Cattlemen disheartened by Browns Canyon designation — The Mountain Mail

February 23, 2015
Browns Canyon via

Browns Canyon via

From The Mountain Mail:

Officials with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) said in a press release they were “disheartened” to learn of the presidential declaration of Browns Canyon as a national monument.

“We worked in good faith with former Sen. Udall and others to find a way to prevent a presidential declaration,” Tim Canterbury, chair of the Public Lands Council, said in the release.

“Now, all we can do is ask for a seat at the table and hope that the voices of ranchers will be heard and respected in the designation’s implementation process,” he said.

After learning about the designation, CCA officials spoke to Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper, both of whom agreed to work on ensuring grazing would continue without changes or restrictions.

According to the release, CCA will work to ensure the following points are included in the declaration and clarified:

  • Motorized access must continue to be allowed for permit administration, range improvements and water maintenance.
  • Explicit language must be written into the designation that allows sheep and cattle producers to trail their livestock to and from federal grazing allotments through portions of the designated area.
  • Weeds and weed control must also be addressed in the rules of implementation, particularly in headwaters areas.
  • Language must be included in the designation implementation to ensure that changes in the numbers of authorized livestock are based on facts and not the whim of individual land managers.
  • Language that would explicitly ensure permits will be transferable to new permittee/owners in the same manner as was the case prior to the designation of the national monument is also required.
  • Water rights must be expressly recognized in wilderness acts that further codify states’ water laws.
  • The changes must be applied throughout the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service so that administration at all levels carry out the intent of the law without personal deference that subsequently limits or harms livestock grazing through administrative bias.

    “We stand by the fact that a presidential declaration is not in the best interest of the agricultural community, and we sincerely hope that the president and his administration have heard our concerns and will ensure that the rule-making process addresses the concerns of landowners and ranchers,” said Canterbury.

    He emphasized the organization will keep pushing for legislation that will clarify grazing permit rights for Browns Canyon and any future designation.

    A look at the state of the whitewater business along the Arkansas River

    February 22, 2015


    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    A nearly 7 percent increase in Arkansas River rafting business last summer bodes well for a further rebound in the industry, yet some fear the river is slowly losing its share of the market. The Arkansas River reported 191,307 boaters last summer, up 6.6 percent from 2013, according to a report issued this week by the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

    While the Arkansas River remains the most rafted river in the state by a large margin, it has lost about 3 percent of its market share to other rivers, according to the rafters group.

    Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

    Clear Creek watershed map via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

    One river showing big gains is Clear Creek west of Denver. Clear Creek reported 72,224 rafters last summer, up from 61,172 in 2013 and 35,422 in 2012.

    “Clear Creek has been drawing substantially because of its convenience to Denver,” said the outfitter association’s Joe Greiner of Wilderness Aware Rafting in Buena Vista. “They are taking more (of the) people who used to come to the Arkansas River from Denver.”

    The main staging area for Clear Creek rafting is Idaho Springs on Interstate 70.

    Greiner said rafting on the Arkansas remains “well off its peak” of just over 252,000 customers in 2001. That peak was followed by an all-time low of 139,178 boaters during the drought year of 2002.

    It was a plunge that the local industry hasn’t fully rebounded from. In 2007, the river came close with 239,887 boaters. Then came the Great Recession and a string of summers marred by drought and wildfires.

    Rafting is big business.

    The $23.7 million in direct 2014 expenditures on Arkansas River rafting multiplies to an overall economic impact of $60.7 million when spending for items like lodging, gas and food is factored into the equation.

    Greiner credits strong water flows and the absence of major wildfires as big contributors to the increased business last summer. Last summer’s river-related deaths totaled 11 — three of which were attributed to commercial rafting accidents — but were not seen as scaring away business.

    “The public is more educated and not reacting to headlines like they used to. People are taking responsibility for which section of the river they choose based on their physical limitations, river conditions and experience,” Greiner said.

    If the Arkansas River is to get back to its past peak season of 250,000 customers, Greiner thinks the Browns Canyon national monument status designation would do the trick. The canyon, located between Salida and Buena Vista, is being considered for the federal status. [ed. President Obama signed the executive order designating Browns Canyon as a nation monument on February 19, 2015.]

    “It would put a star on the map and people would plan their trip around that. If they find out the best way to see the national monument is by raft I think it would improve the status of the river,” Greiner said.

    Friends of Browns Canyon have lobbied in Washington, D.C. and gotten positive feedback.

    “There is a good chance of it,” Greiner said.

    Another positive sign for this year’s rafting season is the snowpack.

    “It is in pretty good shape although it has been warm and we’ve lost some (snow), if you look at the three critical gauges, they are all above average,” Greiner said.

    Browns Canyon via

    Browns Canyon via

    Yampa River is one of the top 10 threatened paddling classics according to @CanoeKayakMag

    February 19, 2015

    Two kayakers got close to breaking Kenton Grua, et al., speed record thru the Grand Canyon #ColoradoRiver

    January 12, 2015
    Map of Grand Canyon National Park via the NPS

    Map of Grand Canyon National Park via the NPS

    From the Spokane Spokesman-Review (Rich Landers):

    Ben Orkin of Portland and Harrison Rea of Georgia, paddling separately, launched on the Colorado River on Jan. 7 for an attempt at setting a record: The seasoned Colorado River guides wanted to be the fastest non-motorized boaters to traverse the Grand Canyon 277 miles from Lee’s Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs.

    The record was set by a dory in 1983 during much faster flood-stage flows, but January was the only time the pair could score a coveted permit. They’d hoped to make up for slower river flows with their high-performance — but fragile — kayaks.

    The time to beat was 36 hours and 38 minutes. Orkin and Rea were on track to finish in about 36 hours, until notorious Crystal Rapid had its way with Rea’s boat.

    Crystal Rapid via

    Crystal Rapid via

    They self-rescued after Rea’s collision with a rock and subsequent capsize, repaired the boat, continued paddling — and still nearly broke the overall record.

    Orkin arrived exhausted at Grand Wash Cliffs in 37 hours and 48 minutes after launching, one hour and 10 minutes slower than The Emerald Mile’s flood-assisted run.

    A wrap-up story by Canoe & Kayak online says that despite failing to beat the non-motorized record, Orkin, who paddled ahead of Rea after the boat repair, became the fastest kayaker to complete the canyon, “taking the lead in a category legendary whitewater pioneer Fletcher Anderson started in the late ‘70s when he completed a solo kayak descent of the canyon in 49 hours.”

    Colorado River to get new whitewater play park at Pumphouse — Steamboat Pilot & Today

    December 27, 2014
    Pumphouse, Radium campgrounds via the Bureau of Land Management

    Pumphouse, Radium campgrounds via the Bureau of Land Management

    From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Eugene Buchanan):

    While kayaking play parks have sprouted up across the West in recent decades — including the C and D Holes on the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs — the region’s biggest waterway, the Colorado River, only has one engineered kayaking (and board surfing) park: the remarkably popular “wave” in Glenwood Springs.

    That’s slated to change this spring, however, with construction of the Colorado’s second river park near the Pumphouse put-in just downstream of Kremmling and Class V Gore Canyon, an hour’s drive away from Steamboat.

    In late November, officials from Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Grand County, local landowners and paddlers gathered to announce the construction of the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park right where the Colorado emerges from the Gore Canyon and enters the meandering flats of the Pumphouse Recreation Area.

    The park will be located between the top two already established put-in zones.

    With the stretch boasting year-round flows, the new site will create a park-and-play venue usable from early spring through fall for Colorado paddlers.

    The park also is integral to protecting future flows on the heavily diverted Colorado River.

    Since 2010, river conservation group American Whitewater has worked with Grand County on the park’s concept and design as well as helped secure political and financial support for the project. With input from hundreds of volunteers, American Whitewater also has defined flow ranges that sustain good paddling opportunities along that section of the Colorado River.

    “The project provides important benefits to river recreation and river health, in Grand County and for many miles downstream,” American Whitewater’s Colorado Director Nathan Fey said. “This project provides certainty for downstream water users, creates new opportunities for paddlers and anglers and complements many other river management actions currently being developed across the Colorado River Basin.”

    The Gore Canyon Whitewater Park is being built in association with Grand County’s Recreational In-Channel Diversion water right.

    The RICD, which was filed in 2010, will protect 2,500 cubic feet per second from being taken out of the river, consistent with Colorado Water Law. Similar to the RICD obtained by the city of Steamboat Springs for the Charlie’s Hole structure downtown on the Yampa River, the new RICD for Grand County consists of a new in-channel “feature” that is required by state statute to control and measure the flow in the Colorado River at Pumphouse.

    The control feature was designed by Jason Carey, of River Restoration Engineers, which also built the wave in Glenwood Springs downstream.

    Consisting of engineer-designed boulders placed across the stream channel that will not be visible at normal flows and will allow for fish passage at all flow rates, the feature is being built just upstream of the second Pumphouse boat ramp.

    “By building this project and securing important water rights, our communities can enjoy long-term protections for our river and for its many uses,” Fey said.

    The park will enhance river-based recreational opportunities in the region; help grow the sport by providing a location for people to develop new skills; and strengthen the local economies. The groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the construction phase of the project, which is scheduled to be complete by April 2015.

    More whitewater coverage here.

    Proposed Glenwood Springs whitewater parks under scrutiny

    December 8, 2014
    City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

    City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Aspen Times:

    A consulting engineer and whitewater park designer has raised concerns that three whitewater parks proposed by the City of Glenwood Springs between Grizzly Creek and Two Rivers Park on the Colorado River could make the popular stretch of river too gnarly for some boaters and floaters.

    “Changing the nature of the reach by creating a recreational in-channel diversion (RICD) to entice expert recreational experiences would be inappropriate and would likely have deleterious effects on existing recreational experiences … ,” concluded Jason Carey, an engineer with River Restoration of Carbondale, in a Sept. 9 report.

    Carey designed the popular surf wave on the Colorado River in West Glenwood Springs, as well as a whitewater park now under construction on the Colorado at Pumphouse, which is below Gore Canyon and above State Bridge.

    The Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Lodge & Pool is concerned about potential damage to its source of hot water by the installation of wave-producing “control structures” in one of the parks, and so it hired Carey to study a preliminary engineering report prepared in January for the city by another whitewater park designer, Scott Shipley of S2O Design & Engineering.

    On Friday, Shipley responded to Carey’s independent technical review of his design with a supplemental engineering report of his own.

    “It is the intent of the city of Glenwood Springs to create whitewater parks at the proposed sites that will produce a surfing and boating attraction for all types of visitors while protecting the existing floating and rafting experiences through this reach,” Shipley wrote in his Dec. 5 report.

    The key, Shipley says, is to provide a way for boaters to get around the two man-made waves in each of the three parks, if they want to.

    “The proposed RICD control structures will utilize clearly marked bypass chutes that are designed to provide a route that is easily recognizable and navigable with low to medium size waves, which provides for a concurrent ‘less difficult’ recreational experience,” Shipley wrote, adding that “the proposed structures will not change the difficulty rating of the reach.”

    But Carey’s review of Shipley’s design suggested that a wave big enough to attract expert kayakers may also produce river carnage amongst casual boaters, even with a bypass channel.

    “A recently completed RICD in Durango is notorious for flipping rafts, even with the bypass boat chute’s obvious routes of navigation designed into the structures,” Carey wrote. “One user commented how they just got off of the Grand Canyon and never flipped. First run down the Durango RICD and they flipped in their raft and lost equipment.”

    While Carey does not say so, Shipley of S20 designed the new whitewater park that opened this spring in Durango on Smelter Rapid in the Animas River.

    “This type of experience may be acceptable as Durango was a Class III reach modified into a Class III+ RICD and people know there is a risk of flipping and self rescue in these rapids,” Carey wrote. “However flipping rafts may be unacceptable in Class II rapids when children, elderly or otherwise risk adverse persons are aboard.”

    The section of the Colorado between Grizzly Creek and Two Rivers is considered Class III during bigger water, but for most of the summer the stretch is rated Class II, as the river typically runs at a consistent 1,250 cfs due to the senior water rights tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant upstream.

    The surf wave in West Glenwood, which was designed by Carey, has a bypass channel, but it also has flipped rafts. Carey notes, however, that the big wave is located on a run – Two Rivers through South Canyon – that was already a consistent Class III stretch and so the “Glenwood wave” did not change the nature of the run.

    The city is seeking a new water right in Div. 5 Water Court for the whitewater parks, which are proposed for three locations along 3.5 river miles of the Colorado River.

    The parks, each with two wave-producing structures, are proposed at No Name and Horseshoe Bend, which are both upstream of downtown Glenwood, and at upper Two Rivers Park, which is just above the confluence with the Roaring Fork River.

    The city wants the right to call for 1,250 cfs of water from April 1 to Sept. 30, for 2,500 cfs for up to 46 days between April 30 and July 23, and for 4,000 cfs for up to five days between May 11 and July 6.

    Additional comments on the city’s proposal are due in to water court by March.

    Aspen Journalism and The Aspen Times are collaborating on coverage of rivers and water. More at

    More whitewater coverage here.

    High flow test shows reconstruction of the Silver Bullet Rapid may have smoothed things out

    December 6, 2014
    Silver Bullet Rapid via The Mountain Mail

    Silver Bullet Rapid via The Mountain Mail

    From The Mountain Mail (Maisie Ramsay):

    The problematic Buena Vista-area rapid that disrupted commercial rafting last summer is showing improvement. A pulse of high water used to assess changes at the Silver Bullet Rapid last week indicates an overpowering hydraulic has been smoothed out.

    “It looks like we took a step in the right direction,” said Rob White, park manager for Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. “Hopefully, it will continue to perform well when water comes up in the spring.”
    Flows reached 1,200 cubic feet per second during the Nov. 26 evaluation. The real test won’t come until spring runoff, when dramatically higher flows will create more powerful currents.

    “We still need to see how it performs at 1,500 cfs, 3,500 cfs,” White said.

    The Silver Bullet Rapid was reworked last winter to have three drops instead of one drop. Those changes proved troublesome last May when they created a “massive recirculating wave that’s tending to hold boats and potentially cause a flip,” White said at the time.

    The hydraulic was so dangerous AHRA closed Silver Bullet Rapid to rafters for 3 weeks.

    The early-season closure created logistical headaches for local outfitters, who had to disrupt, shorten and revise trips.

    “It hurt quality and cost money,” Wilderness Aware Rafting co-owner Joe Greiner said.
    Even after the closure was lifted, AHRA still required all rafts to portage around the Silver Bullet Rapid and the adjacent Helena Diversion structure.

    The issue prompted AHRA to embark on a reconstruction project in fall, splitting the cost with the engineering firm responsible for last winter’s redesign of the Silver Bullet Rapid boat chute, Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder.

    The final cost of the most recent redesign has not been determined. Last year’s work cost roughly $400,000.
    The most recent work included filling a hole in the riverbed with concrete, extending the rapid’s third drop about 20 feet and installing “reflectors … to create a flushing ‘V’ versus a standing wave,” White said.
    The mid-river island was lowered to lessen the force of water in the boat chute, and the portage trail was extended to better avoid a downstream eddy. Additional rock will be added to the portage trail in spring so it won’t wash out at high water, White said.

    At Wilderness Aware Rafting, Greiner is skeptical that a complete fix has been achieved for Silver Bullet Rapid.

    “It’s still channeled into pretty much all one spot,” Greiner said. “I’m not a hydrologist, but my gut feeling is there’s going to be a pretty big wave at high flows.”

    How the rapid pans out won’t be known until spring, but Greiner is braced for possible problems at high flows.

    “I hope the powers that be are on standby if it does cause a problem and are prepared to keep going until we get it right,” Greiner said. “I think we’ll be okay for most of the year, might just be a couple weeks where it causes a problem.”

    Wilderness Aware Rafting was one of many Arkansas River rafting outfitters affected by the Silver Bullet Rapid closure and subsequent portage requirement.

    “It affected us greatly,” said Mike Kissack, president of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association. “It’s an excellent stretch of river from the Numbers into Buena Vista to Johnson Village. It’s important that everyone have access to that – having that rapid function properly is important to all of us.”

    More whitewater coverage here.


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