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Flash Floods Muddy The Waters For Colorado Rafters

Charles Willgren
Creative Commons/Flickr

Heavy rain last week over the burn scar from last summer’s High Park Fire is creating ‘interesting’ rafting conditions, according to some northern Colorado outfitters.

Last year, low stream flows had rafting companies worried about business. This year, it's not the water, but what's in it.

Flash flooding that sweeps mud, tree branches and other debris into the Poudre River is forcing rafters and guides to be a bit more cautious.

Brad Modesitt, owner of Whitewater Mountain Descents in Fort Collins, says they've had to make some adjustments to a few of their trips.

“We did have a very large slide on one of our big rapids, 3 Rock. Basically it’s an un-runnable rapid right now, so we need to put in below that,” Modesitt says. “Our normal put-in is above that – so we’re missing about a mile of rafting right now… which is a bummer.”

U.S. Forest Service crews this winter will likely need to come in to clear that slide, which Modesitt says contains perhaps 20 – 30 logs.

“But the rocks and all that stuff will just stay as it is, and the river will change a little bit right there, so we’ll see what happens,” he adds.  

Another issue for rafting companies is washouts and mudslides that block roads, keeping customers from getting to them. Modesitt says so far the conditions haven’t negatively impacted his business, adding that CDOT crews have done a good job clearing mudslides from Poudre Canyon roads.

Experts predict flash flooding issues will be an ongoing problem for the area northwest of Fort Collins for the next several years, at least until the vegetation grows back.

As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
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