Whitewater rafting companies prepare for peak season | SummitDaily.com

Whitewater rafting companies prepare for peak season

Brad OdekirkRafting the Arkansas River

SUMMIT COUNTY – After this year’s spring snowpack melted virtually overnight, leaving rivers bursting at the seams, raft company owners re-entered the business of explaining, again, that Colorado is not under the vice of a natural disaster.

In fact, it’s the opposite.

The Arkansas River is flowing at four times the volume of last season and has Breckenridge Whitewater Rafting owner Glenn Morse calling it “perfect,” adding, “the best time of the summer to go rafting is now.”

“I hope people realize how much the water has come down and how much safer it is,” Morse said. “I think a lot of people have been deterred by pictures of flooding and sinkholes. But right now, we have a great flow. Last year, we had a 250-300 (cubic feet per second) and not a whole lot of good days, so to have a 1,000 is a perfect level.”

With reservoirs still filling, most rafting companies expect the season to run through August and, with some kindness from Mother Nature, into September.

This season is beginning in stark contrast to last, when droughts kept local guides twiddling their thumbs instead of paddling.

“Even the locals are coming out more because they know how good the water is,” said Christian Campton, co-owner of Kodi Rafting in Frisco. “We’re definitely seeing more travelers, too, and every one of the calls doesn’t ask if the state is on fire. Everybody has an ear-to-ear grin, including the guides and the rafters.”

Most local companies offer half-day and full-day excursions, with multiple-day options on the Arkansas River and Colorado River. Prices range from $40 for a half-day to $70-$80 for full-day trips.

Kids older than four are encouraged to experience a milder family trip, while the more aggressive paddlers might want to try a rock-n-roll Class 4 or Class 5 trip. Local companies travel to the Royal Gorge in Canyon City, to the Eagle River in Vail, to the Upper Colorado and to other water bodies, including Clear Creek.

Early-season flows have been, actually, below the 53-year average. The Colorado River near Glenwood Springs has been running between 4,000 and 6,000 cfs, while the Eagle River, after a June 1 peak of 5,800 cfs, is now flowing between 1,500 and 2,000 near Vail.

“We’ve had a lot of Front Range traffic join us and, as far as for travelers outside of Colorado, families are starting to come in,” said Kevin Foley, owner of Performance Tours Rafting in Breckenridge. “Everyone’s been very excited. It’s good to seem them smiling, especially after a dry summer last year.”

Last year, while the companies had the personnel and gear to lead full-featured trips, the water conditions limited most vacations to float-only trips. The differences between Class 3, Class 4 and Class 5 are significant, so make sure to ask your rafting outfitter for the best possible fit. Wet suits and splash jackets are provided for rafters.

-Ryan Slabaugh

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