Surf’s up in Glenwood Springs |

Surf’s up in Glenwood Springs

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Colorado Rocky Mountain School senior Fred Norquist tries out his moves on the newly constructed whitewater park waves on the Colorado River in West Glenwood Tuesday afternoon. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” When Colorado River flows hit about 3,500 cubic feet per second, it’s the kayaking equivalent of a powder day on the standing wave in South Canyon.

Right now flows are around 1,550 cubic feet per second (cfs) near Glenwood Springs, and whitewater park enthusiasts are waiting to see exactly how the newly constructed wave feature on the Colorado River just upstream of the Midland Avenue bridge will react to bigger flows. Chris Tonozzi, one of the kayakers who’s surfed and played at the new park, has driven by several times just to see what kind of waves the concrete boulders create.

After several of those trips, he brought up the idea of installing a web camera to monitor the park. It would let people scope out the waves without making the trip to the park, something that could be especially helpful as people learn what the waves are like at different levels of river flow. Some kayakers have said waves have been pretty good so far but should get better with bigger flows.

“It still does work at this lower level, but it kind of depends on what the kayaker is interested in and what their abilities are,” Tonozzi said. “I think it will just get better as the water comes up.”

Fred Norquist, a Colorado Rocky Mountain School senior, was reportedly the first to ride the wave while half the river was still diverted.

“Right now, it’s a tiny bit shallow, but it’s still definitely fun,” he said. “I think that with a few hundred more [cfs] it’s really going to start to show its potential.”

Workers diverted the Colorado River this winter to construct both sides of the park. In early March, some final adjustments were made. The park is designed to create waves during a wide range of flows. The highest flow this year so far was about 1,700 cfs.

“It’s going to create something at almost every level,” said Chris Vogt, owner of Glenwood Canyon Kayak. “It’s going to get better and better as it comes up to that 2,000 cfs mark.”

The park was designed by and built by American Civil Constructors of Littleton for an $888,838 contract after about seven years of effort from local whitewater park advocates. Some expect it to be an economic boost and tourism generator for the city that will provide a positive activity for young people and make Glenwood more interesting. Park enthusiasts say Glenwood’s whitewater park is unique because the Colorado River has higher water flows through Glenwood compared to elsewhere in Colorado, which will allow Glenwood to host international-level kayaking competitions.

Joe Mollica, a driving force behind the whitewater park, plans to reduce the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park Committee’s role and turn over the park to the Parks and Recreation and the Chamber Resort Association. A parking lot, kayak drop-off site, landscaping and installation of portable toilets still need to be finished. A second phase of construction to begin next year would include a permanent bathroom facility, benches and a kayak viewing area and additional rock work along the riverbanks. The park committee also recommends adding signs stating life jackets are required and helmets are recommended, plus a sign upstream of the park explaining that the wave feature is below and the easiest passage for boats is on the right.

Norquist went out to catch some more waves on Tuesday.

“It’s definitely been one of those things that I’ve really been looking forward to,” Norquist said.

He said the well-known wave in South Canyon doesn’t get good until about 3,500 cfs. He thinks the whitewater park will create an excellent play spot ” particularly during medium flows of 2,000 to 3,000 cfs when there’s almost nothing around closer than Montrose to play on. Plus, the park could become a good hangout.

“It creates a really cool scene with the public just checking out the boaters, and everybody just kind of hangs out there,” Norquist said. “It should be pretty sick.”


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