From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Seth Boster):
“As long as we stay hairy side up, no problem,” went [Jake Schalamon’s] rapid-fire narrative through a portion of river during which the bearded guide led the boat over a swift drop, then directed passengers to rock their raft vigorously in order to free it from a jutting rock.
“Peak season” looms over the Arkansas River Valley. The summer heat in coming weeks will melt the mountain snow, sending water rushing into the country’s top whitewater rafting destination and creating the fast, choppy waters that thrill-seekers crave. And judging by the above-average snowpack that remained firm through the cool spring, Stew Pappenfort predicts the Arkansas’ runoff will be especially strong.
“I think we’ll see high, if not very high, flows this year,” said the head ranger of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, which monitors a 152-mile stretch of the river between Leadville and Lake Pueblo State Park.
Pappenfort said last year’s peak season carried water flows above 6,000 cubic feet per second in some sections; Colorado Parks and Wildlife issues advisories for areas reading above 1,250 cfs. With such conditions pending, now is when Pappenfort offers advice to the public: Boaters should know the water they plan to take on and, most important, they should know themselves…
Traffic was up 3 percent on the Arkansas last year, according to a report released last month by the Colorado River Outfitters Association, and business owners along the river anticipate a similar increase this year…
Rafting in the state is rising with the waters – the 508,728 commercial user days logged in 2015 by the Colorado River Outfitters Association represents a 22 percent increase from only three years prior. The growth has brought $162 million to local economies in each of the past two years, according to CROA.
The growth also has brought more attention to rafting’s inherent risk. In 2014, a record-tying 14 people died boating Colorado’s rivers. Last year, that number was 13, above the state’s yearly average of 10 boating fatalities. Last month, the season had its first two deaths, the most recent being a 60-year-old woman who fell into the Arkansas rapids west of Cañon City. She was rafting with her husband and grandson.