Caution urged as uncommon runoff begins

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jun 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-07 22:13:01-04

FREMONT COUNTY – The same snow that drew in a recording setting number of skiers to Colorado this season is now melting into what’s expected to be one of the best rafting seasons in a generation.

“We’re reaching back to 1995 to really find a year that’s comparable to what we’re seeing right now,” said Andy Neinas, owner of Echo Canyon River Expeditions in Cañon City.

Gates strung above the Arkansas River at Salida’s whitewater kayak park.

Cool temperatures this spring delayed the seasonal runoff. Snowpack levels remain at 500 to 600 percent of average for this time of the year. Neines thinks the rafting season will stretch well into August.

There can be too much water for some. So, he encourages customers to make smart decisions about which excursions to choose.

“The questions they should be asking are; what’s appropriate for my son or daughter, how old is your son or daughter, what’s appropriate for maybe a grandparent or a parent who’s on the trip, are there medical conditions or physical limitations,” Neinas said. “People should be very honest and very candid when they have those conversations.”

At the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area in Salida, manager Rob White said water levels can build quickly as temperatures grow warmer.

“At this time of the year when the flows are increasing by 100, 200, or 300 (cubic feet per second) every day, someone, if they weren’t cautious, could easily slip into the river.”

The water temperature is also much colder right now than it will be in August. So, he recommends wearing a wetsuit or a drysuit to protect against hypothermia if you fall in.

Anglers and kayakers should avoid visiting the river alone. Anyone on the water should wear protective equipment like helmet and a personal flotation device.

White said inexperienced rafters need to trust their outfitters and only attempt areas where the rapids are appropriate.

“Commercial companies have seen this type of water before, the guides have seen this type of water before, and they have all the proper gear to make sure that you have everything that you need.”

There are many picnic areas along the banks of the Arkansas River. White encourages families visiting those area to be cautious around the water.