir, rent sailing vessels, powerboats and pontoon craft otherwise known as party barges, while a slew of local outfitters offer rafting trips on rivers near and far. And with a near-normal winter snowpack for the first time in several years, hopes for the season are high among boaters and fishermen.

“The best thing about Summit County is the central location,” said John Cantamessa, owner of Good Times Rafting in Frisco. “Within one to one-and-a-half hours drive, you’ve got five great rivers ” the Blue, the Arkansas, Clear Creek, the Eagle and the Colorado,” Cantamessa said, adding that his company, as well as other local outfitters, offer whitewater adventures on all those waterways.

Cantamessa looks forward to a good season, thanks to the bountiful winter snowpack.

“Anytime you get a good snowpack, you’re going to get good water,” he said. And a healthy supply of snow also means the whitewater season will last further into the summer, provided the weather cooperates with near-normal conditions.

For anglers, there’s a strong focus on the Blue River this year, where a series of fish habitat improvement projects in Silverthorne should boost prospects for catching big fish. The Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) will also up its fish stocking efforts in the Blue and in Dillon Reservoir.

After several years suffering from the impacts of whirling disease, state and private hatcheries around the state are coming back online, and CDOW fisheries expert Billy Atkinson said he’s hoping to plant plenty of catchable-size trout in local waters.

The Blue has also been the subject of discussion among stream flow experts on both sides of the Continental Divide, as Denver Water and local interest groups try find a way to manage flows in a way that enables the Front Range cities to meet water needs while ensuring recreational opportunities for rafters and kayakers.

No promises have been made as of yet, but Labor Day weekend 2004 offered a taste of what could be good things to come, as water managers ramped up flows below Dillon Dam for a few days, much to the delight of boaters on both sides of the mountains.

Silverthorne also recently filed for recreational water rights in the Blue River, which could help the town finalize plans for a whitewater kayak park in coming years, enabling boaters to play in man-made waves and holes.

Such a park already exists in Breckenridge, near the Breckenridge Recreation Center, and town open space and trails planner Heide Andersen said this will be the first year she expects decent flows since the town added several new features.

“It’s been three years since we had a good year,” Andersen said, explaining that the kayak park features are designed for optimal performance at flows between 100 and 200 cubic feet per second ” conditions that could be reached during peak runoff this year, especially since the town’s recreational water rights were recently secured by court rulings.


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