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Risky Colorado Rivers Place A Premium On Safety

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SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - Three deaths in two weeks and Colorado rivers rushing at record levels have put a premium on safety for kayaking and rafting enthusiasts this spring.

The melting of higher-than-average snowpack has put rescue crews on alert.

“The water is just incredible. It’s a potent force of nature,” a kayaker told CBS4.

In addition to the three confirmed deaths, another man whose body hasn’t been recovered is presumed dead in Gunnison County. Another man tubing on the Colorado River near Grand Junction is still missing.

As snow melts, it may be a few more weeks of swollen creeks, like the Blue River in Summit County, where CBS4 spoke with experienced kayakers and rescuers.

“I’ve taken whitewater safety courses, got rescue gear and normally I’d paddle with more people,” kayaker Michael Thinger said.

High water can hide dangers like fallen trees and massive boulders. And water in most mountain areas is only a few degrees above freezing.

“For the general public, they should stay away from the river’s edge during periods of high water. Also, aside from just rivers, you want to watch out from storm drains and culverts,” Colin Dinsmore, of Summit Co. Rescue Group, said.

Emergency crews say a rapid response is critical to saving lives. And getting to shore as fast as possible saves lives.

“That’s the key for swift water rescues is to get to the individual as soon as possible.”

“There’ s really no beginner runs right now for kayaking and rafting. If you’re new to kayaking or rafting, just wait out the high water or go with a guided group.”

The Summit Co. Rescue Group said it hasn’t had a case yet of a missing person, but it’s had calls about empty kayaks heading down the 10-mile stretch of the Blue River near Frisco and Silverthorne.

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