Run-off boosts Grand County rafting businesses
Ryan Summerlin July 17, 2014
As river flows begin to ebb around mid-summer, rafters are looking back and fondly recalling the early part of the season.
This year’s heavy snowpack, which has seen reservoirs on both sides of the Continental Divide fill, has also created a memorable rafting season.
Mike Wasson, co-owner of Red Tail Rafting in Fraser, said his company has had an excellent year so far.
“The water level is much better,” said Wasson. “The flow is much better than it has been in the last couple of years due to the good winter snowfall we’ve had. So for rafting, it’s excellent.”
Red Tail runs trips exclusively on the Colorado River headwaters.
Flows are no longer at peak levels, but the rivers still have plenty of water, said Alan Blado, owner of Liquid Descent rafting.
Liquid Descent runs more advanced trips to Clear Creek out of Idaho Springs, but it also offers trips on the Colorado River out of its Kremmling location.
June was a period of very high water on both rivers, which Blado said makes trips more exciting but also more risky, though this year his company had no safety issues or injuries.
“Now, we’re at like a good medium flow, because it’s still really fun and splashy, but it’s not as intense as the high water in June,” Blado said.
Flows on the Colorado River near Kremmling on June 4 have averaged around 2,160 cfs over the last 50 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. This year, flows in that area were around 3,791 cfs on June 4.
The rafting on Clear Creek was also good this year.
“It was definitely a little bit better than years past,” Blado said. “Every river is kind of its own market, but I have a feeling that most companies on Clear Creek are doing better than last year.”
Economically, Liquid Descent’s client base seems more stable this year, with many rafters buying things to immortalize their experiences, Blado said.
“People are definitely kind of spending more money,” Blado said. “More people are buying T-shirts and pictures and things like that.”
Blado attributes it to a number of things, including the strengthening economy, but also the good conditions.
“When people have an awesome time, they want to commemorate it with something,” Blado said.
This year, Blado said he believes his season will go until August.
Wasson said that, though he can’t be sure, he expects his season to go until September.
“You know we never know for sure,” Wasson said. “We’ll continue in through September just depending on the requests and the river conditions. This year, with the level of water it is right now, we expect September to still be a good flow.”
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.