FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – After two more rescues, the Poudre Fire Authority is telling people to stay out of the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, especially between Legacy Park and the Whitewater Park. Officials say the combination of high, fast water and debris from upriver are making that stretch too dangerous.
As it starts to feel like summer, the river is getting busier and busier, and on Monday, Nathan Hoy and his friends were among the many people looking to cool off.
“It’s 90 degrees, the sun’s out, so we thought it would just be a good day to get in the water and float down the river,” Hoy said.
That float wasn’t as long as it could have been. Near Legacy Park, a warning sign urged the group to get out.
Brandon Garcia, interim operations chief with PFA, says past that bridge his crews have made 18 rescues this year. There have also been at least 10 citizen rescues.
“Usually, we’re maybe 18 to 24 rescues on the entire season, so to be at 18 rescues at this point has been alarming to us,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the recent precipitation and this year’s snowmelt have the river high and fast earlier than usual. It’s also cold, which can be another problem.
On top of that, the current flow is also bringing debris from the Cameron Peak Fire burn area downriver and creating what rescuers call “strainers,” which can be a dangerous situation for anyone that gets caught up in one.
“It gets caught up in tree branches that are overhanging in the water on the side, low head dams, and we’ve had a number of rescues on the trestle of a railroad bridge,” Garcia said.
For now, Nathan Hoy and his friends don’t want to take any risks. On Tuesday, many others followed the direction of the signs and got out of the water near Legacy Park.
“Always listen to the signs,” Hoy said.
According to Garcia, it’ll be much safer for people to be out on the water in late July.
“If you aren’t experienced, if you don’t have the proper PPE, if you don’t understand the river dynamics, go to areas like Horsetooth Reservoir or go to your local swimming pool and hang tight for a few weeks,” Garcia said.
On top of putting in the signs near Legacy Park, park rangers have closed off some access points to the river. They’re also patrolling the area to educate recreators and look for hazards.