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Rafting Season Rushes In With Forecasted Rapids

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The rafting season this year is looking up after a wet and snowy April and May (credit: CBS)

The rafting season this year is looking up after a wet and snowy April and May (credit: CBS)

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BUENA VISTA, Colo. (CBS4)- After a dismal season last year with low water flows, rafting companies are riding on the rushing rapids forecasted this spring and summer.

“Low water affects operations in a ton of different ways as far as where you put in, where you take out, how long the trips take. The wildfires certainly didn’t help tourism in the state,” said river guide Jon Donaldson.

He said there is reason to be excited about this year’s rafting season.

The Arkansas River peaked at its flow capacity around 600 cubic feet per second in May 2012.

Right now the river is flowing at about half that and there is still significant snowfall waiting to melt in the mountains which could make the water faster.

“Even toward the end of February snowpack numbers were close to 50 percent,” said Donaldson. “We haven’t experienced two consecutive drought years in a row so it was going to be new territory for all of us but the weather really turned around and started snowing.”

Rafting as an industry was down about 20 percent last year which was a drop in $30 million for tourism in Colorado.

With snow still falling in the mountains and rivers still about one month away from hitting their peak flow, this year is looking to be average. Which is just the way guides like it.

“The water is looking normal which is best for rafting,” said Donaldson. “Middle of June is when we start getting busy and then it goes until folks go back to school in the middle of August.”

In quality water years rafting brings in more than $150 million to Colorado tourism.

Colorado’s most traveled river is the Arkansas River. Rafters said the moisture received this week will keep water levels at a constant flow through the summer.

“To keep it at a boatable level. All that water is there, it’s at Twin Lakes right now so things are looking positive on that front. We’ll have those flows until the middle of August,” said Donaldson.

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