Arkansas River rafters are anticipating a banner summer of white-water fun thanks to late April and May snowfall in the high country.
Arkansas River Outfitters Association members attended an annual meeting last month to gear up for the season and nervously eyed snowpack figures. Instead of fearing the worse, they were celebrating the recent designation of national monument status bestowed on Browns Canyon, one of the most popular sections of the river, located between Salida and Buena Vista.
“Since that meeting, the snow has been flying in the upper elevations that feed the Arkansas River. As of May 11, the Fremont drainage is at 117 percent of normal and the Independence drainage is at 125 percent of normal, which will provide great water for summer activities,” said Monica Ramey, outfitters association spokeswoman.
Rafting is big business in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. Outfitters experienced a 7 percent increase in business last summer and are hoping for more success this summer.
Last summer’s 191,307 boaters spent $23.7 million in direct expenditures, which rolls over to a $60.7 million economic impact when accounting for spending on things like lodging, gas and food. “The outlook for the 2015 season on the Arkansas River is great. With the recent snow and overall snowpack conditions, we anticipate an awesome high-water season early in June for the adventure thrillseekers, but more moderate water levels throughout August to provide a longer season for the families,” said Mike Kissack of American Adventure Expeditions.
Kissack said there should be rafting through the end of August, which will provide opportunities for people attending the Gentlemen of the Road Festival in Salida featuring Mumford and Sons on Aug. 21-22.
“The water conditions may be moderate compared to 2014, but more moderate flows are much better for families as parents have a lot less concerns when the water conditions are a bit lower,” said Mike Whittington of Independent Whitewater.
The Arkansas River Outfitters Association website shows daily water conditions at four locations on the river including The Numbers above Buena Vista, Browns Canyon below Buena Vista, Bighorn Sheep Canyon below Salida and the Royal Gorge from Parkdale to Canon City. To see updated conditions, log onto http://www.aroa.org