Rafting continues on Ark and Colorado | SummitDaily.com

Rafting continues on Ark and Colorado

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources released extra water from reservoirs that feed the Arkansas River last week, and, although the river is expected to return to native flows

Friday, local rafting companies plan to take the season through Labor Day weekend.|Summit Daily file photo/Brad Odekirk| |

SUMMIT COUNTY – While a few local rafting companies have shifted their focus to the Upper Colorado River for late summer trips, some local companies are still running excursions down the Arkansas River. The Ark will return to its native flows Friday after benefitting this summer from an augmented flow program spearheaded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The augmented flow program involves water releases from Clear Creek Reservoir, Turquoise Lake and Twin Lakes. Although the program ended last Friday, the Bureau of Reclamation and the DNR agreed to release an extra 3,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) which will taper off Friday.

“It was kind of an extension designed to get us through the normal flow period until Aug. 15,” said Kevin Foley, owner of Performance Tours Rafting, which has an office in Breckenridge and runs trips down the Arkansas and Colorado rivers.

“They thought they exhausted all the water for (the augmented flow program), then they determined they didn’t. Greg Felt from Salida (Canyon Marine Rafting) got in touch with (DNR director) Greg Walcher, and was able to secure flows. The long and short of it is, it really helped out local rafting companies. It was great. We’ve been busy all week. Unfortunately, now they’re ramping down.”

The flow in the Ark Wednesday was around 500 cfs, but Foley said it has lowered by about 15 percent every day since the extra release last Friday.

By Friday, he expects it to drop below 400 cfs.

Although the river is still passable, some outfitters have shifted their late-season tour focuses to the Upper Colorado River, also known as the Upper C, which has swelled thanks to releases from the Green Mountain Reservoir.

“We’re pretty much done on the Arkansas,” said Laura Russell of Arkansas Valley Adventures, which is based in Keystone. “We moved our operation to the Colorado. A large percentage of our clientele comes from Summit County, and the Upper Colorado is where most of the water is right now.”

Some companies are still running trips on the Arkansas, but are leaving the choice to their customers.

“After Friday, we’ll do full-day trips only,” said Christy Campton of Kodi Rafting in Frisco. “We’ll really be taking most of our guests down the Upper C, but we’ll give everybody a choice. They can have more of a mild flow trip with some Class 2 sections on the Upper C, or a wild trip, even though water will be lower on the Arkansas.”

One thing is certain. The 2003 rafting season will go at least through Labor Day weekend.

“The Upper C definitely has water, but a lot of people are still running down here (on the Arkansas),” Foley said. “I’ve talked to a lot of companies about running through at least Labor Day. On the Ark, it’s low water and there’s rocks, which will change the nature of the run, but I’m aware of companies still running it.”

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