Brace for high river rapids this weekend |

Brace for high river rapids this weekend

Aspen Volunteer Fire Department members recoil the recovery rope thrown out to river floaters practicing water rescue Thursday in Rio Grande Park.
Jeremy Wallace |

If you want to beat the heat on the water this weekend, cool down with caution, local officials warn.

Rapids on the Roaring Fork River are expected to peak this weekend, said Aspen Fire Department Chief Rick Balentine, citing information from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center.

Balentine said the currents are “dangerously high” now and cautioned those on the water to wear some form of safety flotation device.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 88 percent of people who drown in boating accidents are not wearing a life vest, Balentine said.

He cited another Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stat noting alcohol is a factor in 70 percent of water-recreation accidents.

“These are pretty stark facts,” Balentine said. “If you see somebody about to do something stupid, say something.

“Just be smart.”

River-goers also should scout their route before venturing, as conditions change daily, he said.

Like Balentine, Aspen Whitewater Rafting owner Jim Ingram, who’s guided raft excursions in the area for more than 20 years, said he anticipates the river will peak this weekend or early next week.

Ingram looks to the Colorado Division of Water Resources, which collects data throughout the state via stream and reservoir monitoring sites, as a resource for river flow.

The river is “definitely running fast” right now, but Ingram said he hasn’t seen anything “crazy” in terms of water levels or rapids.

On Thursday, the river flow hit around 1,640 cubic feet per second, Ingram said.

River officials often draw a parallel between one cubic feet per second and one basketball — meaning 1,640 cubic feet per second is the equivalent to about 1,640 basketballs rushing down a river at once.

Ingram expects the Slaughterhouse area, one of the faster, more thrilling sections of the river, to reach between 1,800 and 2,200 cfs this weekend.

In terms of river safety, he stressed the importance of always hitting the water with experienced professionals.

Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office Director of Operations Alex Burchetta advised that people wait until the river levels reach normal in a few weeks before partaking in any recreational activity.

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