Rising waters launch paddling season | AspenTimes.com

Rising waters launch paddling season

Janet Urquhart
Spring runoff is drawing kayakers to the Colorado River, west of Glenwood Springs. Jeremy Signorini of Silt hit the South Canyon Wave on Tuesday. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

The ski season’s not quite finished, but some folks can’t wait for the snow to melt.

Healthy snowpacks in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River drainages bode well for the paddling season, but whitewater enthusiasts aren’t waiting for the big runoff. Kayakers are already riding the rising Colorado near Glenwood Springs and local rafting companies are gearing up for what they hope will be a big season.

The snow is there, but the rest is up to the weather. A long, hot stretch could send all the water down in a furious and early peak, while a temperate spring will sustain a banner rafting season well into the summer.

“I almost kind of wish it would get colder. We don’t want it all to come off in April,” said Brian Wright, co-owner of Glenwood Canyon Kayak. “We’re expecting a pretty good runoff this year.”

Paddlers are already hitting two popular spots on the Colorado River ” the Shoshone rapids in Glenwood Canyon and South Canyon Wave west of Glenwood Springs, as well as the lower Roaring Fork.

“The paddling is very good, especially for being so early in the season,” Wright said.

Shoshone was running at 2,530 cubic feet per second by noon today. (In Wright’s book, anything over 10,000 cfs at Shoshone is big.)

Rock Gardens Rafting, based at No Name in Glenwood Canyon, will begin running its first trips in the canyon next week.

Aspen Whitewater Rafting will get its rafts in the water in early to mid-May, when the upper Fork below Aspen rises to raftable levels. The company also offers trips on the Arkansas River, accessed via Independence Pass east of town, once Highway 82 over the pass opens in late May.

The snowpack in both the Roaring Fork and upper Arkansas basins provides reason for optimism, said Jim Ingram, Aspen Whitewater Rafting owner.

The “snow water equivalent” in the upper Colorado River headwaters is 110 percent of average, and 97 percent of average in the Roaring Fork basin, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Kayakers who look to the Crystal River south of Carbondale for their thrills take note: The snow water equivalent on Schofield Pass, at the river’s headwaters, is at 106 percent of average.

“We had a fantastic rafting season last year and this one’s going to be better,” Ingram said. “It’s going to be a phenomenal season and hopefully long ” that depends on the weather.”

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