Recent snows to have ripple effect on rivers |

Recent snows to have ripple effect on rivers

Post Independent Photo/Jim NoelkerAnglers get out for some spring fishing on the Roaring Fork River last week. Rafting industry officials are feeling buoyed by recent snowfall, and optimistic about their upcoming season.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Colorado rafting companies are looking forward to a wet and watery river running season, locally and statewide.

Bruce Becker of the Colorado River Outfitters Association said recent snows in Colorado’s river basins have the state’s rafting companies optimistic about this year’s river-running season. The association represents nearly 50 commercial river outfitters around Colorado.

“We’re looking forward to another good year in 2004,” said Becker. “The recent mountain snowfalls have piqued people’s interest.”

Becker said some mountain areas have reported as much as two feet of snow in the last week, boosting Colorado’s snowpack levels. Loveland ski area alone received 20 inches of snow on Wednesday and Thursday.

Gary Hansen of Blue Sky Adventures has been operating the Glenwood Springs-based rafting company for the past 29 years. He said recent area precipitation means great rafting this summer.

“Early reports of snowpack levels can be deceiving,” Hansen said. “What people sometimes don’t realize is that we don’t have to have huge water in order to have a great season.”

Hansen said for his clientele ” mostly tourists wanting to “get out, get wet and have a safe river trip” ” water levels on the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon and beyond are ideal.

“Most folks want to get out on the water, take the family out and have a good time,” Hansen said, adding that water levels can fluctuate widely during the course of the summer and still provide sporty, fun experiences.

“We typically top out at around 8,000-10,000 cfs during runoff, and can go to 1,200-1,400 cfs during the latter part of the season in July and August,” Hansen said.

Cubic feet per second is a measure of water moving past a point, and one cubic foot equals 7.5 gallons.

River levels generally stay within those ranges because of senior water rights held by the Shoshone Power Plant, and the irrigation demands for water in the Grand Valley.

Hansen said when he looks back, it’s ironic that his lowest operating years were not a result of low water, but because of too much water in 1984, and because of wildfire in 2002.

“In 1984, we hit 20,000 cfs on the Colorado,” he said. “There was so much water we couldn’t get under the Rio Grande bridge west of town. And in 2002, the water level was fine. We were down that year because of the perception that Colorado was burning down.”

Dave Merritt, an engineer for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs, said water levels are looking fine locally for river running.

“We’re maintaining,” Merritt said. “We’ll have sufficient flows once again.”

Merritt said John Henz, a hydrometeorologist contracted with the conservation district, is predicting a wet spring.

“Last year, I attended a water meeting in Denver where Henz predicted a wet spring, and we got it,” said Hansen. “He’s very reputable, and it looks like he’s going to hit it again.”

As of Thursday, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service reported the Upper Colorado River basin at 78 percent of the 30-year average for snowpack for early April.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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