White water rafters are apprehensive about the elevated water in Colorado rivers. This week, one person was killed and several were injured, and multiple accidents as well as a few cases of hypothermia have occurred this summer.
Rafters are attributing most of their apprehension to the Poudre River, as Frank Diskin, 69, died Friday after his raft flipped in the Mishawaka Falls area, in addition to five incidents of rafting related injuries or hypothermia on the river since the start of the summer rafting season. On Clear Creek, a man was hospitalized after being thrown from his raft, and a couple accidents have occurred on the Arkansas River as well.
The U.S. Geological Survey, which has been tracking the water for decades, shows that the water is running higher than normal for this time of year. Rafters say they feel a difference in the water, although experts from USGS believe it has not increased enough to make any difference.
Rafting businesses in Colorado are seeing the most effects of people’s uneasiness, as many are calling to cancel their white water rafting trips. Rob Breckenridge, owner of A1 Wildwater, commented, “”Our business is down, in general, just because I think people are scared. We’re having a lot of people who are very much afraid now of rafting.” Brad Modesitt, owner of Whitewater Descents, said, “We’re down at least 25 percent, which is pretty rough knowing that it’s the best water we’ve had in years. The guides love it. All the guests who do come are having a blast.”
A few rafting companies have stopped running river stretches where the water is higher or the rapids are more intense than usual. Companies are also trying to instill extra safety precautions for their guests, although John Cantamessa, Chairman with the Colorado River Outfitters Association, says, “Ultimately, it’s your responsibility as a consumer to understand what you’re doing and where you’re going and accept responsibility for that.” He believes that all rafters need to know what they can handle, and be aware of their skill level.
Similar to the phrase “If you cant stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” in rafting terms, “If you can’t stand the water, get out of the river.” Or just don’t try to tackle that class five on your first attempt.