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Rafters riding high

The Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon is open for business, and area rafting companies are happily cashing in.

“We had a great May,” said Blue Sky Adventures owner Gary Hansen. “June is starting off to be a good season.”

Whitewater Rafting co-owner Susi Larson said business is back to normal after last season’s drought year. “The water conditions are ideal,” Larson said.



With the Colorado River at its highest peak in six years, rafting companies are running the Colorado River below Grizzly Creek, as well as the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers.

Commercial rafting companies are not running the two-mile stretch in Glenwood Canyon between the Shoshone power plant and Grizzly Creek right now, due to high water.



“When Shoshone hits 6,000 cfs we start running it,” said Rock Gardens manager Ted Browner. “It was at 9,500 cfs Tuesday morning.”

Cfs, or cubic feet per second, is a measure of moving water, and 1 cfs equals 7.5 gallons.

Browner said his season “kicked off with a bang” Memorial Day weekend. “We’ve been getting steady business ever since,” Browner said.

Rock Gardens is running the Crystal River from Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, down the Roaring Fork River to the Colorado River, and on to South Canyon or near New Castle.

“People get to go on three rivers in three hours,” Browner said.

Browner said the Crystal, one of Colorado’s few free-flowing rivers, is running really well. “It’s fast. There’s good water there,” he said.

Hansen, at Blue Sky Adventures, said his company is offering two rafting trips at this time of the year. One trip goes from Grizzly Creek to New Castle, and the other from Colorado Rocky Mountain School to South Canyon or New Castle.

“This is a good time of the year to be out,” said Hansen, who opened his business 28 years ago.

High water on the Colorado was the norm for many of those years, until last year’s drought reduced flows and customer numbers. Hansen said the Colorado has returned to its old form.

“We used to run this type of water, back when it was business as usual,” Hansen said.

Larson, at Whitewater Rafting, said her company’s trips include the Colorado Rocky Mountain School to South Canyon trip, and Grizzly Creek to New Castle.

“People are having a ball out there,” Larson said. “The waves are really nice.”

Whitewater Rafting is located on Devereux Road in West Glenwood Springs, visible from Interstate 70, and some clients pull in for a float trip on impulse.

“It happens all the time,” Larson said. “Especially when the weather heats up.”

Rafting companies will start putting their boats in the Colorado River at Shoshone power plant when water levels drop a bit.

Hansen said the Western Slope River Guides Association drafted an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service in the 1980s that spells out the conditions under which they float the rapid-strewn stretch from Shoshone to Grizzly Creek.

One reason commercial rafters don’t run Shoshone when water levels are high is to set an example for private boaters.

“If we are out there, private boaters have a tendency to run it,” Hansen said. “There are other sections of the river that can be run without people endangering themselves.”

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

lburton@postindependent.com


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