Glenwood Springs commercial rafting companies continue to receive calls from concerned residents and tourists about whether or not they should still plan a trip.
“‘Am I going to return from this trip? I have seen some really bad press,’” Whitewater Rafting LLC partner Phoebe Larsson said of what those phone calls sound like. “Many of our phone calls are talking people off the ledge.”
With headlines across the state calling 2019 “one of Colorado’s deadliest rafting years,” local rafting companies hope to set their own safety records straight.
“Fortunately, in this section of the Colorado, Glenwood is that wonderful destination for the family-friendly rafting even when the Arkansas and Clear Creek and other rivers are running really intensely,” Larsson explained.
During the summer, Whitewater Rafting takes as many as 400 rafters daily onto the Colorado River and remains in constant communication with other local commercial rafting companies.
Fourteen rafting companies hold permits with the U.S. Forest Service for the Shoshone and Grizzly Creek sections. Known collectively as the Shoshone Partnership, the cooperative allows local rafting companies to connect about water levels and potential hazards.
“Through that cooperation, but also directly company-to-company, we are able to quickly adapt or adjust trips,” Blue Sky Adventures co-owner Patrick Drake said. “It is a daily routine watching water pretty consistently and then being able to make an appropriate decision for where we can offer that family-oriented trip.
Typically, those family-oriented trips include Class II and Class III rapids.
The International Scale of River Difficulty describes Class II rapids as novice and “straightforward” with “wide, clear channels.” The American Whitewater Association, which developed the scale, designates Class III rapids as intermediate with “moderate, irregular waves.”
Six classifications of rapids exist with Class I featuring “riffles and small waves,” and Class VI being “almost never attempted” due to “unpredictability,” “danger” and rescue being in many cases impossible.
“People do respect water levels, and they should,” Drake explained. “Now that we are at a time of year where waters are receding and hitting those more average flows we expect the best part of our season to start this week and really run through late August.”
Defiance Rafting Co. co-owner Gregory Cowan said that context was key when discussing river conditions as it pertained to whitewater rafting.
“There is kind of a tendency to lump an instance or a particular stretch of whitewater and make it applicable to all,” Cowan said. “We are very fortunate where we are to have a really accessible stretch of whitewater.”
From a bucket list experience to a multi-generational family rafting trip, the three local companies agreed that they could provide both — and above all else — safely.
“What’s nice is we can do these things, we can get playful out there and do so in a way that is still safe,” Cowan said.
Added Larsson, “We all work together. And once you’re on the river it’s one river community. If one person needs help, we are all there to help one another.”