(CBS4) – Commercial rafting is big business in Colorado and the Arkansas River is the most rafted commercial river in the country, but an extra snowy winter made for a dangerous spring and rafting conditions and businesses took a hit. The good news is that high water advisories are dropping off, and the season may last longer than normal.
The company River Runners plans to keep operations going into September.
“We weren’t able to take as many people rafting during the peak runoff, so we really narrowed our audience on who we could actually take down the river,” said Travis Hochard of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association.
River Runners has had to hand out $50,000 worth of refunds to paying customers who didn’t want to come out on the high waters.
“It was an extended season this year of high water and so that does impact our business when we get into what’s normally the busier time and … we’re turning more people away, so it can be challenging,” Hochard said.
Last season ended with low water levels and this one started off with too much of a good thing.
“It’s happening more and more and I do think that could be partly climate change or getting more variance in the extremes but it’s just kind of our new reality,” said Hochard.
Across the board, business is down almost 20%. Now that the rivers are getting back to a more average flow, raft companies hope the rafters will come back.
“We’re now running our advanced sections through The Numbers, we’re running through the Royal Gorge now,” Hochard said.
With an expected longer-than-normal season ahead, there’s a chance these companies could make back the money they have already lost.