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Rafters expect great season

Kevin Abram of Longmont fishes the Roaring Fork River near Wilton Jaffe Park Saturday afternoon. Experts say water flows on the Roaring Fork will be average this year. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.
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The expected runoff has local whitewater rafting services excited about the coming season.The National Weather Service’s hydrologic outlook on April 8 was calling for the peak runoff on the Roaring Fork River to be about average at 6,000 cubic feet per second. The peak is expected to occur around mid-June.Last year, the peak flows on the Roaring Fork occurred June 8 with only 3,550 cfs.”Average is a wonderful thing right now, compared to what it has been for at least the last five years,” said Bob Harris, the owner of Blazing Adventures, which guides trips down the Roaring Fork, Colorado, and Arkansas rivers, to name a few.Harris said Blazing Adventures will start guiding trips the first week of May, and the amount of snow still burying the high country will allow him to operate on the Fork longer than he has in the past several years.”I love it when the Roaring Fork has a good runoff because we can stay closer to Aspen later,” Harris said. “Anything below average we’ll have to pull off in late June. If it’s average or above, we can get through the Fourth of July.”Aspen had been on the dividing line between heavy and average snowfall all winter, with precipitation generally increasing toward the southern part of the state. Snowpack in the San Juan River basin was about 140 percent of normal on April 8, while the Yampa and White River basins in northwest Colorado were at 85 percent of average.Harris said he doesn’t expect the plentiful water to increase tourist business that much, but it could get more locals out on the rivers. “We’ll probably have a bigger local business,” Harris said, adding that locals may want to try and run hairier sections of the rivers with the high runoff. “[Raft guides] aren’t quite as dependent as the Skico is on snow and water,” he added. “Here, the water is always pretty good – it takes an exceptionally bad year for it to not be good.”Harris said this season is shaping up to be perfect.”When we have a good, solid average I love it,” he said. “When it’s too high, it can be a detriment.”And with another warm, wet storm slamming the Four Corners today, rivers will continue to rise and parts of southeast Utah and southern Colorado may experience flooding.Snow could fall and accumulate in excess of 6 inches in the western Colorado mountains above 9,000 feet by Monday.The storm will only increase the already ample amount of precipitation that has blessed the southern Rocky Mountains this year. Flooding had already been reported in parts of the San Juan Mountains late last week, and that will only increase today and tomorrow.Dan Zumpfe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the storm may actually delay runoff a bit in the Aspen area.”It will more or less delay the runoff, however, there will continue to be runoff, it will just slow it down a bit,” Zumpfe said. “It’s a positive thing; we’ll get more water and temperatures will be low enough that the runoff wont be as intense.”As of April 8, snowpack percentages in southeast Utah were at 203 percent of average. In the Aspen area, the snowpack was about average.


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