CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– For three decades one of the most popular rivers in Colorado has flowed through an uncertain future but one senator wants to turn it into a national monument.

The Arkansas River flows through Browns Canyon, where a majority of the 250,000 people who raft in Colorado each year make their destination.

Browns Canyon (credit: CBS)

Browns Canyon (credit: CBS)

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 to 100,000 people are going through Browns Canyon each summer,” said The Adventure Company owner Mark Hammer.

With the holiday weekend, boat after boat makes the trip through the canyon.

“I’ve been through this canyon hundreds of times, a lot of memorable moments,” said Hammer. “This is quite a mecca right here for wildlife.”

Browns Canyon, with its magnificent rock formations is deemed a wilderness study area.

“More protection is what the public wants,” said Hammer.

“It’s temporarily protected. We want to protect it for the long term,” said Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat representing Colorado.

Udall has written a bill that would make 20,000 acres around the Arkansas River south of Buena Vista a National Monument.

“It’ll put a gold star on the map for Chaffee County. We’ll draw more people here to this river corridor to experience it and it’ll create a year-round economy here,” said Udall.

There is strong local support for the added protection, especially from rafting companies.

“So almost every river we offer has a road alongside it, where as this does not,” said Hammer. “Seeing that places like this are so hard to find anymore in my opinion it would be great to have it protected forever.”

“In the end people here want to know this will be managed for the natural values and for the recreational values and the wildlife so no further development can take place,” said Hammer.

Udall said the best case scenario is that the legislation could be passed by the end of the year for business owners like Hammer.


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