‘Fantastic’ rafting on Blue River north of Silverthorne after early open, warm temps
The commercial rafting season on the Blue River north of Silverthorne may be nearing the end of its short annual window, but it remains to be seen just how long that window will last for outfitters like Performance Tours Rafting.
Speaking Wednesday afternoon, Performance Tours owner Kevin Foley described the Blue River rafting season thus far as “fantastic,” after the Blue River Basin reached 100 percent of its snowpack in late April.
Foley added that business for Performance Tours on the Blue River through June 13 is “literally identical” to the same day last year. The difference this year is that the season started earlier than most years, June 1, while last year’s season started later and ended June 28. It’s a closing date for commercial rafting on the river that looks unlikely for this year, especially considering the early thaw from a period of warmer-than-normal spring temperatures.
The commercial rafting season on the Blue River can vary widely year-to-year, as Performance Tours’ seasons have lasted into early August in some years. In others, there has been no commercial rafting on the Blue River.
This year’s snowmelt situation resulted in optimal early season rafting, enough for the Denver Water Board to communicate to Foley in late May that a three-week season on the Blue looked likely. That, despite scares across the state that what seemed to be a dry winter would affect water levels come spring and summertime activities.
“We are experiencing a very busy early season,” Foley said. “It’s up significantly, everybody is having a great time. The mystery going forward will be what kind of flows we see for the remainder of summer.”
An outfitter like Performance Tours is able to bring commercial trips down the Blue when flows exceed 500 cubic-feet-per-second (cfs). On June 1, Performance Tours began their three-a-day half-day tours daily, which as of Wednesday were still running. And as of Tuesday morning, the river’s cfs flows were hovering above 500.
Just how long commercial rafting will stay out on the Blue depends on several variables that the Denver Water Board monitors. Those include the temperature and other weather conditions down in the Denver area. Other contributing factors include water consumption in Denver as well as what’s going on with the large network of reservoirs and plumbing systems in place through the state that affect the Dillon Reservoir and water flow down-river from the reservoir toward Green Mountain Reservoir — where the Blue River tours operate.
“It’s always an uncertain equation,” Foley said.
This time of year, Foley said he speaks with the board as often as three times a week. His next check up is scheduled for Thursday, and there is a chance commercial operations may cease with that call.
“But there is also a chance we may get another three, four, five days out of it,” Foley added. “But they are telling us there is a chance that come the end of the day Friday they might have to scale back to a point where the amount of water running on the river currently drops down to a level a little too low for a commercial rafting trip.”
Performance Tours and other Summit County-based operators are also running trips down the Upper Arkansas River by Buena Vista through Labor Day. Foley said combined business between the Blue River, Upper Arkansas and other trips have put Performance Tours’ business up 30 percent through mid-June compared to last year.
As for the Blue, though the season’s almost up and though Foley classified it as a “bonus” to their Upper Arkansas business, now’s the time, if ever, for Summit County locals or visitors to drop in.
“It’s a fantastic moderate-level whitewater trip, one where it provides excitement but nothing overwhelming for the first time rafter.”
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