Colorado River whitewater’s on the way | AspenTimes.com

Colorado River whitewater’s on the way

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Heavy equipment and 3,000-pound sandbags are ready and waiting for work to begin next to the Colorado River in West Glenwood at the site of the future whitewater park. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Workers have begun diverting the cold winter waters of the Colorado River, preparing to build a whitewater park in West Glenwood, which they expect will be done by March 15.

“Right now they’re building the diversion structure, which will isolate half the river so they can build the actual wave features,” said Jason Carey, principal engineer of Glenwood Springs-based RiverRestoration.org, the company that designed the park.

Construction will include at least one additional phase where the river is diverted from the remaining area. The diversions are created by using large sandbags and large sheets of metal driven into the riverbed.

Carey said diverting the flow for construction is the hardest part of building the park. But the process is aided by the area’s geothermal activity.

“You have to do construction during the winter because that’s when flows are low enough to be able to control the river,” Carey said. “Fortunately though, the hot springs water keeps the river from freezing too hard out there, so that’s an advantage of the site.”

If it weren’t for the heat from geothermal activity preventing freezing, Carey said, the crews might have to dynamite ice to reach the river bed.

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In November, the Glenwood Springs City Council awarded an $888,838 contract to American Civil Constructors of Littleton for construction of the feature, after about seven years of effort by local whitewater park enthusiasts. It’s been hailed as a possible economic boon and tourism generator for the city, as well as an attraction that could bring Glenwood national fame. A second phase proposed for the future would include amenities along the river’s banks at the site near the West Glenwood bridge.

The design for the whitewater park is basically one three-feature structure. It will create a standing wave during times of low, medium and high river flows by using artificial boulders reaching up to different levels in the river. Carey said the standing waves created during the different levels of river flow will be similar to the well-known standing wave at South Canyon. The colored and textured concrete “boulders” will just look like a stack of boulders.

“Most of it will be below the surface,” he said. “At low flow some of the structure will be exposed.”

He said during the low flows in the fall and winter, an “island” in the middle of the river will concentrate the flow to one side of the river.

At all flow levels, kayakers will be able to reach the wave from downstream while rafts and other boats traveling down the river can choose to either pass over the wave or go around it.

“Boat passage is going to be similar to the downstream South Canyon navigation,” Carey said. “They don’t have to necessarily go through the wave.”

The wave feature will also be similar to whitewater features constructed on the Eagle River at Bob the Bridge in Avon. RiverRestoration.org also designed that project. The main difference is that the Avon feature is designed to work at peak river flows while this feature is designed for varying levels of river flow.

Carey said he got involved with designing “the best whitewater park on the Colorado” for Glenwood Springs in the summer of 2005 after a committee of whitewater park supporters decided it didn’t want to work with a previous designer.

“I’m a kayaking enthusiast, and have wanted to see Glenwood Springs get a whitewater park for a number of years,” he said.

pfowler@postindependent.com

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