Rafters anticipate a big splash | SummitDaily.com

Rafters anticipate a big splash

Raft industry representatives are excited about the prospect of having whitewater this season.

Most people in the industry anticipate this rafting season to be the best in five years due to the strong snowpack and cold spring temperatures. River flows will be 100-percent of average, or, in other words, normal. And, that’s something water sports enthusiasts haven’t seen for a while.

“We’re anticipating a fabulous year,” said Christian Campton, co-owner of Kodi Rafting in Frisco. “We’re still a little preliminary, but we’ve taken a couple of trips already. In (recent) years, we’ve still been able to make it happen with the (low) flows, but what happens now is, it turns into a whitewater raft trip. We made it last year, mainly because of the upper Colorado (River). I have to give a whole lot of credit to our guides. They did a phenomenal job of keeping morale up. We encouraged people to come back this year and see a whole new river system. We were hoping enough that it’s happened. It’s some of the best snowpack since (19)98-ish. It’s going to be a really good season.”

Anyone who spent time on the river last year knows that whitewater was scarce. Local rafting companies such as Kodi specialize in a variety of trips for all ages and abilities, but last year, there was a lot of float-only trips, very few rapids and a whole lot of getting beached in shallow water.

Many local rafting outfitters have already kicked off the season and are taking trips down the Arkansas River through the Royal Gorge and Browns Canyon. Although temperatures have been too cold to allow any real melting or runoff in the High Country, rafting companies say, in the long run, this will improve the season.

“Right now, (water levels) are very low, because runoff hasn’t started yet,” said Kevin Foley, owner of Performance Tours Rafting in Breckenridge. “Water levels are not too much higher than they were last year because we’ve had a very cool spring. Early June is when the runoff will start, and we get a lot of reservations for weekends in June. Weekdays in the early season are the best times for people to be on the river. Water levels are generally great, and this year, we should see some exciting whitewater. What we’re seeing right now is ideal, cool temperatures. Even in the month of May, cool temperatures are important. The longer we have cold temperatures, the better. It’s perfect; we’re seeing cool temperatures to keep it from melting too soon and additional precipitation and snowpack.”

Most local rafting companies offer half-day and full-day trips, and some offer multiple-day trips on the Arkansas and the Colorado. Half-day trips cost around $40 for adults and $35 for children and full-day excursions in the ball park of $70 to $80. Families often opt for milder float trips, while experienced rafters look for more adrenaline-laden trips through Class 4 and 5 rapids, the gamut of which rafting outfitters are expecting to provide this summer once the snow melt kicks off.

“Everyone is very optimistic,” said Jackie Hawkins from The Adventure Company, which offers raft trips down the Arkansas from Pine Creek to the Royal Gorge, the Upper Colorado and Gore Canyon, and, flow-permitting, down the Eagle River.

One thing is certain for the rafting industry: there will be more water in all of Colorado’s rivers than there was last year.

“Anything is better than last year,” Hawkins said. “And the cold now is good for us. It’s keeping all the snow we had this winter in the mountains and isn’t running off yet. Not only will it make the season last longer, but the first two weeks of June are going to be amazing.”

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