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Rafters Worry Low Stream Flows Could Leave Them Up a Creek

Rafting the Poudre, August 2011. Can you spot KUNC's Grace Hood and Erin O'Toole?
A Wanderlust Adventure
Rafting the Poudre, August 2011. Can you spot KUNC's Grace Hood and Erin O'Toole?

Rafting season officially kicked off on May 15. But northern Colorado outfitters are concerned that drought and low snowpack may put a damper on this year’s season and profits.

Similar conditions in 2002 took a major toll on the state’s estimated $50-million dollar commercial rafting industry.

Ryan Barwick, owner of Fort Collins-based Rocky Mountain Adventures,told the Coloradoan that he's hoping people won't be turned away this summer by potentially record-low stream flows on the Poudre River.

“Where last year there was big water for the adrenaline enthusiasts, this year it’s a different type of water fit for families. It doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing, just different. We’ll just attract a different clientele.”

Low flows along the Poudre River in northern Colorado this year could be remedied by the release of water from high-country reservoirs. But Poudre River Commissioner George Varra says that’s not likely to happen because of the drought.

“The reservoirs up there are owned by the irrigation companies – they just have a certain, set amount. In the past we’d run them maybe 5 days on, a couple days off,” he says. “But this year it’s going to be totally different, depending on what they want to do for their ditches.”

This year the mountain snowpack that feeds the Poudre River was at just 23% of average on May first - and Varra says the river may have already reached its peak flow back on May fifth.

Click the LISTEN link above to hear more from Poudre River Commissioner George Varra.

Want to know what's happening with stream flows on the Poudre? Check out the Rock Report.

Note: For a reminder of just how different conditions were last year, check out this article in the Summit Daily News.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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