Good rafting continues on Colorado’s Arkansas River through Labor Day

An already excellent year for rafting conditions on the Arkansas River is receiving a boost to its flow levels through Labor Day, ensuring outfitters on Colorado’s leading whitewater river will have sufficient flows to operate through the holiday weekend.

Because the water level must be drawn down at the Twin Lakes Reservoir to enable repairs on a power plant there, flows downstream through the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area will be augmented, according to Bob Hamel, executive director of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association. The Arkansas is far and away the rafting river in Colorado, accounting for nearly 248,000 user days in 2022, more than 45% of the state’s total number.

It has been a good year for rafting already thanks to an above-average Colorado snowpack, a cool wet spring that kept runoff gradual and steady, frequent rain in early summer and now the monsoon. The added flow from the drawdown at Twin Lakes will be a boon for rafters.

“We have some supplemental flows because of this movement of water for the repairs coming up,” Hamel said. “The season is going to extend through Labor Day. They are adequate flows, fun levels, compared to anywhere else in the state.”

Rafting will continue on the Cache la Poudre River in northern Colorado through Labor Day with water levels above normal for this time of year.

“We’re definitely in our low-water season,” said Kevin Schuster, the river manager for Rocky Mountain Adventures, which operates on the Poudre. “It’s more technical rafting. It’s still splashy out there, but it’s not the hard-hitting waves you see in spring runoff. It’s kind of getting around rocks and things of that nature.”

Rafting will continue on the Colorado River beyond Labor Day, according to David Costlow, executive director of the statewide Colorado River Outfitters Association.

“The Colorado will flow fine all the way from Kremmling to the Utah border,” Costlow said. “There will be outfitters there probably going into October.” Costlow estimated that Colorado rafting lasts through Labor Day roughly three out of 10 years. “When you make it to Labor Day, you’re feeling pretty good,” he said. “Not every year do you make it. This year they’ll make it.”

Hamel said conditions have been good all summer, but visitor numbers may be down this year compared to recent years.

“We’re all quite aware that the bump we got from COVID was through the roof,” Hamel said. “It was incredible. (Outfitters) turned away thousands of people in the COVID years. I think we’ll be down a little bit, but kind of average, maybe a little bit below.”

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