Snowpack news: Colorado River outfitters are more upbeat about the start of the season

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From The Mountain Mail (Calley McDermott):

Because of recent late-season snowfall, Colorado River Outfitters Association predicts a “normal start” to this year’s rafting season. The typical rafting season is mid-May to mid-September. David Costlow, CROA executive director, said, “The state’s weather patterns over the past 3 weeks give plenty of reason to think that more moisture will be in the forecast, thus adding to the snowpack and overall water levels. This puts outfitters on track to offer rafting throughout the typical rafting season.”

Rob White, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area parks manager, said, “I’m really pleased with the late-season snow. It’s really helping the recreational flows, as well as agricultural interests.” He said the summer flows will depend on how warm it gets and how quickly. “Either we’ll have full-on and steady flows like we did in 2011 when it came off nice and even, or it gets hot and stays hot and the runoff comes quickly with a higher peak,” White said. He said certainly the spring snow has enabled a “better whitewater season than last year.”

Mike Whittington, co-owner of Independent Whitewater rafting company, said, “I think we’ll have a good average season with what (snow) we got. We are reportedly at average.”

SNOTEL reported Monday that the Arkansas River Basin was at 73 percent of median and 61 percent of peak.

Whittington added that he would prefer the runoff to “trickle down and stay nice and steady.” Ideal flows in his opinion are 1,000-2,000 cubic feet per second, but he said if the flows can “hover around 1,000 cfs for the season, it would be a big step above last year. But I don’t know if that will happen. As long as flows are 700 cfs and above, it will still be great fun.”

According to Colorado River Outfitters Association’s 2012 Economic Impact Study, Colorado’s rafting industry had a more than $127 million economic impact on the state’s tourism industry in 2012 – and that was during a down year. Low water levels and wildfires plagued the industry. In 2011, Colorado’s rafting industry generated an economic impact of more than $151 million.

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