Possibly the best in 20 years, Colorado is pumping up for an extremely wet whitewater rafting season.
Summertime is the perfect season for whitewater river rafting, kayaking, and other water adventures throughout Colorado, and this year is looking to be an epic one for watersports!
Colorado recently reached drought-free status due to the substantial late-season moisture spring storms have brought to the state. The resulting high snowpack has river guides and rafting companies readying themselves for a much busier season than we’ve seen in recent years. While the temperatures remain low and the snowpack has yet to melt, conditions are looking far better for the Colorado water sports industry than last year’s very hot dry summer, which put quite a damper on the industry.
Right now, the water levels in Colorado’s creeks and rivers are still historically low, though as temperatures increase into June, the snowmelt will quickly change that. Once it starts the waters will rise swiftly, creating the perfect conditions for a great rafting season. While things may not get going until mid- to late-June, it's likely this is a rafting season that will last well into late-August or early-September.
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2018’s earlier runoff and weak snowpack actually led to an early end to rafting season in some areas, so river rafting guides and companies are quite happy to see the turnaround for this season. Up in the high mountain areas by Durango, the snowpack is up to five times what it was last year, a great sign for rafting there. Rafting professionals across the state predict this may be one of the best whitewater seasons in close to 20 years.
The anticipated runoff and favorable water conditions have spread excitement across the state that has river guides and rafting adventure companies prepping themselves to accommodate a lot of rafters. Seasoned rafters and novices alike are likely to keep the season busy and businesses want to be ready to make this season exceptionally fun and full of river adventures.
Rafting, boating, and kayaking are all fun and memorable outdoor adventures that help make Colorado the outdoor-loving state we are. They are also quite dangerous activities and the higher water levels mean rapidly moving waters that can turn deadly in a moment’s time. With so many people headed out to swim, raft, boat, and fish, all levels of swimmers and water safety knowledge will be out there and with great potential for dangerous situations.
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There are some safety guidelines and tips that those headed out to any water adventure should be familiar with. Children 12 years and younger must wear a life jacket or portable flotation device (PFD), as required per Colorado state law. The U.S. Coast guard estimates that 80 percent of all boating deaths may have been prevented had the victim been wearing a life jacket.
The Colorado Boating Statutes and Regulations - Statue 33-13-106 (4.5) Equipment Requirements has extensive information and guidelines about what those participating in watersports in our state must adhere to.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) points out that many people overestimate their ability to “swim out” of a precarious situation. CPW recommends that anyone out on the water wear a life jacket and strongly cautions not to overestimate your swimming ability, the distance to shore, or the water temperature. Even in summer months there may be extremely cold water running through Colorado’s waterways and can quickly turn deadly if one is unprepared or oblivious to the risk this activity has.
Always choose a reputable, licensed, and professional rafting company when participating in whitewater rafting. Wear a life jacket and appropriate clothing; remember, this is not a day at the beach, it is a quickly moving and extremely powerful mountain river! Wear protective gear such as helmets, which you should never go out rafting without, and sunscreen and sunglasses. Sunburn can be very painful and get quite severe out on the water without you even realizing it, so be prepared for both cold and sunny conditions. Things can change quickly out there! Stay in your boat, listen to your guides, and know the safety guidelines and commands before you hit the water.
Rafting and river sports are great fun and can be a life-changing experience, but you do not want to take the risk of going out there without being ready and prepared for everything.
What do our OCN readers think? Have you ever experienced the thrill of watersports in Colorado? I have spent many days paddling the lakes and rivers of the state in my kayak, maybe this will be the year I finally give whitewater rafting a go. Do you have any favorite spots to go rafting or boating in Colorado or any reliable whitewater outfitters that you can recommend to us in the comments below?