Basalt whitewater park takes shape, but Pitkin County needs more time in Roaring Fork River
Two concrete wave features that will be thrilling kayakers at a new whitewater park on the Roaring Fork River in Basalt were poured last week as construction entered the home stretch.
However, Pitkin County is seeking an extension of a special permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because work is expected to take longer than initially planned.
The county’s Section 404 permit is set to expire Feb. 15. It seeks an extension until March 15, according to Jason Carey, principal river engineer with Carbondale-based RiverRestoration.
The contractor performing the work, Diggin’ It Riverworks Inc. of Durango, needs to use heavy equipment in the riverbed to complete wings off the side of the new wave features, complete riverbank stabilization, clear out deposits, remove a temporary dam from the main channel and restore a side channel where the Roaring Fork has been diverted this winter, according to Carey.
The work will be done by the time rainbow trout start spawning in mid-March, he said. Work started in September.
A temporary dam was erected using cobble from the river. An existing side channel was utilized, with the water guided through a culvert under the temporary access road created to the site.
“The dam will probably come out in early March,” Carey said.
The worksite had a surreal appearance Friday as a large track hoe and a construction crew bustled about where water will be flowing at as fast as 4,000 cubic feet per second in a few months. The site is across from the entrance to Elk Run subdivision in Basalt, along an otherwise undisturbed stretch of the river. Ponderosa Pines and cottonwoods line the south bank. Two Rivers Road is to the north, up a steep embankment.
Two sets of water features were installed last week, each with two large concrete blocks placed perpendicular to the river channel. The upper feature will create a “hole” immediately downstream, where kayakers will be able to perform maneuvers, Carey said. The second feature will create a wave about 100 feet downstream from the first feature.
Large footer rocks were placed 8 feet below what will be the water surface to serve as the foundation for the features. Concrete pilings lead up to the massive, beveled rectangles that will alter the water flow. The structures will be submerged almost all the time, though they may be visible in low water, Carey said.
There will be access on paths leading down from Two Rivers Road. The boat launch at Fishermen’s Park, upstream a short distance, also will be improved.
Ice floe flooded site
Brian Barackman, the heavy equipment operator on the project, said the weather has generally been good for the work. The cold streak in mid-December caused portions of the river to ice over upstream. The ice broke up when the weather warmed significantly shortly before Christmas.
Broken ice chunks clogged the culvert on the side channel and more than 2 feet of water flooded the work site Dec. 20. Barackman used the excavator to remove the ice blocks from the entrance to the culvert.
The whitewater park will be open for use as soon as kayakers are comfortable getting on the river this spring, Carey said. Once water levels drop later in the summer, paddle boarders, tubers and anglers using drift boats also will flock to that stretch.
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Pitkin County and Basalt have been subsidizing the public drop-off recycling center in Basalt since 2015. Pitkin County informed Basalt it won’t contribute any longer. Basalt says it can’t provide the entire subsidy required by private company Waste Management. The future of the popular facility is in doubt.