FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – While some residents in Larimer County say they are surprised the Poudre River is still open for recreational activities, some rafting companies have taken extra safety steps.
The Cache la Poudre River is flowing at nearly five times the historic average for this time of year, and there have been three drowning deaths in the river since the surging waters from the snowmelt began coming downstream.
Staff in the Larimer County Sheriff’s office discussed the possibility of restrictions with the county manager and emergency services officials this week. They ultimately decided limits on activities wouldn’t have prevented the deaths that have happened.
Even before a third person recently drowned in the river, Ryan Barwick of Rocky Mountain Adventures Whitewater Rafting Company told CBS4 his company stopped running tours along its upper portion.
“Right now at this kind of water speed it just becomes a little bit more questionable so we’ve chosen to err on the side of caution and stay down in the lower sections of the river,” he said.
While officials advise that people interested in rafting should only get into the water with a guide or rafting company, because of the tight state safety standards Colorado’s rafting industry must adhere to, tragedy has not stopped some people from taking on the challenge of unique, rapid conditions.
A group of visitors from Texas and across Colorado were on the river Thursday when just about the worst thing that can happen happened. The raft Mitch Robinson and his friends were riding in flipped south of the filter plant in what’s considered a tamer part of the river.
“You pretty much lose your breath because it’s icy cold, you’re getting churned up under there you eventually pop up down river,” said Mitch Robinson, the Fort Collins resident in the group.
“It’s not a good feeling to be underneath the water,” said Dallas resident Pat Rooney. “Mother Nature, do not mess with Mother Nature.”
All five men made it back into the raft safely, but it wasn’t easy.
“I now understand kind of more what happened (with the death),” said Jordan Rooney, another Dallas resident.
The city of Fort Collins does have a temporary ban in place on inner tubes in the Poudre River in city limits.