Colorado Whitewater Rafting Death

Colorado Whitewater Rafting Death – A group of rifle rafters attacked the Little Rifle section of the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and America on July 12.

Two groups of rafters hit the rapids on the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and America on Friday.

Colorado Whitewater Rafting Death

A large group of rapids continued east on the Arkansas River after following a large section of rapids between Americus and Buena Vista on Friday July 12th.

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What appeared to be a banner year for whitewater rafting in Colorado, with rivers running high and fast and rapids running high, turned out to be one of the deadliest years in living memory.

The snow melted and the river finally receded, but at least 12 people have died in accidents on the country’s rivers. Three more people disappeared.

The death and spread of the country’s major rivers has led to the raft trade. The situation has people nervous, avoiding some trips this summer, said Mark Hammer, owner of The Adventure Company in Buena Vista.

“The industry, I think we’ve all seen a drop in business,” Hammer said, adding that the slow times could also be attributed to the cold weather in May and June.

River Runners (buena Vista)

“We had snow in the mountains until the third week of June. I don’t know which had a bigger impact – the weather or the publicity tide – but I think the combination of these factors definitely had a negative impact on business.

The Arkansas River, which flows through Avondale, is flowing at about twice its normal rate this year, said Russ Schumacher, a climatologist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center.

Last year, when the snowpack was near record highs, there were only two whitewater rafting and kayaking deaths in Colorado, according to American Whitewater, a nonprofit river conservation organization.

The last time that happened this year was in 2011, when the snowpack was deep and gone by mid-July, Schumacher said. That year, nine people died in the state’s rivers, American Whitewater reported, with many deaths due to flooding.

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As of Friday, Colorado still had the equivalent of 0.3 inches of snow, the measure used by the National Resources Conservation Service to determine snow cover. According to the weather center, if the entire layer of snow melts immediately, the depth of water is the amount of water equal to the snow.

This year’s cool spring and summer, leading up to the latest heat wave, left long stretches of snow on the summit, with snow melting every year. River levels and flows should drop as most of the snow melts, except for a few peaks in northern Colorado, Schumacher said, reducing the threat.

Last year – “one of the driest and worst water years on record” – and this year is very different, said Matt Rice, director of the Colorado River Basin Program for the nonprofit American Rivers.

“I think it’s very dangerous because last year was so low, people saw the river on the same date last year and they thought the river was always going to be like this,” Rice said. “‘It’s easy and it’s a lot of fun and it’s the best day ever,’ and he goes there (this year) and says, ‘Wow, it looks a little high,’ but he doesn’t know what that means.”

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“In short, it is very important, unless your skill base is really high, people who are far away until the river goes down, unless they are safe.”

His advice to anyone who wants to get out and enjoy the river is to find a professional.

Pat Caufield, vice president of the Colorado Search and Rescue Association, said the conditions make it more difficult to save people when they are in the water.

Caufield, commander of the Fremont County Search and Rescue Team, emphasized the importance of entering the river with someone who knows the flow of the river and can perform a quick water rescue if necessary.

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“Saving a river is like saving an avalanche. The people who will save them will be there when it happens,” he said.

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Since June 10, at least three people have died in Colorado’s Arkansas River. Two were on a raft and one was on a stand-up paddle board, according to media reports.

“This is a river that needs to be respected,” Caufield said. “If you’re going to water at 3,000 (cubic feet per second), you want to go in and do it smart.”

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To put that in perspective, a cubic foot is about the size of a basketball, Caufield said. If a river flows at 3000 cubic feet per second, imagine 3000 baskets passing you in one second. In mid-June, the Arkansas was at its highest point, flowing past Cannon City at a rate of 5,000 cubic feet per second.

Because water flow varies along the river’s 1,450 miles, there are no general rules about when to avoid the river, Caufield said.

There is also no formal guidance for risk assessment; No public agency keeps track of all Colorado river deaths.

Spokeswoman Rebecca Ferrell said every company that takes people on state rivers must obtain a river operator’s license through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The agency tracks river deaths that occur on property or while traveling with commercial suppliers.

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“We don’t have rivers, we don’t have highways or anything,” said Patricia Billinger, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Safety, “so I wonder where that came from.” “No one is responsible for the safety of the river. People are responsible for their personal safety. And if he goes with a rafting company, the rafting company will be responsible for his safety.

Of the 12 deaths reported by American Whitewater this year, four occurred while rafting with commercial rafting companies.

6 people drowned after falling from the raft. Two others were said to be floating in inner tubes, two fell from the paddle board and one was in the kayak. Another woman was standing by the river, fell and was swept away by the high water.

Hammer said rafting companies make adjustments when rivers are as high as they were this year to keep customers safe. This includes raising the minimum age and ability to swim, he said.

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“Usually the high tide ends in early, mid-June, and when we get hit with tourists and big families in July, we go back to medium or low flow,” he said. To adapt, this year the company chose a quieter route, suitable for families, which brings the rafters through Salida.

Adventure Company follows specific recommendations from the Arkansas Headwater Recreation Area Section. Three sections of the Arkansas River have elevated sections of water: Pine Creek Feature Section, Numbers Elevated Section, and Royal Gorge Elevated Section.

“I don’t know of any commercial company that doesn’t follow these recommendations,” he said. “I think it would be silly not to.”

But even in the part that doesn’t cut the water, “it doesn’t mean we have to do it every day.”

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Although the company’s guides take rays in four Colorado rivers, “the majority” are in the Arkansas River, Hammer said.

The company has had to cancel trips this year – for example, trips booked on The Numbers when the section is above the tide recommendation – but is trying to offer alternatives to every passenger.

“It’s hard because it’s a guessing game because the water really goes up and down with the season, depending on the snow and the weather.” He said Thursday that the state’s rivers were just coming out of a period of high water and had entered “moderate-high flows.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the Colorado Parks and Wildlife licensing issues for commercial vendors on state rivers.

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Eli is a general assignment reporter. He is a proud Midwesterner, stationery collector and Earl Gray tea enthusiast. After interning at The in 2015, he joined the newspaper’s editorial staff in 2016.

© Copyright 2023 Colorado Springs, L.L.C., 30 East Pikes Peak Ave., Suite 100 Colorado Springs, CO| Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Your choice of privacy looks like a banner year for whitewater rafting in Colorado, with high, fast rivers and towering whitewater rapids, rather than one of the deadliest years in living memory.

The snow melted and the river finally receded, but at least 12 people have died in accidents on the country’s rivers. Three more people disappeared.

The death and spread of the country’s major rivers has led to the raft trade. The situation has people worried, with some trips being canceled this summer, said Mark Hammer, owner of an adventure company.

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