Storms to bring rapid improvement |

Storms to bring rapid improvement

The Summit Daily News
Rafters navigate the whitewater rapids on the Arkansas River near Salida. AP file photo.

The Sledgehammer, Widowmaker and Boateater are some of Mother Nature’s top roller coasters in Colorado and Christian Campton can’t wait for the ride.Every summer, Campton’s Kodi Rafting takes tourists on white-knuckled rides through twisting and sometimes bone-chilling rapids on the Arkansas, Blue and Colorado, among the state’s most scenic rivers.Preseason reservations were up and Campton is hoping storms will extend the season this year. “I am thinking it’s going to be fantastic for us,” he said.After a devastating year in 2002, Colorado’s rafting industry is predicting a good spring and summer because winter storms left behind a healthy snowpack. Rafters in states from Utah to Washington are saying the same thing, despite pockets of drought and the ever-present threat of wildfires.Although January, February and March were sunny and springlike in parts of Montana, Denny Gignoux of Montana Rafting Co. and Glacier Guides says reservations are about even with last year so far.”We’ll still have a great rafting season,” said Gignoux, whose company is based in West Glacier near the entrance to Glacier National Park.”I think we’re very lucky. We’re right on the Continental Divide so when any weather systems come through, they dump water on us,” he said.In Colorado, melting snow contributes about 80 percent of the water in rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs, which means rafters depend on it for their livelihood. In all, eight major Colorado river systems provide water to 10 Western states.The snowpack percentage is measured against a 30-year average. Recent figures showed the statewide snowpack at 105 percent of that average, while four river basins – the Gunnison, the Upper Rio Grande, the San Miguel-Dolores-Animas-San Juan and the Arkansas – measured above 100 percent. The Upper Colorado was at 89 percent and the Yampa-White River Basin was just 70 percent.River rafting companies can choose from 13 river systems in Colorado, with the Arkansas, the Colorado, the Animas and the Cache la Poudre among the most popular, according to the association.

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